Boise Cascade

Topic: The reliability, durability, and consistency of engineered wood makes for a stronger, longer lasting finished-product. Boise Cascade’s engineered wood and BC Floor Value software provide great value to designers, builders, and homeowners alike!

Guest: Chris Brandt, engineered wood products software manager

3 Points for Success – Chris Brandt:

  1. Take advantage of the resources available to you. Our affiliated Boise Cascade dealers out there have tools that they can help you. Part of the service they provide in giving you a layout package or quoting material for you is that design service and some consultation so they don’t always come out front and offer it but they have those tools so if you’re struggling, please ask.
  2. The concept of people helping people. If you take a step back and just remember that at the base of everything, people helping other people is what makes business relationships and partnerships work over the long term.
  3. A little bit of upfront investment in anything you do, whether it be your vacation planning or building a home. A little bit of time upfront on the design side or the thinking and planning out will save you an immeasurable amount of time on the back end of working through hassles and other things.

For more information visit

Podcast Transcript:

James [00:00:00] Hi I’m James Carey and it is great to have you with us on this edition of CareyBrosPros. You know engineered wood products are not new but they are constantly evolving. Not only are they beneficial to our environment, they’re a cost effective alternative. And often they can lend structural integrity to your project and allow you to do things that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do with dimensional lumber. And with that we are joined on the CareyBrosPros expert hotline by Chris Brandt and Chris is the engineered wood products software manager. Chris welcome to CareyBrosPros.

Chris [00:00:44] Thanks for having me today.

James [00:00:45] So Chris Boise Cascade is a heritage brand.

Chris [00:00:48] Absolutely. You know we’re one of our nation’s largest building materials distribution companies, and we specialize in engineered wood, obviously.

James [00:00:54] You do specialize in engineered wood. That is now the emphasis for Boise Cascade. It was not always the emphasis but it is today, yes?

Chris [00:01:03] It is. Yes. And we also make plywood in some, lumber products but engineered wood products is our main product line, and we want a much larger company in the paper and building materials and street. But we’ve simplified it down.

James [00:01:14] So Chris expressed in percentages to what degree would you say your business is devoted to engineered wood. 70 percent?

Chris [00:01:22] A big chunk. Yeah. Absolutely.

James [00:01:23] You know why that is? Because the demand for your products has increased.

Chris [00:01:27] Absolutely. Now that the market for engineered products has really taken off not just in the last decade or so but in the last several decades it’s gone from sort of a niche product to a point where it’s really a de facto new material for construction.

James [00:01:40] Why, Chris? What do you attribute that to what are some of the features and benefits of engineered wood products that our listeners should know about as they design projects, especially our architects, our designers, and our design build contractors that tune in.

Chris [00:01:58] I think you probably want to start with consistency so you know not to knock on Mother Nature and some lumber but all those knots and panels and twisting and warping as things dry, we’ve been able to take that same log and peel it down into pieces and parts and put it back together in a more consistent manner so that each piece is seemingly indistinguishable from the next as opposed to sorting through a bunk of lumber where you’re looking at know is this piece good enough for trim is this piece a joist, you know which this one be thrown into the cull pile. So that’s one of the biggest things. You have lightweight an I section is, it’s definitely much lighter weight than a two by joist. And really the one I’ve talked about today is floor performance which is not something that the average builder gets into until you have a callback.

James [00:02:45] All right. Before we go to floors, let’s talk a little here just for a moment because we’re going to we’re going to drill down now we’re going to go to floors.

Chris [00:02:51] OK.

James [00:02:51] But let’s talk a little bit about the array of engineered wood products that Boise Cascade offers. Take us through the offerings.

Chris [00:03:00] Sure. So lines I just obviously so that’s a flange with a narrow OSB web in the middle of it. So it looks like a steel I beam if you’ve never seen one before which is made of wood.

James [00:03:10] That’s floor joist or between floor joist.

Chris [00:03:12] Floor and roof joist.  Yep. The application by floor and roof joists for those.

James [00:03:15] OK.

Chris [00:03:16] Then you go to the rectangular product and our brand name for that is Versa Lam. Yep.

Chris [00:03:20] And so these are traditional rectangles but they’re made up of veneer so it looks like plywood if you’ve ever seen a cross-section of plywood except all of the veneers point in the same direction and that’s how we get an increased strength and stiffness relative to say a plywood product. And those come in a range of sizes from down to you know inch and a half, inch and a quarter, all the way up to three and a half to seven inch wide solid sections and in depths ranging from a common two by four size all the way up to 18 to 24 inch big sizes.

James [00:03:48] Holy moly. That’ll make a great hip.

Chris [00:03:50] Yeah absolutely.

James [00:03:51] I can use that for a hip. I could also use a mini lam for a hip depending upon the span and and the architectural specification. Yeah. bridge beams too right. Right. Right yeah.

Chris [00:04:01] You know main girders I think about a big open floor plan or an open basement down below where you need to to minimize the post down. Nice big beam and combined with long span I-joists gives you a great open floor plans.

James [00:04:13] Right. Right. And you’ve got rim boards to tell us about that.

Chris [00:04:16] We do so the rimboard sort of ties the whole system together it’s a complementary product. So as you think of traditional band joists or something we have engineered lumber boards that are compatible in depth so that it doesn’t crush the I-joists and that the whole system comes together nicely so you can close out the perimeter and canilevers and all your closures with our onboard product also lateral load carrying capacity. So tying your floor system into the foundation so that in seismic and wind events things don’t blow away.

James [00:04:43] All right. Chris I know that you want to go to floor joists, but before we do that I suppose that there’s no part of a wood frame structure floor, walls, between floor, roof, ceiling that you guys and exterior envelope in the way of sheer that you guys can’t handle.

Chris [00:05:02] That’s right. We’ve have a product for each one of those applications.

James [00:05:06] Okay great. You’re dying to talk about joist and I’m dying to hear what it is you have to say because you’re excited I can tell that I am.

Chris [00:05:14] You know I’ve played in the area of floor performance for most of my career off and on the last 18 years and engineered wood products business and so I’ve studied this as an engineer and researcher and I’ve dealt with it as a callback tech support person for helping a homeowner or helping builders and lumber yards work through this issue. So I’m pretty excited about what we’ve come up with. So before I dive deep into that let’s kind of maybe talk about the concept of a bouncy floor right. So as a builder or the worst callbacks you can get from a homeowner is either it feels like I’m walking downhill towards my kitchen island or even worse. You know things rattle in my cupboards or it just feels like my floor is soft. And the reason I see those are some of the worst is because they come after everything’s finished. But the problem is in the structure which is already enclosed and there’s very little you can do about it after the fact there’s some clumsy add ons and you know tacking on extra material here and there but it’s really a hard one to solve after the fact.

James [00:06:11] I can hear the designers and builders listening grinding their teeth with familiarization about what you’re- the picture that you’re painting.

Chris [00:06:21] It is. it’s expensive.

James [00:06:22] Oh it’s terrible it is miserable. I mean it’s just it’s miserable and it’s so easily preventable.

Chris [00:06:29] It is. It is and it just takes a little bit of time upfront to think about what you’re doing. So maybe that without dive into the details let’s talk about for performance and what that means for people who aren’t familiar with that term and for me I think of it as two aspects. The first is deflection. So simple terms that’s the downward movement of the floor under the weight that it’s trying to support. So whether that’s kitchen island or a refrigerator or me the floor moves in response to that and how much it moves impacts whether you notice it or not.

James [00:06:56] Yes.

Chris [00:06:57] So the second piece of that would be vibration and there’s two components of vibration the first one is you know when you’re walking on the floor can you feel it moving in response to you. Do you get that weird queasy feeling where you can feel the ground isn’t quite solid under your feet. Second one is say you know you’re sitting at the kitchen table on your teenager runs through to go answer the phone or something and you feel the whole house rattle and shake as things, as all those footfalls happen. And so this can be really annoying issues but with a little bit of upfront planning and design work you can mitigate those. So you know anybody listening might wonder you know light frame construction’s been around forever how come this is still a problem why are we still talking.

James [00:07:36] Exactly. Isn’t it all about, first of all the integrity of the framing member. That’s number one. Two, span which has to do with of course size and the mid span support. And three also, spacing, yes?

Chris [00:07:52] It is absolutely and no and you throw in good quality construction along with that right. So the best laid plans I think is how the saying goes right. And so if you start the right materials have a good design and then have them installed properly and so and then it goes right everything comes together. Homeowner rarely notices anything about the floor, right? It’s just in the background. But when something goes wrong it can be the only thing they notice and fixate on. And an unfortunately that becomes sometimes a very emotional issue for them and very difficult for the builder to overcome and get that relationship back to a good spot.

James [00:08:25] So what do you offer the architect designer or design build contractor in as much as utilities are concerned in helping them make sure that they don’t end up with a bouncy floor?

Chris [00:08:39] So what we’ve done is we’ve created something called B.C. floor value and that’s a tool in our software that we provide to our designers or at our dealer and distributor locations. So if you’re a builder or a contractor and you’re working with a lumber yard and they stock Boise Cascade products they have access to the software. So if you think about this it’s not something where you have to invest your time to figure out the design and use the software you really need to just go in and talk to your lumber yard where you’re buying the Boise Cascade products from and say I’d like to use BC floor value on this next project, I’d like to understand how this floor is going to work and BC floor value is four components. The first one is what we call a heat map and if you think of like a rain fall map on a radar where you see that dark.

