Exploring the Supportive AWI Standards with Hunter Morrison

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In our recent podcast, Jeff Brown, Director of Education at the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), spoke with Hunter Morrison, Technical Director at AWI, about the supportive AWI Standards. These are:

“These three standards are a little different to the rest of the ANSI standards in the AWI suite,” Hunter explains. “Standards like ANSI/AWI SMA 0643 – Wood Stairs, Handrails, and Guard Systems, or ANSI/AWI 1236 – Countertops talk about specific products. But 200, 300, and 0620 work in tandem with these product-specific standards, meaning you need to use them together.”

In this accompanying blog post, you’ll find out what these supportive standards are, how they interact with product-specific standards, and how they affect product and industry.

AWI 200 – Care & Storage

Wood products are heavily affected by changes in the relative humidity of their environment. Excessive moisture can cause dimensional change, which might cause gaps to open up and tolerances to become too tight. This seriously impacts the integrity and longevity of interior architectural woodwork, often leading to product failure.

To minimize this risk, AWI 200 provides requirements for the conditions necessary to protect architectural woodwork and related interior finishes from the negative effects of temperature, relative humidity, and excessive handling. It discusses how a product should be cared for and stored on the jobsite prior to installation, and how it needs to be cared for post-installation.

Speaking from his own experience, Jeff comments: “When owners or general contractors try to push the schedule, millworkers can leverage AWI 200 – Care & Storage to ensure proper installation conditions. You can say: you specified AWI 200, which requires this humidity level and this temperature range 24/7, but now you’re asking us to violate that spec. I can either move ahead or stay within spec, but not both. What do you want me to do?

In this way, AWI 200 allows woodworkers to enforce specified compliance standards, and means the architect, specifier, and owner can have confidence in high-quality products.

AWI 300 – Materials

The majority of architectural woodwork and casework is fabricated from lumber and wood-based core materials. As such, the selection of proper wood species and sheet products contributes to the appearance and performance of the completed project. Intended use, cost, hardness, and relative stability are also important considerations.

When asked to describe AWI 300, Hunter said: “Once a material has been chosen, its effectiveness may vary by the manner in which it’s manufactured and installed. So this standard helps aid the selection during the specification process and establish requirements for selecting grades of material that meet a project’s aesthetic specs.”

To achieve this, the standard explores the different materials used in manufacturing architectural wood casework, stairs, wall paneling, and many other types of woodwork. It divides this discussion into two major sections:

  • Lumber (broken out into Hardwood Requirements and Softwood Materials)
  • Panel Products (broken out into Cores and Surface)

The Lumber section provides charts of specific lumber species, giving requirements of the natural characteristics that can be present at the Premium, Custom, and Economy aesthetic grades. For example, it includes how much bird’s eye, checking, or honeycomb is permissible on each species at each grade.

Similarly, the Panel Products section defines permissible core materials and the characteristics they would need for the manufacturer to select them. It also defines what is and isn’t allowed in surface panel layup.

For example, any panel layup should have a rigid glue line. Typically, that means contact adhesive shan’t be used unless the architect or specifier has a very specific reason to include it in their contract documents. But if contact adhesive appears elsewhere in the standards, it can still be used.

As well as lumber and panel products, AWI 300 features a section titled Other Materials. This covers related interior finishes like epoxy resin, natural stone, engineered stone, solid surface, and solid phenolic. The standard also provides requirements specific to the materials used in manufacturing and fabrication as defined by other AWI Standards, and covers related key issues like delineation and balancing.

ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation

ANSI/AWI 0620 details standards and tolerances for the quality and fit of field installation for a wide range of specific woodwork products all in one place. This includes casework, wall and ceiling paneling, standing and running trim, passage doors with integrated door systems, and countertops.

These tolerances are divided into structural and aesthetic sections. Structural requirements might be whether certain corners should be reinforced with mechanical fasteners, whether certain joinery needs caulking, or whether cut-outs must be sealed, be painted, or have a certain inside radius. They’re not typically done in the manufacturing shop because they need to be accounted for in the field.

Aesthetic requirements are broken out by Premium, Custom, and Economy aesthetic grades. For example, the standard details what the flushness or gap tolerances need to be for field joints in each grade. It also includes information about whether the finished product needs to be compatible or well-matched for color and grain, and further information on using scribes, fillers, and enclosures.

ANSI/AWI 0620 also states that the installer is responsible for obtaining, reviewing, and following the manufacturer’s or supplier’s documented installation instructions. And whoever fabricates the product is responsible for providing the installer with the necessary instructions.

“The contract document can supersede those instructions if it contains very specific instructions for installing the product,” Hunter confirms. “But if the project contract contradicts the manufacturer’s installation guidelines, the manufacturer and the architect should meet to discuss an agreeable solution. The manufacturer might know something that was discovered during the engineering of the product that the architect didn’t as they were specifying, or vice versa.”

He goes on to say: “As an installer, you should never decide for yourself how to install a product if instructions were not given to you. This might cause a problem with the project contract. Always go back to the manufacturer or supplier who provided the product to figure out those installation details.”

When to use the supportive AWI Standards

AWI 200, AWI 300, and ANSI/AWI 0620 should be used in tandem with product-specific AWI Standards at various stages of the construction process.

During estimation, it’s important to be aware of all of the standards at the time of your bid. When you order materials, reference AWI 300 – Materials. As the product works its way through engineering and manufacturing, reference the product-specific standards. When you’re getting ready to ship the product to the jobsite, or to store it in your own manufacturing facility, reference AWI 200 – Care & Storage. Then, when it’s time to install the product, make sure the installer has access to ANSI/AWI 0620 – Finish Carpentry/Installation.

Read our guide to the AWI Standards of architectural woodwork to explore the interaction between supportive and product-specific standards in more detail.

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