What is the Difference Between AWI Standards and AWS?

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As part of our commitment to driving excellence in interior architectural woodwork, the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI) creates and publishes industry standards for quality and risk assurance. This began in 1961 with the first version of the Architectural Woodwork Quality Standards Illustrated (QSI).

Over time, we continued to refine those standards to better serve woodworkers and their clients. What had been QSI eventually evolved into the Architectural Woodwork Standards (AWS). And in 2009, we published the latest version of those standards, the AWS Edition 2.

By outlining methods and rules for the fabrication, finishing, and installation of interior architectural woodwork, the AWS ensured quality and consistency in all manner of construction projects. But while they became a nationally recognized stamp of reliability, these standards had a critical flaw.

Due to their prescriptive nature, the AWS limited the freedom woodworkers had to enhance their products with innovative and creative ideas. This stood in stark contrast to AWI’s goal of continuously advancing the ideas, methods, and techniques of woodworking as a craft.

With this in mind, the many positive aspects of the AWS were used as the foundation for a new set of standards that better exemplified this devotion to progress. Rather than dictate specific means of casework construction, these new standards placed a greater focus on structural performance and aesthetic performance, to determine the final quality of the product. Since they deviated quite significantly from AWS, we renamed them to the AWI Standards.

As well as granting woodworkers greater flexibility in fabrication, finishing, and installation, the AWI Standards ensure outstanding woodwork by defining structural performance and aesthetic tolerances. They serve as a clear and definitive reference manual for interior architectural woodwork while also encouraging manufacturers to further develop their knowledge and skills. In doing so, the AWI Standards promote quality, integrity, and consistency in every project, and drive ongoing advancement across the industry.

The majority of AWI Standards were developed and confirmed through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) process. This assures that each standard displays openness, balance, consensus, and due process, leading to superior outcomes for all project stakeholders.

How has AWS evolved into the AWI Standards?

AWS consisted of 12 Sections that covered various aspects of interior architectural woodworking. Many of these have been reworked, derived from, or combined to create the AWI Standards. Below is a list of the current AWI Standards, how they relate to AWS, and the topics that each standard covers.

AWI 100 – Submittals

Formerly AWS Section 1 – Submittals

The submittal of architectural specifications is the first stage of a construction project. AWI 100 ensures that precise details are given early on to reduce the risk of errors and promote open, consistent communication.

AWI 200 – Care and Storage

Formerly AWS Section 2 – Care and Storage

Incorrect temperatures, relative humidity, and handling can lead to unwanted dimensional changes that lower the quality and longevity of woodworking materials. AWI 200 details optimum environmental controls, humidity conditions, and handling requirements before, during, and after installation to reduce the risk of product failure.

AWI 300 – Materials

Combines AWS Section 3 – Lumber, and AWS Section 4 – Sheet Products

The characteristics of wood species and related interior finishes make them suitable for different applications. AWI 300 explores these characteristics to help you make suitable material decisions for each project.

AWI 0400 – Factory Finishing

Formerly AWS Section 5 – Finishing

AWI 0400 provides a performance evaluation for 13 wood finishing technologies. This enables you to choose appropriate protection depending on your product’s intended application and guard it against moisture, contaminants, and general handling for optimal performance. In addition, this standard provides performance evaluation to allow for new finish technology development and acceptance.

ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation

Combines the installation portions of AWS Section 6 – Interior & Exterior Millwork, AWS Section 8 – Wall Surfacing, AWS Section 9 – Doors, AWS Section 10 Casework, and AWS Section 11 Countertops

This standard defines installation requirements and tolerances for all manner of interior architectural woodwork applications in a single place. While separate AWI Standards exist for architectural wood casework, manufactured wood casework, and countertops, these refer back to ANSI/AWI 0620 for installation.

ANSI/AWI 0641 – Architectural Wood Casework

Derived from AWS Section 10 – Casework

In creating the AWI Standards, AWS Section 10 – Casework was divided into two separate standards covering architectural and manufactured wood casework. ANSI/AWI 0641 covers the standards, tolerances, and requirements for architectural wood casework.

ANSI/AWI SMA 0643 – Wood Stair, Handrail, and Guard Systems

Formerly AWS Section 7 – Stairwork & Rails

Staircases consist of a great many surfaces and components, and must endure repeated heavy impacts on a daily basis. ANSI/AWI SMA 0643 covers a wide range of stairwork components to help maintain high quality and integrity. This standard was created in partnership between AWI and the Stairbulders and Manufacturers Association.(SMA) 

ANSI/AWI 1232 – Manufactured Wood Casework

Derived from AWS Section 10 – Casework

Along with ANSI/AWI 0641, this is the other standard that was created using AWS Section 10 – Casework. Where 0641 covers architectural wood casework, ANSI/AWI 1232 details the standards, tolerances, and requirements for manufactured wood casework typically sold through dealers from a manufacturer’s catalog.

ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops

Formerly AWS Section 11 – Countertops

ANSI/AWI 1236 provides information on dimensions, weight tolerances, and maximum deflection depths for countertops and windows sills manufactured from wood and related interior finishes. It ensures these heavily used surfaces are suitably robust and helps prevent issues such as water damage, cracking, and staining.

Explore the AWI Standards in greater detail with QCP

AWI Standards form the basis of the AWI Quality Certification Program (QCP). This allows QCP to provide the industry standard for quality and risk assurance, elevating the outcome of your project and providing swift, definitive third-party dispute resolution. As such, we also provide extensive information on AWI Standards to make it easy for you to specify and certify your projects.

To further explore the contents of these standards and how they enhance your projects, please read our Guide to the AWI Standards of Architectural Woodworking.