About SFPs


Specify and Build with locally grown, harvested and milled SPFs lumber.

SFPs: Eastern Spruce, Pine and Balsam Fir

Reliable, Renewable, and Readily-Available.


Lumber that contains a grade stamp on its face with one of these species group designations can be quite confusing to many, which can lead to uninformed and misguided decisions by lumber buyers, retailers, specifiers, architects, engineers, builders, truss manufacturers, modular home fabricators, and other important customers of lumber. The following information is provided to assist in the education of buyers and users of wood on the differences that should clear some misconceptions and assist users of lumber in making important decisions:

What is the abbreviation SPF?

The term “SPF” is short for Spruce-Pine-Fir, a grouping of various commercially important species.

What does the “s” in SPFs mean?

This is the key to understanding the difference in the two species groupings. The “s” designation indicates that the lumber was produced from logs harvested in the USA (south of the Canadian border).  No “s” designation indicates that the log source was exclusively Canadian in origin.

When did this “s” designation begin?

In 1991 after all lumber species in North America were re-tested under a new “full-size” testing methodology, the SPFs designation was born under the American Lumber Standard Committee system. It is a collection of smaller volume commercial species as compared to the Southern Pine, Douglas Fir/Larch, Hem/Fir species groupings. The SPF designation previously existed as a grouping in Canada prior to 1991.

What species are within the SPFs grouping?

This grouping of species stretches across the northern regions of the USA. There are now 10 species that make up the SPFs grouping with the eastern half containing Red, Black, and White Spruce, Norway Spruce, Balsam Fir, Jack Pine, and Red Pine. The western species within the grouping are Engelmann Spruce, Sitka Spruce, and Lodgepole Pine.

What are the differences in species within the SPF grouping?

The Canadian group of species (8 total) also stretches nationwide and includes Red, Black, and White Spruce, Balsam Fir, Jack Pine, Engelmann Spruce and Lodgepole Pine, same as SPFs. SPF DOES NOT contain Sitka Spruce, Norway Spruce or Red Pine. The group adds Alpine Fir.

Are there differences in strength values between SPFs and SPF?

Yes. Lumber from the two groupings were tested separately and differently, resulting in different overall strength values for each group, SPFs in the USA and SPF in Canada.

There are 6 lumber properties that are assigned strength values for each species grouping based on testing:
(1) Fiber Bending
(2) Tension Parallel to Grain,
(3) Horizontal Shear,
(4) Compression Parallel to the Grain,
(5) Compression Perpendicular to the Grain, and
(6) Modulus of Elasticity (MOE).

Depending upon the final use of the lumber within building construction, some lumber properties play a more important role than others.

The differences in values between SPFs and SPF vary by grade and design value type:
Example: Fiber Bending in the grades of Select Structural and No.1 for SPFs lumber are greater to or equal SPF. For No.2, No.3, and Stud grades, SPF is listed with higher values for that property.

 Compare base design values for SPFs and SPF by viewing this table.

In the case of calculating spans for using lumber in supporting loads within a structure, the allowable spans when using SPFs lumber are reduced by 4.3% to 8.7%, dependent upon the grade of lumber, on-center spacing and live load anticipated. Refer to the following SPFs/SPF comparison tables for Floor Joist spans:

30 psf Live Load – 10 psf Dead Load

40 psf Live Load – 10 psf Dead Load

Use the following SPFs/SPF comparison table for Ceiling Joist spans:

20 psf Live Load – 10 psf Dead Load

In general, for repetitive use applications where multiple pieces of lumber are used together as a system in construction framing such as wall studs, and for simple spans for joists and rafters, SPFs design values will meet the strength needs.

Important Note: All home designs should be reviewed to ensure the lumber used in construction will meet the loading and span requirements for each application.


The following base design values are provided for use in the specification and building with SPFs.  These tables are specific pages published in Section 8 of the Standard Grading Rules for Northeastern Lumber that may be accessed from this website’s homepage.  It contains base design values for other species and species groupings from the northeast and great lakes regions.


