The 2x4 and 4x4 boards used in the framework of most homes and wood fences just don't measure up to the dimensions in their names.
So several federal lawsuits have been filed against Home Depot and Menard's complaining that consumers are being misled because a 2x4 measures 1½ inches by 3½ inches and a 4x4 is really 3½ inches by 3½ inches.
The retailers told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel it's common knowledge that those numeric names don't describe the boards' width and thickness.
Wisconsin-based Menard's said in court documents that consumers received lumber that met the standards for a 2x4 or 4x4 even if it measures slightly smaller.
The lawyers are arguing that consumers got less than the stores promised them, so they should be compensated.
"It's difficult to say that for a reasonable consumer, when they walk into a store and they see a label that says 4x4, that that's simply — quote unquote — a trade name," Yevgeniy Turin of the McGuire Law firm that filed the lawsuits in the northern district of Illinois, told the newspaper.
One expert told the paper that in the construction industry, it is commonly known that a 2x4 doesn't measure 2-inches-by-4-inches. There are government-approved standards that set the minimum dimensions for lumber.
"Anybody who's in the trades or construction knows that," said Tim Stich, who teaches carpentry at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
It's hard to say how many consumers realize the holes they are digging for fence posts only have to be big enough for a 31/2-inch-wide board. But a simple tape measure would make it clear.
A federal judge will decide later if the lawsuits measure up well enough proceed.