What is Building Code?

When it comes to things that we are unfamiliar with, easing into the “knowledge” circle of things can definitely be quite intimidating.

This is true throughout almost every aspect of life, certainly within the variety of niches and spheres which comprise the very fabric of our society.

The area that I have spent the most time in over the past 3 decades – construction – absolutely fits this bill.

One of the areas within construction that I used to get overwhelmed just thinking about was the idea of having to address anything that has anything to do with Building Code.

After all, the number of items that is covered by the variety of Building Codes within our industry appears infinite.

Where do they start? Where do they stop??

Thinking about it can easily make your head spin if you let it.

Although I do not blame anyone that wants to hide their head under the pillow, long ago I developed a strategy to help work through code questions with ease which is based on 2 simple premises:

1) Local Code is King

2) Refer to Manufacturer Recommendations

With regard to the first notion, there is no denying that there is tons of code guidance out there…International, Federal, State, Local…where oh where does it end???

It ends with ‘Local’.

Local code, particularly that which the local building official favors is what is going to win out in the end.

Regardless of what International Code dictates, there may be local reasoning to deviate from International guidance (in this instance) and at the local building official’s discretion, this is what would take precedence.

In terms of the 2nd point, I refer back to a situation from years ago which was driving me nuts with regard to a roofing installation question.

Though the specific question escapes me, I remember the solution as clear as day.

This particular item had me confused to the point where I phoned in my question to a high ranking State building official.

When asked the question, without hesitation, the official fired back at me, “Well Tom, what do the manufacturer instructions say?”

“Huh?”, I responded.

“Whatever the manufacturer instructions dictate, that is what we would consider code.”, replied my high ranking resource.

“Is it really simple?”, I asked.

“Yep! Literally that simple.”, they confidently responded.

I had been scratching my head for some time, researching and researching for the answer to my specific question here and the whole time the answer was right under my nose – go figure!

When learning the industry, those working to understand building code may at times feel as though they are facing some insurmountable monstrosity of a barrier which is put in place to make running a successful business even more challenging than it may already be.

There have been many times, particularly early on, when I sure have felt this way.

But in developing the approach of ‘when in doubt…’ tag-teaming following the manufacturers instructions on whatever install we may happen to end up doing, in conjunction with the nod of approval from our local building official of the moment, a sense of quiet confidence is allowed to set in, shoring up personal conviction that we are doing the right things, the right way.

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