Check the Limitations

Product selection for construction projects is all about finding the right product at the right price to satisfy the owner's project requirements. Wading through all the choices and the product data can be daunting. Often designers (and specifiers) default to familiar choices. Without careful consideration, default selections may not be the right choice at all.

Do you remember the ridiculous warning added to coffee cups because of a lawsuit? "Caution: Contains hot liquid." Just like consumer products, construction products come with similar warnings, but they may not always be obvious.

Years ago CSI owned and promoted a program for product manufacturers called SPEC-DATA®. This program provided a 10-point product presentation to inform design teams about the essential information needed for product selection and specification. One of the critical points included in every SPEC-DATA sheet was Limitations. The manufacturer was required to state the product limitations - how the product was not to be used and when the product may not perform as intended.

Clearly stating when the product may not meet expectations provided an expedient way to help the design team make informed decisions. CSI sold SPEC-DATA to Reed Construction Data, and the program has disappeared. Finding a SPEC-DATA sheet is a stroll down memory lane with outdated information. Now design teams must rely on other means to determine product limitations.

International Code Council Evaluation Service (ICC-ES) reviews and issues Evaluation Reports about products for code compliance. These reports, available at, provide valuable information about products, including limitations. The limitations are found under the heading "Conditions of Use."

Not all products are submitted to ICC-ES, and SPEC-DATA sheets are no longer available. So what is the design team to do?

Scour the manufacturer's data. Call the product technical support line. Contact a trusted local product representative. And ask questions, lots of questions. Always ask "Where should this product not be used?"

Product data routinely includes marketing information produced for the purpose of selling rather than informing. Sure, the literature promises the product will solve your problem, look great, and cost only pennies. So, why would you not choose to use the product?

Promises do not keep design teams out of court and do not protect reputations. Due diligence is key. Collect and actually read the manufacturer's literature. Research products sufficiently to understand their capability, performance, quality, durability, and cost (first cost and life cycle cost). Pay careful attention to discover whatever limitations or conditions of use the manufacturer may disclose. Then document the requirements on the drawings and in the specifications to share your knowledge about the product with the construction team.

Consider one last step. That trusted local product representative - share the drawing details and specifications before going to bid and construction. Take advantage of the representative's review to improve the probability the right product was selected and documented correctly to meet the owner's project requirements.

And, when questions remain, call Conspectus. We will be happy to help!

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