Residential Construction Performance Guidelines

At Creekside Homes we are gratified each time we design and build a custom home for our clients.  It is important for us to take pleasure in working with our customers, but also having pride in the craftsmanship that goes into each house.  Along with the workmanship is seeking expertise from other experts within our field.  With that in mind, Creekside Homes is proud to be a part of the National Association of Home Builders or NAHB®.  Founded in the early 1940s, NAHB® represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers, dedicated to building and enriching communities.

Like the NAHB®, Creekside Homes uses our years of experience, ingenuity and expert advice to develop a design that is perfect for you and your family.  Creekside Homes understands that the home building process can be intimidating, and you may have questions or concerns that you’d like to address, prior to initiating the architectural planning phase.  The NAHB® provides a valuable guide for consumers and contractors alike, which address the most frequent questions during the building process.  We hope that you find this Residential Construction Guide as useful and informative as we do.


Residential Construction Performance Guidelines 

for Professional Builders & Remodelers
Fourth Edition


NAHB Remodelers

Single Family Small Volume Builders Committee

National Association of Home Builders

Scope of Responsibilities

Typically, numerous parties are involved in a residential construction project, whether it entails building a new home or remodeling an existing one. Each of these parties has specific responsibilities to fulfill. The contract documents should provide a clear statement of the agreement between the contractor and the consumer. In addition to the specific provisions of any contract, the following general responsibilities should be noted:

Contractor: For the purposes of this manual, the contractor is the entity named in the contract that has primary responsibility for completing the project. The contractor often employs others to assist in the project. In most cases, the contractor is responsible for all work assigned in the contract regardless of who actually performs the work. If the contractor is acting in a special role (for instance, as a construction manager), or the consumer selects others to work on the project who are outside the contractor’s control, then the responsibility for evaluation and remedy of potential problems may fall to other parties.

Consumer: The consumer is the buyer of the product or service named in the contract. As such, the consumer is responsible for carefully reviewing the contract to ensure it accurately represents the expectations for the final product. Once the consumer accepts the project and moves into the home or occupies the newly renovated space, then the consumer is responsible for routine maintenance and upkeep. Homes require a certain amount of care and maintenance, which are the consumer’s responsibility. Consumers should note that in some of the guidelines contained herein, the contractor is not obligated to make repairs to items that fall within the consumer’s maintenance responsibilities.

Manufacturer: Manufacturers warrant many residential construction components that may fall outside the scope of the contractor’s responsibilities, such as kitchen appliances, furnaces, air conditioners, and lighting and plumbing fixtures. Certain types of siding, roofing, or flooring also may be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty. If there is a warranty question with one of these components, the consumer should be aware that the contractor may not be responsible for the product’s performance after installation. If a problem occurs, the consumer often will need to contact the manufacturer or fabricator directly to have the problem evaluated and, if necessary, rectified, unless otherwise specified in a contract. The contractor’s responsibilities may end once the contractor provides the appropriate information on how to contact the manufacturer or fabricator, unless otherwise specified in the contract.

Remodeling Projects

Remodeling, the process of expanding or enhancing an existing structure, presents inherent difficulties in melding the new and old into a home or room that meets the consumer’s needs and is aesthetically pleasing. Some circumstances call for the suspension of some or all of the guidelines in order to successfully complete a remodeling project. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, the meeting of old, out-of-plumb or out-of-level structures with new structures; the appearance of new materials near weathered, existing materials; and the practical considerations for new projects to work within the limitations of existing buildings.

Because of the unique challenges of joining new and old construction, a remodeling contractor may build some or all of the project outside the scope of these guidelines to achieve the contract objectives. When it is reasonable, the contractor may note and discuss a condition with the consumer before construction. It is also normal for a contractor, during the course of construction, to discover and accommodate conditions in the old structure that require different solutions from those suggested in these guidelines. In these circumstances, the governing factor is meeting the needs of the consumer as outlined in the contract, and complying with the prevailing building code.


