2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design Pocket Guide
Dimensions that are not stated as “maximum” or “minimum” are absolute.
All dimensions are subject to conventional industry tolerances except where the requirement is stated as a range with specific minimum and maximum end points.
Advisory 104.1.1 Construction and Manufacturing Tolerances. Conventional industry tolerances recognized by this provision include those for field conditions and those that may be a necessary consequence of a particular manufacturing process. Recognized tolerances are not intended to apply to design work.
It is good practice when specifying dimensions to avoid specifying a tolerance where dimensions are absolute. For example, if this document requires “1½ inches,” avoid specifying “1½ inches plus or minus X inches.”
Where the requirement states a specified range, such as in Section 609.4 where grab bars must be installed between 33 inches and 36 inches above the floor, the range provides an adequate tolerance and therefore no tolerance outside of the range at either end point is permitted.
Where a requirement is a minimum or a maximum dimension that does not have two specific minimum and maximum end points, tolerances may apply. Where an element is to be installed at the minimum or maximum permitted dimension, such as “15 inches minimum” or “5 pounds maximum”, it would not be good practice to specify “5 pounds (plus X pounds) or 15 inches (minus X inches).” Rather, it would be good practice to specify a dimension less than the required maximum (or more than the required minimum) by the amount of the expected field or manufacturing tolerance and not to state any tolerance in conjunction with the specified dimension.
Specifying dimensions in design in the manner described above will better ensure that facilities and elements accomplish the level of accessibility intended by these requirements. It will also more often produce an end result of strict and literal compliance with the stated requirements and eliminate enforcement difficulties and issues that might otherwise arise. Information on specific tolerances may be available from industry or trade organizations, code groups and building officials, and published references.