James [00:09:21] Yeah.

Chris [00:09:21] Portions where it’s raining hard and then nothing where it’s not same concept but we’re looking at the deflection of the floor so we can take all the individual pieces and parts from the floor joists and the sub floor and the beams and walls that support them. We analyze that entire thing as a complete system and we say maybe this floor joist doesn’t deflect very much but because it sits on the beam that deflects a little bit more you might have a soft spot or a low spot in the floor in this area. And so it visually gives the designer an indication of areas where they might need to either add some more material or think about changing spacing or upgrade the product and that heat map can be printed on lay out so that when the builder sees the framing layout they also can see what that map will look like. The next piece of it is a vibration piece so back to that annoying.

James [00:10:08] Yes yes yes.

Chris [00:10:09] Vibration feel. Yeah. And so we look at that same floor system we say OK here’s the worst performing element in your floor from a vibration standpoint and we’ve assigned it to a simple three tier rating system. So we have a minimum an enhanced and a premium. And we tried to keep it simple because there are other systems in the market that assign numerical scores and it’s just psychologically difficult for people to wrap their head around you know 42 for yes 37.

James [00:10:34] Yes. You know me you know me! [laughs].

Chris [00:10:37] Yeah. And so I really wanted to make something that was simple so it’s it’s minimum which is sort of that code minimum performance great for an entry level project. You know my budget conscious there’s enhanced which is sort of where you know sweet spot of most people in that move up home or even their forever home. Then there’s premium and that would be maybe your high end custom home the discerning customer. And so we let you see that from a vibration perspective we believe the floor falls into this category. Then there’s one other piece on top of that on the destruction analysis side of it and that’s the sheet between the joists so get the rating systems in the market they focus on the joists themselves.

James [00:11:15] Yeah.

Chris [00:11:15] This joist is stiff and strong but if they’re spaced at 16 19 to 24. Yeah the chances of you walking perpendicular to the floor framing and stepping between the joists and feeling the give of the sheathing between them is the real thing.

James [00:11:29] Is very high.

Chris [00:11:30] You know I’m not a big guy but I’ve walked job sites where if I step just right I could feel the sheathing give underneath me each time even though the floor was designed to be very stiff and so we added that into the B.C. floor value system. So we give the sheathing itself a rating. And so in areas where you’ve got no there is vinyl or carpet or something that’s not a stiff finish you can make sure that those areas have the proper between joist stiffness and then the final piece that I think really ties everything together is cost performance optimization and so.

James [00:12:00] Now wait a minute that’s a big phrase: cost performance optimization?

Chris [00:12:05] Yes.

James [00:12:05] Wonderful. I like it.

Chris [00:12:07] Everything is great. Yeah, right? For the designer, everything for the person not making the financial decision. Everything on the software is a possible option. I can give you the most expensive product at a tight spacing. And to me it’s no different on the layout than an economically built floor where I use the right materials in the right places and I have tuned the spacing to be just what it needs to be for the application. That’s really about designer choice and about the quality of design that you’re working with. Well what we wanted to do is we wanted to take some of that out of the designers hands and say they need to be able to provide options. You need to be able to not have a lot of skill and design and understanding whether deeper joists, tighter on center spacing or wider on screen or spacing or shall rejoice, longer spans, shorter spands, made a difference. We wanted to let you say I’d like to consider these four or five materials at these on center spacing. Here’s how much they cost me per foot or per unit. Here’s my beam costs. Give me a package prices for these floors and then show me alternatives where I could move the performance up or down or stay in the same category and optimize the cost. So we think that’s really unique in this space.

James [00:13:13] All right. Let’s carry a little further your title is engineered wood products software manager. Is that where the rubber meets the road as regards to what you’re talking about and your job title software manager.

Chris [00:13:27] It is. I manage the development of our software programs. And one of the projects I had the pleasure of working on was creating this B.C. floor value project. So I don’t operate the software but I helped create the soft herself. So listening to our customers understanding what their problems are what needs they have and then trying to come up with technology solutions to help them.

James [00:13:46] So I see something called B.C. calc software at your webit site. What is and how can our listeners benefit from it?