How to Use This Manual

This manual is divided into chapters organized according to the usual sequence of events in the construction process. Nearly every chapter contains sections within it, and some chapters also have more specific subsections. Each chapter contains individual construction performance guidelines.

The guidelines are numbered as follows:

Chapter Number–Section Number–Guideline Number

Each construction performance guideline has three parts, as follows:

Observation: A description of a particular construction condition.

Performance Guideline: The specific criterion for acceptable workmanship.

Corrective Measure: A description of the work required by the contractor to meet the performance guideline and/or the consumer’s maintenance responsibility.

Some guidelines also include the following elements:

Remodeling Specific Performance Guideline (listed as applicable): The specific criterion for acceptable workmanship for remodeling.

Discussion: An explanation of unique factors pertinent to the observation, performance guideline, or corrective measure.


General Instructions

Many locales require construction work to comply with the prevailing building code.  If a conflict arises between these guidelines and the prevailing building code, as a matter of law, the code requirements may take precedence over these guidelines.

These performance guidelines apply only to work specified in the contract documents for the project. They do not apply to designs, plans, materials, or workmanship that is supplied by the consumer or is outside the scope of the particular project. They are also designed to apply only to the part of the job addressed in each guideline.

Many plans or specifications utilize styles, materials, or specific workmanship details that are designed to be outside of the specifications herein, to obtain a specific result. In order to avoid conflict, the contractor and consumer should specify in writing that these specific items are excluded from the performance guidelines.


Definition of Terms

The following terms are crucial to understanding the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, Fourth Edition:

Substantial completion of the project. The point at which a home construction project is completed and the areas are functional for their intended use as stated in the contract. The contract should include a specific definition of completion.

Warranty period. The duration of the applicable warranty provided by the contractor and agreed to by the parties in the original construction contract.

Manufacturer’s warranty. The warranty provided by the manufacturer of a product that has been incorporated into a newly constructed home or a remodeling project.

Prevailing building code. The building code that has been adopted by the state, county, city, or other applicable local governing authority. These codes vary greatly and require an understanding of the codes specifically applicable to each individual project.

Other selected terms are italicized on first reference and defined in the glossary.

Incorporating the Guidelines into a Warranty or Dispute Resolution Program

The warranty, like the contract, should clearly express the intent of the parties. The limited warranty describes the issues the contractor will be responsible for after substantial completion of the project, and specifies the time period during which the warranty is in force. Moreover, if a contractor warrants workmanship and materials in a warranty, the contractor should provide a clear definition of compliance with the terms of the warranty. Without a clear definition, the parties risk having to follow dispute resolution procedures that are specified in the contract, and where an arbitrary standard may be imposed.

Accordingly, the contract and/or warranty might include a statement such as the following:

All workmanship shall conform to the guidelines found in the
publication Residential Construction Performance Guidelines
for Professional Builders and Remodelers, Fourth Edition ©2011
National Association of Home Builders of the United States. If an
item is not covered in that publication, standard industry practice
shall govern. This may include the dispute resolution process as
specified in the contract documents or by applicable laws.

To ensure that the consumer agrees with the specific performance guidelines stated herein, the contractor should review the specific guidelines and the procedures recommended with the consumer before entering into the contract. Providing the consumer with a copy of the guidelines at contract signing is highly recommended.  Reviewing the performance guidelines again at closing or at the walk-through inspection is also recommended.

If there are particular guidelines within this publication that the contractor or consumer does not want to use, they should be specifically excluded in writing from all warranty or contract documents applicable to the project. Likewise, if there are particular issues that are not addressed in the guidelines, then by written agreement the contractor and consumer should refer to those issues in the warranty and/or contract documents.