The Northeastern and Great Lakes regions of the U.S. are known for their vast forestlands of commercial softwood timber.  Consider these environmental advantages of using wood products from this region in building construction:

Renewable – Harvested from well-managed forests, wood products are among the earth’s few renewable and sustainable building materials. And it is readily available!

Local – Building in the Northeast or Great Lakes area? Sourcing locally grown, harvested and milled SPFs lumber significantly reduces the energy necessary to transport wood products to the marketplace, thereby reducing the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during the transport process.  Wood products coming from the western U.S. or even as far away as New Zealand and South America have a much higher carbon footprint on the environment.

LEED Points – The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a leading non-profit organization that promotes sustainability in buildings design, construction, and operation.  The organization is best know for its Leadership in Energy and Engineering Design rating system for building construction, better know as LEED.  This rating system encourages the use of “locally” manufactured products (within 500 miles of the project) in construction.  Architects and builders seeking to obtain a LEED-rated building gain added points for using locally produced wood products such as SPFs.



After 4 years of discussing, researching, locating, verifying, planning, sampling, testing, and analyzing, Norway Spruce becomes the 10th Birth of a Species Graphic - White BGsoftwood species to be included within the Spruce-Pine-Fir south (SPFs) grouping of species for design values.  The official notification was received by NELMA from the American Lumber Standard Committee’s (ALSC) Board of Review on October 20, 2016.

This approval capped 4 months of destructively testing more than 1,300 pieces of 2×4, 2×6, and 2×8 lumber by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composite Center in Orono, followed by 8 more months of deliberations and intensive review by the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.  Their final assessment came to the same conclusion: Norway Spruce may join the other species within the SPFs grouping and adopt the same strength values important for use by engineers, architects, and builders in construction applications.

Norway Spruce Forest - Maine

Norway Spruce becomes the first major, U.S. grown new wood species to be fully tested since strength values were first conducted in the 1920s.  Norway Spruce is a native, well-established softwood species in Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe where it is a significantly important commercial wood source in countries such as Germany, the Baltic States, and yes, even Norway.  The species uniqueness starts with its dramatic appearance unlike any other spruce.  The tree’s drooping branchlets are an identification trademark and gives rise to Norway Spruce as a favorite Christmas tree species, as noted by its annual selection as the “Tree” that adorns Rockefeller Center in NYC for the holiday season.

History of Norway Spruce in the U.S.

NELMA’s historical research found that its introduction to America began in 1860 when European immigrants brought Norway Spruce stock with them and first planted the species in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.  A Harvard Forest Research report in 1936 documented an additional 58 Norway Spruce plantations throughout Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York, as its popularity, notable high-survival rates and relative fast growth compared to native softwood species became known within the region.

Based on this early success, Norway Spruce seedlings became a critical component of President Roosevelt’s back-to-work program in the 1930s that replanted thousands of acres of abandoned agricultural lands in the Northeast created by the Great Depression.  The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were tasked with this reforestation project whose purpose was to stabilize barren soils and reduce erosion.  More than 113 million Norway Spruce seedlings were distributed by state nurseries for replanting projects in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, just through 1932, prior to the kick-off of CCC.  Millions more were made available to the Corp for hundreds of projects that followed for the next 10 years in the region.

The result of this hard work may be found today in large volumes of rich stands of Norway Spruce in the Northeast, a new found legacy left by the CCC.  Their work will have an important economic impact on today’s lumber industry as the species begins enjoying its increased value from previous markets of pulpwood, paper chips, and 1” board material.  More than 2 billion board feet of standing sawtimber is listed in current data collected by the U.S. Forest Service in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern regions.  With the high sampling error with the data, inherent for “minor” species in the survey itself, there is likely 2 to 3 times that amount in reality.

What does this means to NELMA lumber manufacturing members?  Norway Spruce grown in the U.S. may immediately be procured by a mill to incorporate within their current Spruce-Pine-Fir species mix.

The approval of the species marks the end of a lengthy but necessary process of bringing a new species to the marketplace, taking more than 1000 Association staff man-hours in the final 2 years alone.