Home Depot & Menards Sued Over How Dimensional Lumber is Advertised
When you buy a 4×4, you think you're getting a wood beam that measures 4″ x 4″. Same with a 2×4 or a 1×6. The thing is, you are not getting exactly what you think you are paying for. That "lack of truth" in wood dimensions has led to a class action complaint against major retailers Home Depot and Menards. It's most likely nothing more that a trivial complaint since several clients have contacted attorneys over the gripe in a short period of time. If it is just a handful of complainers thinking they can earn a big payday in court, the case will most likely be thrown out. It's up to the plaintiffs to prove that consumers were hurt by misleading labeling. If the case does advance, we as consumers will be hurt as retailers will pass their court costs off to us in the form of higher prices.
Lowes lost a similar case in 2014 when a California judged ordered $1.6 million in damages. That case might be the motivation for action against Menards and Home Depot.
The average consumer might not realize it, but wood dimensions are approximations of finished size. That's something most tradespeople learn within a few days on the job. DIY'ers might not find out until they seek to build anything with dimensional lumber and see that one shelf is smaller or larger than another.
Standardizing the lumber industry to provide for exact wood measurement would be difficult. Currently, the measurement is taken at the saw mill before processing or drying time. Wood swells and shrinks - things like heat, moisture, and density apply variables no wood retailer can control. Those factors are different by region of the country and environment. If lumber was labeled as “actual” size, the measurement would still vary with the uncontrollable conditions. That's why we get a nominal size measurement.
In all honesty, clearer labeling would be helpful for first-time buyers of dimensional lumber, people like DIY'ers. More transparent labeling would be a fair settlement of the case, though it's doubtful lawyers would be happy with such an outcome.