Measuring Warranty Performance

By Christopher E. Carter, P.E.

Here’s a riddle for all you customer care folks out there: How many homeowners does it take to change a light bulb? Ans. It’s not the light bulb, it’s the wiring, and if you don’t fix it, the homeowner is calling his attorney!

Heard that one before? Wish you knew how to counter in those situations? Well, today’s your lucky day. Allow me to introduce you to the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines For Professional Builders and Remodelers. This is a great little publication that all warranty reps should have in their glovebox. In fact, it’s something warranty reps should have in their hands whenever they investigate a claim.

It’s put out by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and is currently in its third edition. It’s one of few publications that actually establishes minimum objective performance criteria for almost everything evaluated in the field. (Note the word, “performance,” as the building codes don’t address functionality after construction.

This guide has been carefully developed and reviewed over the last 22 years or so, by more than 300 builders, remodelers, and specialty trade organizations. It’s divided into 12 sections – including site work, foundation, wood floor framing, walls, roofs, plumbing, electrical, interior climate control, interior, floor finishes, and landscaping – and ordered according to typical home construction sequence.

Each section lists common observations, industry performance guidelines, corrective measures to consider and further discussion, when necessary, for clarification. Here’s an example under the “Interior” section:

Gypsum Drywall


Observation: Drywall is cracked.
Performance Guideline: Drywall cracks greater than 1/16-inch in width are considered excessive.
Corrective Measure: One time only, the contractor will repair cracks and touch up paint in affected areas. The texture and paint color may not exactly match the existing texture and paint color.

The handbook stresses that these are representative samples of typical building techniques and quality measures used in residential construction throughout the United States. It also points out that geographical variations in standard of practice may occur.

In regard to my opening riddle, the issue with the light bulb could be addressed under the “Electrical” section:

Outlets and Lights


Observation: Electrical outlets, switches, or fixtures malfunction.
Performance Guideline: All electrical outlets, switches and fixtures shall operate as designed.
Corrective Measure: The contractor will repair or replace malfunctioning electrical outlets, switches, and fixtures, if supplied and installed by the contractor.

Certainly, you won’t find this book on any best-seller list, but any customer care representative worth his salt in warranty work, should get it for his library.