News Flash! A 2×4 Is Not 2 inches by 4 inches!

Two By Fours
Framing a home using 2X4's
Typically, houses are framed using 2X4’s.

Just How Big Is a 2×4?

Apparently a California Superior Court judge did not know the answer to this basic construction question. And you may not know. That’s okay. However, anyone who has even the slightest contact with construction knows that a 2×4 is actually 1 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches. When Judge Paul M. Haakenson found this out, he didn’t like it. In fact, he didn’t like it so much he ordered Lowe’s home improvement stores to pay $1.6 million as part of a civil consumer protection action settlement because Lowe’s had, in his words, “unlawfully advertised structural dimensional building products for sale.”

Never mind that every Building Code in the country shows 2×4’s to be 1 ½”x 3 ½” and tabulates their structural capacity based on the actual size and not the nominal size. This judge took a stand to protect the public even if he had no idea what he was talking about.

Most interior walls are framed using 2×4’s.

But the judge had accomplices in this judicial travesty. The suit was brought by a representative from a local weights and measures division after they visited one of the company’s stores and “expressed concerns” about product measurements. Apparently, Marin County District Attorney Edward S. Berberian, who sounds like he doesn’t know which end of a hammer to hold, agreed with the weights and measures guy and he brought the suit against Lowe’s. As he rode his white horse to the rescue of the exploited public, Berberian said, “Consumers should expect when making product purchases that retailers are providing accurate information, especially when misinformation could adversely affect building projects that more often than not rely on precise measurements.”

I would suggest to everyone reading this article that if you do not know the actual size of a 2×4, you should not be doing any construction work. Hire a builder. And if your builder does not know the actual size of a 2×4, fire him and find a new builder.

Ceilings are framed using industry sized 2X4's.
Ceilings are usually framed using industry-sized 2X6’s or 2×8’s.

Wait until these guys find out that a 2×6 is actually 1 ½”x 5 ½”, and a 2×8 is actually 1 ½”x 7 ¼”, and a 2×10 is actually 1 ½”x 9 ¼”. Will the insanity ever stop?

No. It doesn’t stop there. Did you know that a ten penny nail doesn’t cost ten cents? Yikes!! Better alert Marin County ASAP.

  I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch


  1. Merlin Just on September 11, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Are these people morons or are they just that stupid? Two inch lumber has not been two inches for over 50 years, these guys are the smartest we have?

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