How big is a two-by-four? No, not that big:
Decades ago, common carpentry practice (later set in stone by written regulations) specified that certain applications needed a 2 inch by 4 inch board. The reason this board was chosen was not due to its size per se (in most cases, for cost and space issues, I am sure folks would love to have gotten away with something smaller). This size board was chosen for a specific application by its load-carrying ability. For example, two inch by four inch boards spaced every 16 inches apart created acceptably strong framing for a wall.
And this was fine so long as lumber was lumber was lumber. But then it became better:
Anyway, after many years of making lumber, the timber and lumber industry found ways to make the 2 inch by 4 inch board much stronger. Well, not always stronger, but more uniform in strength such that the weakest board in a batch was much closer to the average than before. But for standards, this has about the same effect — 2 inch by 4 inch boards could be considered to be much stronger since the expected value had to be set at the minimum that might be encountered.
So, in an unexpectedly tree-saving move, Big Timber and Big Lumber brought forth a 1.5 x 3.5 board that had the strength of a two-by-four. (The two-by-six and four-by-four were comparably shrunk.) You’d still put the 2x4s 16 inches apart, though.
Now I knew this more than half a lifetime ago, and as close as I get to lumber products is occasionally brushing against the plywood used to enclose the insulation in the garage walls. Then again, lawyers aren’t looking for people who know things like this:
Two home-improvement stores are accused of deceiving the buyers of four-by-four boards, the big brother to the ubiquitous two-by-four.
The alleged deception: Menards and Home Depot market and sell the hefty lumber as four-by-fours without specifying that the boards actually measure 3½ inches by 3½ inches.
The lawsuits against the retailers would-be class actions, filed within five days of each other in federal court for the Northern District of Illinois. Attorneys from the same Chicago law firm represent the plaintiffs in both cases. Each suit seeks more than $5 million.
Expected outcome: the stores will post disclaimers, the plaintiffs will get coupons for a free box of wood screws, and the lawyers will rake in the bucks. Such is the way of the class-action suit.