NAHB Wood-Flooring Guidelines
Recycling Ordinances Target
Taking on Termites
Oak-flooring association advocates
stricter installation standards
The leading industry association for hardwood flooring objected
in March to what it says are "ludicrous" quality criteria for
wood flooring contained in guidelines published by the NAHB.
The tolerances for cupping of floorboards, gaps between boards,
and other flaws are "far too permissive," says National Oak
Flooring Manufacturers Association executive vice president
NAHB is now on the third edition of its Residential
Construction Performance Guidelines
(BuilderBooks.com, $34.95). Designed to be
incorporated by reference into construction or
purchase-and-sale contracts, the guidelines draw praise from
some users. According to attorney Peter G. Merrill, CEO of
Construction Dispute Resolution Services, who serves on the
NAHB work group that wrote and periodically revises the
document, "One builder who constructs about 800 homes annually
in the Santa Fe, N.M., area told me he has eliminated 70
percent of the claims he used to have by using these
Hardwood flooring is usually machined to close tolerances.
Here, a test fit of two pieces pulled at random from a flooring
mill production line shows a nearly invisible joint.
But others question whether the standards used for the
guidelines are valid, especially in regard to wood flooring.
"We take issue with just about all the guidelines for wood
flooring that the NAHB publishes," says Locke. "What they say
is acceptable is ludicrous. Most of the tolerances NAHB allows
are actually symptoms of improper installation or improperly
manufactured product, or both."
In particular, Locke points to the following areas of
• Cracks between floorboards.
NAHB's guideline reads, "Gaps between floorboards shall not
exceed 1/8 inch width at the time of installation." In NOFMA's
view, an occasional gap between strips up to 3/64 inch wide is
the acceptable limit, although gaps of up to 3/32 inch wide may
be necessary in some cases to allow for expected flooring
• Cupping. "NAHB says cups up to
1/16 inch are acceptable," says Locke. "NOFMA says phooey. We
say if a majority of the boards are cupped more than .02 inch,
it's unacceptable. A floor should be flat, or very close to
• Lippage (height difference at
edge joints). "NAHB says lippage — also known as overwood
— greater than 1/16 inch is unacceptable," says Locke.
"NOFMA says variation in height between edges or ends of
prefinished flooring products exceeding 1/32 inch is considered
excessive. The corrective measure is to replace the product
with flooring that was properly milled to tighter tolerances."
Adds NOFMA technical-services director Mickey Moore, "Whoever
heard of a floor that had one board that is 1/16 inch higher
than another board? You'll trip over it. Consumers complain of
overwood that is 12 or 16 thousands of an inch."
NOFMA argues that builders can readily achieve NOFMA's tighter
quality standards by taking reasonable care in the
installation. The group's installation manual recommends that
installers use moisture meters to check the moisture content of
both the hardwood flooring and the subfloor it will be applied
to before nailing the boards down. Flooring should measure
between 6 percent and 8 percent moisture content at the time of
installation, cautions NOFMA, while the subfloor moisture
content should be within 4 percentage points of that. Cupping
of 1/16 inch, says Moore, indicates that some unacceptably high
moisture source below the floor has caused its bottom face to
gain moisture and swell.
But Merrill says that incorporating NAHB's quality guidelines
into a contract renders questions concerning such details
— how the flooring is installed, how the work is
supervised — irrelevant: The contract relieves the
builder of any obligation to follow specific procedures or
A contract referencing NAHB's guidelines also insulates the
builder from any claims based on legal concepts like an implied
warranty of merchantability or fitness for a particular
purpose, says Merrill. "The contract states that if a dispute
develops, the parties agree that they will first look to the
current edition of the guidelines," he says. "If the dispute is
covered, the buyers agree to accept the guidelines as
acceptable, and the builder agrees to bring the work up to the
guideline in the way the guideline calls for."
As a "guideline" rather than a "standard," Merrill says, the
NAHB document's creation is not governed by the strict legal
requirements for a fair and open process that apply to American
National Standards Institute (ANSI) or building-code
development committees. Nevertheless, he notes, industry and
trade groups outside NAHB are invited to provide input during
the NAHB guidelines' two-year revision cycle.