Chris [00:13:53] So BC Calc is a single member beam and joist roof after column stud sizing tool. It’s freely available to anyone who wants to use it. Not only does it specify Boise Cascade products but it also has dimension lumber in there because we know that they’re commonly intermixed on the job site. And we would love for people to use only engineered wood products but we understand that there are times where the most economical choices no glue and beam or dimension lumber so we try to be fair in that. And how could the listeners use it? So let’s say you know, common remodeling case where you’re taking out a wall you need to pop a beam flush up into the floor system but you’re not sure what size of beam, what grade, what specification that needs to be. So if you can understand the geometry and the loading well enough to input the spans and the load cases, that software will go through and help you design, perform the engineering analysis on the beam to let you know if it passes or fails and it meets all the building code requirements and then you get a printout when you’re done that you can use to help the building code official. So as part of your permitting process and approvals, we’ll give you a printout that shows that the product you’ve selected meets and exceeds the requirements for the loads that you’ve given.

James [00:15:03] Come on Chris you’re making this way too easy for us builders. [laughs]

James [00:15:07] I guess that’s the goal right!

Chris [00:15:08]  It is absolutely. I’ve got another fun piece in there that we added.

James [00:15:12] OK.

Chris [00:15:12] About a year or so ago and it’s about walls. So you think of a desire to have a wall of windows and piecing together the right structural frame to go around all those windows can be difficult and the deflection of that wall, again that movement under load. So as the wind blows against the wall do the windows seals pop? Do you get leaking? Similar things happen if you don’t get that wall stiff enough you don’t select the right products so just a double to by six or to buy it on the king’s stud sometimes isn’t enough. Sometimes you need even more than that. And so we’ve built a tool where you can input the wall as a whole elevation and put your windows into it and then it will assign these structural members around those openings and you can say try two-ply, try three-ply, try even up to four ply King stud and then it’ll go through and give you the same concept of an analysis and that printed output where you can show a layout elevation of the wall and then the materials in it and the design summary for it and essentially creates that same middle package for you on those tall wall applications.

James [00:16:14] Chris you love what you do don’t you?

Chris [00:16:16] I do absolutely.

James [00:16:17] I can hear it and I think that are pro audience will benefit from what you have shared today. And also the tools that are available at your website all of the tools are available at the website. The website again is, yeah? Boise

Chris [00:16:33] Yep yep, so BC as in Boise

Chris [00:16:36] Well there’s also an 800 number on there so you know one of the things is a bigger company is we are we’re still in the relationship business we’ve got a 1 800 number on there we provide engineering sales and software support. If you’ve got a question you’re trying to figure out what to do maybe need help with Joist sizing or being sizing or software things. Give us a call. We’d love to hear from you and talk through it with you.

James [00:16:55] Well I won’t be the guy calling you my brother does all the in-house design for us so he’ll be the one calling you and I’m and I can see that he’s grinning ear to ear.

Morris [00:17:04] Yeah.

James [00:17:04] Knowing about all these wonderful tools that are available.

Morris [00:17:07] So Chris you’re on CareyBrosPros we’d like to ask our guests to share three points for success with our pro listeners. Could you share yours?

Chris [00:17:16] So the first one would be for the builders and ties into the conversation we had today is take advantage of the resources available to you. So our affiliated Boise Cascade dealers out there have tools that they can help you. So part of the service they provide in giving you a layout package or quoting material for you is that design service and some consultation so they don’t always come out front and offer it but they have those tools so if you’re struggling with a floor performance issue ask him, if you want to design a floor for BC floor value, ask him. They’d be happy to help you out.

Chris [00:17:49] Second for me is is really the concept of people helping people. So part of my team as a customer service team and I try to tell them when someone calls they’re really at the end of their rope. They’ve tried to solve something they’ve tried to to do it on their own and they can’t get through it. And if you take a step back and just remember that at the base of everything, people helping other people is what makes business relationships and partnerships work over the long term. And you know it may take a little bit of time out of your day upfront but the long term rewards of that are are just incredible.

James [00:18:23] Okay you’re two for two. Chris, take it home.

Chris [00:18:26] I think the final one is just about a little bit of upfront investment and anything you do so whether it be your vacation planning or building a home. A little bit of time upfront on the design side or the thinking and planning out will save you an immeasurable amount of time on the back end of working through hassles and other things. So I know my home projects there’s the times where I’ve just run off to the box store and bought things that looked interesting and brought them home and realized that I had the wrong pieces and parts for the job and had I taken the time to just sit down and think through what I really needed to do. I’d have made fewer trips and had a lot less hassle and frustration.

James [00:19:03] Wonderful. That says a lot. He’s not just another pretty face. He’s a professional engineer and engineered wood products software manager for Boise Cascade. He is Chris Brandt and you may learn more about them and their terrific line of products by visiting their website. It is

Morris [00:19:30] And remember you’ll find all of our guest information as well as additional podcasts videos and articles on our website at

About The Author James Carey

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