Other Uses for the Guidelines

The Residential Construction Performance Guidelines can promote a better understanding of the home construction process among consumers, inspectors, and public officials. Following are some suggestions for building awareness of these guidelines:

  • Make the guidelines available to consumers simultaneous with or prior to entering into a contract to help them understand the construction process.
    Whether or not your contract refers to the guidelines, the contractor and consumer should acknowledge in writing that they agree to specific
    performance tolerances.
  • Avoid disputes by referring to this objective set of guidelines with third-party
  • Share the guidelines with mediators, arbitrators, and judges to help them
    understand the acceptable performance criteria.
  • Show the guidelines to building code officials so they can distinguish
    performance guidelines from code compliance issues.
  • Make the guidelines available to trade contractors whose profession is integral
    to the construction process. Agreements with trade contractors should include
    a guarantee from them that their work will comply with the guidelines.
  • Take the guidelines to city, county, and state officials and urge them to
    consider adopting the guidelines as their accepted criteria.
  • Make the guidelines available to private, third-party home inspectors, and their
    trade associations.


Taking Measurements

You can quickly assess whether certain ridges, cracks, gaps, lippage, or variations in plumbness or levelness are within the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines recommended tolerances. Tolerances in most of these areas are less than 1 inch. The edges of U.S. coins can be used to approximate measurements of variation as follows:

Dime = approximately 1/32 inch

Quarter = approximately 1/16 inch


Adapting a Carpenter’s Level

To assess surface levelness, you can use either a 32-inch level or adapt a standard 4-foot fiberglass carpenter’s level by removing 8 inches from each end.


Comments Welcomed

NAHB encourages readers to provide comments and suggestions regarding their experiences using the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, Fourth Edition, including their own methods or tools for determining whether a project complies with the guidelines. Submit your comments in writing, with the subject line “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, Fourth Edition” to the NAHB Business Management Department, 1201 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.
Comments will be considered in preparing future editions of this book.


1.  Site Work

1–1–1 Observation: The ground has settled around the foundation, over utility trenches, or in other areas.
  Performance Guideline: Settled ground around foundation walls, over utility trenches, or in other filled areas will not interfere with water drainage away from the home.
  Corrective Measure: If the contractor provided final grading, one time only during the warranty period, the contractor will fill areas that settle more than 6 inches and that affect proper drainage. It is the consumer’s responsibility to replace shrubs, grass, other landscaping, pavement, sidewalks, or other improvements affected by placement of such fill.
1–1–2 Observation: The property does not properly drain.
  Performance Guideline: To ensure proper drainage within 10 feet around the home, the contractor will establish necessary grades and swales within the property if the work is included in the contract.  Standing water will not remain for extended periods within 10 feet of the home after a rain (generally no more than 24 hours), except in swales that drain other areas or in areas where sump pumps receive discharge.  In these areas a longer period can be anticipated (generally no more than 48 hours). Water may stand longer during periods of heavy rains, especially when heavy rains occur on successive days. No grading determination will be made while frost or snow is on the ground or while the ground is saturated.
  Corrective Measure: If grading is part of the contract, the contractor is responsible for initially establishing the proper grades and swales.
  Discussion: Grass and other landscaping are integral components of the storm water management practice needed to minimize erosion from the property. It is the consumer’s responsibility to maintain grass and other landscaping to help ensure the property drainage system functions properly. The consumer is responsible for maintaining such grades and swales once the contractor has properly established them.
1–1–3 Observation: The property has soil erosion.
  Performance Guideline: The contractor is not responsible for soil erosion.
  Corrective Measure: No corrective action is required by the contractor.  The contractor is not responsible for erosion due to acts of God, weather conditions, property alteration by the consumer, construction on adjacent properties, utility company’s work, improper consumer maintenance, or other conditions beyond the contractor’s control.
1–1–4 Observation: Water from a nearby or adjacent property flows onto the consumer’s property.
  Performance Guideline: The contractor is responsible for providing a reasonable means of draining water from rain, melting snow, or ice on the property and in the immediate area of the home, but the contractor is not responsible for water flowing from a nearby or adjacent property.
  Corrective Measure: No corrective action is required by the contractor.
1–1–5 Observation: Existing trees, shrubs, or other vegetation have been damaged in the course of construction.
  Performance Guideline: The contractor will make a reasonable and cost-effective effort to preserve existing landscaping as predetermined by the contractor and consumer, but the survival of existing landscaping cannot be guaranteed.
  Corrective Measure: No corrective action is required by the contractor.