Navigating the Building Code Maze

Jan 8, 18 • News


Your new home is supposedly (but not) being built in strict accordance with the versions of the model building codes adopted by your municipality. This is not happening for many reasons which include, but are not limited to, a lack of competence and/or diligence on the part of the municipal building inspectors, the home builders and their subcontractors, and an almost unbelievable lack of understanding of the building codes on the part of all of the aforementioned entities.

All model building codes are linear, sequential and extremely complex. The authors of these tomes assume significant prior knowledge of construction materials and industry practices on the part of the readers. This is often not the case. Even the very people responsible for constructing and overseeing the construction of new homes are unable to follow the map through these multifaceted directives with any appreciable degree of accuracy.

Home buyers are not advised to even try to grapple with an understanding of current building regulations. This is tantamount to somehow miraculously gaining a thorough knowledge of the IRS tax codes or the Affordable Health Care Act. The layperson doesn’t stand a chance. Any such attempt will certainly lead to hours of perusing runes (watching paint dry and peel) and the frustration that accompanies meeting up with technical writing at its worst – face to face.

The purpose of hiring an independent third-party inspector who is code certified is to direct you and those responsible for the construction of your new home in achieving at least a rudimentary comprehension of the codes involved. This is the only way one can possibly hope to approach minimal code compliance on any project – the worst way one can legally build a house.

If I haven’t convinced the hardcore amongst you, I have listed below some publications you can start reading and begin to gain an understanding of the depth of your lack of understanding. He who knows he does not know is in the best position to learn.

(Some of the codes are available to the public, most are not. This is thanks to our system of less-than-open-government. If you feel that this is unfair you may consider supporting activists like Carl Malamud at Public.Resource.Org .)

International Residential Code (IRC), International Code Council
International Building Code (IBC), International Code Council
International Energy Efficiency Code (IECC), International Code Council
National Electrical Code (NEC), National Fire Protection Association
National Fuel Gas Code (NFGC), National Fire Protection Association
Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete ACI 318-14, American Concrete Association
Post-Tensioning Manual, Post-Tensioning Institute
Field Procedures Manual for Unbonded Single Strand Tendons, Post-Tensioning Institute
Standard Practice for Installation of Exterior Windows, Doors and Skylights, ASTM E2112, ASTM International
Technical Notes 1 – 48, Brick Industry Association
Portland Cement Plaster (Stucco) Manual, Portland Cement Association
NRCA Roofing Manuals, National Roofing Contractors Association

Of course, this is the short list. You can also add to these the amendments adopted by your local municipality, all of the referenced standards within each of the standards themselves, all manufacturer’s installation instructions for every material used in the construction process, etc. ad infinitum. Happy reading!