"This is as neutral a thing as can be," he says. "Some people
are going to say ‘This is borderline' — but, well,
you are never going to keep all people happy."
Moore counters that NAHB consulted NOFMA 10 or 12 years ago for
an earlier version of the document that was limited to
remodeling work. "I gave some input, particularly about gaps
and cups, and they saw fit not to include that," he says.
And he reiterates that, however the guidelines were compiled,
he considers them inadequate: "If you built a whole house to
these standards, it would never, ever sell." — Ted
Recycling Ordinances Target
With landfill space at a premium, construction and demolition
debris — a significant source of waste — is
starting to attract attention. How much trash are we talking
about? The Construction Materials Recycling Association
estimates that 325 million tons of C&D debris —
including road and bridge products — were generated in
2005, of which 155 million tons of concrete and asphalt and 28
million tons of mixed C&D materials were recycled.
To increase the amount recycled and extend the useful life of
existing landfills, many cities and states have passed or are
considering laws that require contractors to use recycling
facilities for some percentage of C&D debris.
A new Chicago ordinance, for instance, effective for permits
issued after March 1, requires general and demolition
contractors to recycle or reuse 25 percent of C&D debris.
On January 1, 2007, that percentage will go up to 50 percent.
Subject to the ordinance are new residential buildings with
four or more units, new nonresidential buildings larger than
4,000 square feet, and building rehabilitation that requires a
certificate of occupancy. Building demos costing less than
$10,000 are exempt, as are projects that require only a
plumbing, electrical, or mechanical permit.
In California, a state law requiring cities to recycle 50
percent of all trash has been on the books since 2000, but it
wasn't until last year that the state's Integrated Waste
Management Board started enforcing it, according to the San
Diego Union-Tribune. To meet the 50 percent requirement and to
avoid fines of up to $10,000 a day for noncompliance,
California cities are passing ordinances that require builders
to recycle half of their C&D debris. Several cities have
already passed ordinances that apply to jobs valued at $50,000
and higher, and the Contra Costa Times reports that others are
expected to follow suit within the next few months.
Created by the Central Contra Costa (Calif.) Solid Waste
Authority, this receipt documents compliance with recycling
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has
opted for an overall disposal ban on certain recyclable
materials, rather than mandating percentages. As of July 1,
concrete, asphalt, wood, metals, and old corrugated containers
will no longer be accepted at landfills and will need to go
through a C&D recycling plant instead. Because the ban has
been in the works for a number of years, numerous recycling
facilities have already established a presence in the
You can download this 57-page guide to planning a
successful job-site recycling program from
According to Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine,
recycling fees that are lower than landfill tipping fees have
induced many Massachusetts builders to change job-site disposal
practices, even before the law takes effect. — Laurie
OffcutsBuilders Get Right to Repair
Wisconsin became the 28th state to enact notice and opportunity
to repair (NOR) legislation, when Governor Jim Doyle signed
Senate Bill 488 in March. Under the state's new law, homeowners
must notify the builder in writing of any alleged problems
before filing a lawsuit. The builder then has 30 days to
inspect the property and has the legal right to repair the
defects within a reasonable amount of time or to offer monetary
If the builder declines the opportunity to repair, the
homeowner may sue over the defect.
Applications for contractor's licenses have
more than doubled in Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina, reports
the New Orleans-based Times-Picayune. In early 2005, the state
licensing board saw an average of fewer than 200 applications a
month; since August 31, that rate has increased to more than
500 a month. Almost 10 percent were for mold-remediation
licenses, and some 39 percent were from out-of-
Weare, N.H., voters rebuffed an effort in
March to use eminent domain to seize the farmhouse of U.S.
Supreme Court Justice David Souter. In protest of the court's
Kelo decision — which upheld the taking of private
property for projects that serve a public "purpose" —
Logan Darrow Clements of Los Angeles-based Freestar Media
petitioned to develop the Souter property to increase the
town's tax base. His plans included an inn called the "Lost
Liberty Hotel," a restaurant named the "Just Desserts
Café," and a museum dedicated to documenting losses of
freedom in the U.S. The people of Weare instead requested that
the town ask the state to tighten eminent domain laws. New
Hampshire is not alone; more than 30 states are considering
limits on the use of eminent domain.
