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I've heard people who work in construction and here on this site discuss "code", and when this happens someone sites a specific document such as the National Electrical Code or International Plumbing Code or similar.

(I'm assuming electrical and plumbing would be most important because they both result in thousands of dollars of property damage (fire or water damage)....)

If I'm about to start a DIY project, what should I know about codes, and assuming I know what kind of project I'm doing (plumbing, drywall, etc.) how do I know which document I need to get my hands on in order to make sure I don't do things egregiously badly?

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    Talk to your local building department. If there isn't one, call your state fire marshal office. – ben rudgers Jun 29 '15 at 20:47
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Codes are usually minimum safety standards.

However, in the vernacular, "code" is a loose term that includes national, state, county and local laws and ordinances that dictate or direct building practices of all kinds. The whim of the inspectors could also loosely be considered "code". Most of the time, the basis of these laws and whims are guided by or reference/include the works of standards bodies, such as the National Electrical Code, NFPA, and International Plumbing Code, to name a few.

Depending on the jurisdiction and disposition of the building inspectors, a good way to make sure you will meet code for a particular project is to ask the inspector to look at your plans before you start your work. Your mileage here will vary greatly. Some jurisdictions won't even return your calls if you're not a contractor.

A good way to plan a project is to find a book at your local hardware store on the subject. While "code" varies from place to place, there is a lot of uniformity and common ground. These practices will generally be followed in these books. In fact, many times these books address code directly. A book I recently used on deck building referenced the International Residential Code specifically in many sections when explaining a decision to be made.

  • Good point. Updated. – longneck Jun 29 '15 at 17:58
  • My town (the local building authority) mandates compliance with the "Uniform Code" which is a state standard that covers just about everything except electric, which is covered by the National Electric Code, but 2008 instead of the most recent version. But we have overlays that include an Energy Code and a Dark Skies code. In other words, check local. – bib Jun 29 '15 at 18:06
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    And my local building department seems especially willing to answer questions and advise homeowners about what is necessary to meet code. – bib Jun 29 '15 at 18:07

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