Addressing Industry Standards Development


Addressing Industry Standards Development

A new subcommittee begins work on behalf of framers.

As a member of the National Framers Council (NFC) Steering Committee, my goal is to look at our industry from the framer’s point of view and how to serve framers’ long-term best interests. This includes pursuing concepts that have not been dealt with in depth and investigating topics that need to be brought to the attention of the building community. I’m excited to introduce a Standards Development Subcommittee of the NFC, featuring representatives in the fields of component manufacturing, engineering, general contracting and framing. Countless widely accepted codes, both those in law and in practice, govern the building industry; however, there are few published findings available for professionals to reference that include standards for materials when framed, framing tolerances, and expectations of both.

Though still in its infancy, the subcommittee’s goals are to begin outlining framing practices performed every day where tolerances and known good performance have not been reviewed in detail, answer questions about differences in applications, and address those applications requiring judgment calls. The list of practices includes:

  • Standard framing details
  • Job readiness
  • Storage and handling of materials
  • Shrinkage and expansion in wood construction
  • Accepted tolerances in sheathing expansion and contraction
  • Effects of moisture content on the structure
  • Gravity load induced movement
  • Floor and ceiling crowns and differential movement
  • Stud crowning, bowing and wall plumbness
  • Mold and moisture

The list of topics is not limited and will grow in time because each framing area has many details that only become apparent when you focus on the nitty gritty of an issue.

Similar to the structure of NFC’s FrameSAFE program, the Standards Development Subcommittee intends to research and compile all the relevant industry information pertaining to each topic. The subcommittee will look “through the eyes of a framer,” provide step-by-step implementation guidelines and options, and test any gaps found where testing would add understanding. Then the council will publish its findings, opinions and best practice checklists on the standard approaches, along with associated implementation tolerances, to ensure successful applications. NFC benefits from the diversity of its current membership, and every sector of the industry will be included to ensure the work done is reviewed using all points of view.

NFC is not the first to explore this topic area. Literature is available from various organizations and building experts around the nation. A simple Google search provides all kinds of content from builder forums on framing approaches and their internal tolerances, to independent research reports on lumber and sheathing properties, including, but not limited to, temperature, moisture content, treatment, and storage considerations. While many of these report findings are based on a specific goal and objective, very few have viewed construction site performance as framers do and fewer have developed a series of application considerations to account for jobsite challenges. Reliable sources are scattered amongst word-of-mouth practitioner knowledge and individual framing company best practices, checklists and publications.

This is not to say there aren’t extremely thorough reports from proven leaders in the industry. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) offers a course in “Building Codes, Standards and Guidelines” covering, in its words, “performance guidelines” to ensure quality construction. NAHB also released the “Residential Construction Performance Guidelines Homeowner Reference” in 2000. This was an effort to define acceptable levels of quality, while addressing the needs of both homeowners and builders. The analysis contained in the publication was created and reviewed by hundreds in the building community, and the content is specific to common questions of construction quality.

NFC plans to take the best information in the market and use it as a starting point, and from there, address the questions that haven’t been answered. How much has a structure moved from winter to spring months? What can a builder assume with respect to foundation and framing movement from winter to summer, given frost and changes to the moisture content of the building materials? Furthermore, what is an acceptable amount of movement in that time frame?

The key to understanding these questions starts at a micro level; every piece of material used in building has its own set of unique properties whose performance needs to be compatible with the other materials to which it is attached or adjacent. Dissimilar materials may work fine in isolation, but may perform in unexpected ways when applied as framed. Most importantly, each member of a construction team must meet in harmony to build a structure true to its blueprint. Given an increasing number of units built with a wide variety of conventional stick framing methods, factory-assembled components, manufactured connection methods, and the innovative materials needed to meet or improve upon the changing building and energy code requirements, standardized best practice development is vital to support quality across the industry.

David Kent Ballast, AIA, CSI, understands the importance of standards development. Ballast is a registered architect and owner of Architectural Research Consulting. His business focuses on applied research, technical advice, and specifications for architects, interior designers, and others in the construction industry. Ballast has published numerous books, and is most well-known for authoring the Handbook of Construction Tolerances.*

Ballast writes in the 2007 version of his handbook, “Interestingly, there are still many construction tolerances that do not exist as industry standards. Although many can be derived from combined individual and accumulated tolerances, the various trade associations need to continue work on setting realistic and enforceable standards for both tolerances and uniform measurement protocols.”

NFC will do its part to facilitate standardized sets of best framing practices for our industry and those who support its evolution and growth. Current accepted construction tolerances were established over time with many considered standard practice based on years of experience and what is practical. Others are based on standards published by specific industries only focused on a given product line application approach with the goal of making installation simple, of sound quality, and cost effective. The Standards Development Subcommittee members come from diverse backgrounds. In the long run, the finished standardized approaches will serve the best interests of everyone involved in the framing process from architects to engineers, suppliers to contractors, and to the worker who ultimately needs to get the job done.

Kenny Shifflett owns Ace Carpentry in Manassas, VA, and has been in the framing industry for more than 40 years. He serves on NFC’s Steering Committee and chairs the Council’s Safety Subcommittee. For more information about the National Framers Council and the FrameSAFE program, visit



*Ballast, David K. 2007, Handbook of Construction Tolerances, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ.