IRC Building Codes: Is Your Decking Contractor Up-to-Date?

Posted in: Deck Building Tips, Building regulations, International Residential Code, IRC

James Moylan

Monday, February 02, 2015


Your Contractor, The International Residential Code (IRC), and You

The world around us is evolving, from the technology we use to the clothes we wear to the fads we follow. It makes sense, then, that the construction industry around us is changing as well. Ten years ago, the “correct” ways to build a house, deck, or screened-in porch were completely different from the approved methods of today.

So how does a contractor keep up-to-date with constantly changing building standards, rules, and techniques? To do so, a reputable and trustworthy contractor must be intimately familiar with every page in the latest edition of the IRC.

What is the IRC?

In a contracting context, IRC stands for the International Residential Code—a comprehensive guide to building regulations for one- and two-family homes that are three stories or less in height. It includes rules on building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel, gas, energy, and electrical procedures.

Every three years, the International Code Council (ICC) puts out a new edition of the IRC. When it’s completed, the final product is about the size of a phone book.

Inside the IRC's many pages, you’ll find codes pertaining to every aspect of buildings and construction, from chimneys and vents to storm drainage. These codes are also unique to different areas and geographical regions, such as beachfront properties, mountain properties, and homes located within earthquake zones.

The IRC is constantly being changed

In every new edition of the code book, there are new codes and updates to former codes that contractors have a responsibility to know and understand.

For instance, in the 2012 edition, there were changes in rules and approved practices for gray water recycling systems, wall-bracing provisions, and wind design. In the latest 2015 edition, you’ll find updated information on remodeling basements, carbon monoxide alarms, and common walls between townhouses.

Codes also deal with additions to homes, such as swimming pools, patios, and decks. Decks, in particular, have changed a lot in recent years. Today, decks are required to have outlets and adequate stair lighting. When building a deck, all wood-to-wood connections must be made with a metal bracket—this was not at all the case 10 years ago.

The Importance of the IRC

The IRC is more than just a list of constantly rewritten, arbitrary codes; it is essential that your addition, deck, or other construction project follows it closely. Here’s why:

  • Inspection grades. Once your project is completed, it will need to be examined and approved as being up to code in order to pass inspection. You wouldn’t want to invest money in an elaborate project only to find it isn’t acceptable by federal building standards.
  • Safety. Building codes are written and enforced for a reason, usually to make buildings and structures safer for the people who use them. When it comes to regulations for fire alarms, sewage disposal, and electrical safety, you don’t want to mess around.

Challenges for Contractors

It can be a challenge to keep up with local and national building codes, which is why a great contractor will make every effort to read up on the latest regulations each time they are revised.

However, simply being informed does not make the regulations easy to apply to your project. It can be especially difficult to implement these restrictions while keeping your deck, screen porch, or house looking beautiful. How do you keep a deck looking natural and harmonious with nature with shiny metal joints linking all of the beams? A trustworthy contractor will be able to design a solution for you while complying with the latest IRC-approved techniques if they have done their homework.

Free eBook - Homeowner's Guide to Best Decking Material in Maryland and Virginia