The Architectural Woodwork Institute’s New Woodwork Standards

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In this article, we discuss AWI’s new versions of some of the Architectural Woodwork Standards, and how the changes will affect woodworkers and architects. 

You can also listen to this blog post as a podcast hosted by QCP’s Executive Director, Randy Estabrook. Listen now.


A brief history of the AWS

Firstly, it’s important to understand the Architectural Woodwork Standards. The AWS first edition came out in 2009, and this replaced the old Quality Illustrated Standards. Edition 2 was first published in 2014, and republished with corrections in 2016.

This second edition contains 12 different sections:

  1. Submittals
  2. Care & Storage
  3. Lumbar
  4. Sheet Products
  5. Finishing
  6. Interior & Exterior Millwork
  7. Stairwork & Rails
  8. Wall Surfacing
  9. Doors
  10. Casework
  11. Countertops
  12. Historic Restoration


AWI’s Versions of the Standards

AWI has recently issued AWI 100 (Submittals), AWI 200 (Care & Storage), and AWI 300 (Materials), which are AWI versions of the first four sections of the AWS. 

These new standards went into effect on March 15th, 2019. However, that doesn’t mean they’re in effect for every project, as it depends on the project specifications. 

If these AWI standards are contained in the specs, they’re in effect for any project bid after this date. 


A New Woodwork Installation Standard

AWI has also issued ANSI/AWI 0620 for finish carpentry and installation, which went into effect March 15th 2019. These are compliance requirements which supplant the installation criteria in sections six through 12 of the AWS. 


What’s Changed?

In most of the new versions, not too much has changed from the AWS. 

AWI 100 covers shop drawing and contains a few additional fields, for example the need to include duty levels (more on that below). AWI 200 covers woodwork care and storage, and AWI 300 combines AWS sections three and four on lumbar and sheet products into one standard called Materials.

That means there shouldn’t be too much of an impact on woodworkers who are already complying with the AWS.

Indeed, if an architect specifies AWS Edition 2, that will be the standard applied, and the new standards won’t be in effect. Additionally, any AWS section that’s still current (i.e. the sections that AWI haven’t completed new versions of) will still be current in all specifications. 


The New Wood Casework Standard

As of June 1st, 2020, there’s also an AWI version of AWS Section 10, Casework. This standard, called ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework, does have some marked differences vs. the AWS casework section. As around 80% of all interior woodwork projects include casework, this is a pretty significant change. 

The differences:

  • Unlike AWS, which was very prescriptive, ANSI/AWI 0641 is open
  • It’s more about testing – you can build wood casework in the way you want, and then have it tested, either through AWI or at an independent lab. If it passes, you’re awarded a 1-4 duty level
  • AWI is offers drawings of cabinets that have successfully passed the duty levels on their website
  • AWI are currently only testing to duty level 3, and are determining the best construction methods for duty level 4
  • Casework will be tested on the cabinet, drawer box, and adjustable shelf construction. Whichever duty level is lowest, that’s the level for the whole construction
  • Duty levels must included in shop drawings so that woodworkers know which level is required (note that duty levels aren’t yet in MasterSpec, but should still be included)
  • During an inspection, a woodworker will need to show they comply with the specified duty level by supplying their test report and showing the inspector that it conforms to the drawings’ requirements, e.g. in thickness of materials, dowel spacing, back size, etc.

If non-conformities are found during an inspection, the woodworker must either rebuild the cabinet, or get the architect to accept the work that’s been done. Alternatively, they could send the casework off to be tested. If it comes back at the specified duty level, the inspection will pass. This is a risk and a time issue on a project, which is why it’s so important to meet the specs.


How can Woodworkers get Ready for the Changes to the Casework Standard?

There are a few things woodworkers can do now to prepare for ANSI/AWI 0641 and get on the front foot:

  • Decide how you’ll handle a project requiring a specific duty level – how will you get your casework tested? At AWI or an independent lab?
  • Coordinate closely with an independent lab, so they understand the requirements they’re testing to
  • Get in front of the testing, because it will become the norm
  • If you decide not to get your casework tested, you’ve got to decide if you’ll use and conform to the prescriptive drawings from AWI, so it’s important to get familiar with them and understand how they’re different from what you’d normally do

If you have a question about AWI’s standards and what they mean for you, contact us and let’s chat.

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