Measure 37 is once again the law of the land
in Oregon. First passed by 61 percent of the state's voters in
2004, the property rights initiative allows landowners to
request compensation if a land-use restriction causes a decline
in property value. In lieu of payment, the government or agency
may waive the restriction so the property can be used according
to the laws in place when it was purchased. Measure 37 was
found in October 2005 to be unconstitutional by a state circuit
court, but the state supreme court subsequently overturned that
decision in February. Planning commissioners in Oregon are now
processing more than 2,500 claims, but because no money has
been allocated for the measure, municipalities are likely to
opt for waivers over payment.
employees at two small construction companies stole hundreds of
thousands of dollars from their employers. Brent Garrod, a
Florida contractor, was clued in to his secretary's activities
when he had an accountant go over his books. In February, she
was convicted of embezzling $582,000. When Bob Smith, a
contractor in Pennsylvania, computerized the company's records,
he discovered that his accountant had embezzled $956,000.
Developers in Southern California are hitting
cow dirt as they buy land from dairy farmers for $400,000 to
$500,000 an acre, reports the Los Angeles Times. Ontario,
Calif., developers must have soil samples analyzed for methane
before building on former pastures. The results of the testing
can mean having to replace large quantities of soil, adding to
the already high cost of the property.
Residential activity is slowing for architects, but
nonresidential work is growing, according to two surveys
released by the American Institute of Architects. The
fourth-quarter Home Design Survey shows that kitchen and bath
renovations are going upscale, with higher-end products and
more square footage, while demand for new luxury and first-time
homes is softening. The Architecture Billing Index for January
indicates that the nonresidential market is set to pick up any
slack in the construction industry, as billings in that sector
increased for the 12th consecutive month.
The tools, chandeliers, and posts that Thor Jeffrey Steven
Laufer stole from Milwaukee-
area construction sites during his December 2004 crime spree
were just a cover to make the burglaries look "typical." So
what was he really after? Doorknobs — dozens of them
— to add to his personal collection. His obsession has
landed him in prison; he was sentenced in February to three
years in jail and could face up to 12 additional years for the
The termite's downfall might be, of all things, wood. After
seeing one unharmed fence post in a line of termite-ravished
posts, Australian scientists from the University of Western
Sydney began investigating the tree the resistant post was made
from, the false sandalwood. Results of their experiments have
been encouraging, and the researchers are working with
BioProspect Ltd. to create a commercial product from false
sandalwood extracts that will be a natural alternative to the
toxic chemicals currently used to fight termites.
In other termite news, rumors are swirling about Formosan
termites in this spring's garden mulch. But according to
entomologists, the mulch termites are a hoax. The insects, they
say, wouldn't survive the mulch-making process, packaging, and
transportation. — Jennifer Barnett
Bilingual Safety Video Helps Keep Workers Seguro
Accidents can happen to anyone in the construction industry,
but they happen at a disproportionately high rate to workers
who don't speak English. While Hispanics make up only 12
percent of the U.S. labor force, they account for more than 15
percent of workplace fatalities.
In part, this is a language problem: Many warnings and
safety-training materials are available only in English. That's
why I was very interested in a new Spanish-English safety DVD
produced by NAHB in cooperation with OSHA.
Based on past experience, however, I didn't expect to like
Most Spanish training tapes I've viewed are stilted, literal
translations from English that feel patronizing — but
NAHB's Video de Seguridad en el Sitio de Trabajo
(Jobsite Safety Video), I discovered, is different. Obviously
conceived, written, and narrated by native Spanish speakers,
this DVD delves into job-site safety topics in an authoritative
and eloquent manner.
Divided into 10 sections that work as independent units, it
begins with personal-protection equipment like hard hats and
gloves and then moves on to cover site hazards, scaffolding,
fall protection, trenches, tools, vehicles, and fire
The English version (on the same DVD) follows the same
narrative, but it's clear that neither presentation is a
translation — the producers took the trouble to create
original scripts in each language. The result is possibly the
best safety-training DVD currently available for the
residential construction industry.
Produced in DVD format only, the Jobsite Safety Video can be
purchased at www.BuilderBooks.com (800/223-2665); the
cost is $29.95 for NAHB members and $49.95 for nonmembers.
— Fernando Pagés Ruiz