I’m regularly asked “Where can I get a copy of the building code?” The short answer is: read it for free online.
Free access to the model residential building codes is available on the ICC’s website. It can be tricky to sort out how to reach the free access pages. There are print copy sales ads and online premium access versions to navigate around. So here are the links to versions covering the last 10 years.
These free online codes are the model versions. Your local code is likely based on a version of the model code and probably contains amendments unique to your state or jurisdiction. Though you can’t always get free online access to state amended versions of the codes, having access to the model codes is usually enough to get you the info you need when designing and building. And usually states have free copies of the amendments available so you can cross-reference amended code sections as needed.
The online codes have a Table of Contents landing page that you can click through to reach individual chapters. The text of each chapter scrolls continuously through sections to the end without page breaks in the 2012 and later versions. The 2009 and previous versions are page shots of the printed versions. There’s a chapter navigation bar on the left that remains active while you’re viewing the code so you can easily jump between sections of the chapter you are viewing or to another chapter without returning to the main TOC page.
Online access beats hauling around a code book. I often pull up the code on my phone to check something. Unfortunately you can’t download it, print it or cut-copy-paste text. You can screen-shot it though.
More about building codes
Building Codes Meet Good and Best Practices in Simple Guides – A closer look at TechNotes from NAHB and Home Innovation Research Lab.
Know the Code – An experienced code official digs deep into the codes to help you master the rules of homebuilding.
Deciphering Local Building Codes – These construction rules are meant to protect homeowners from harm; just make sure you’re using the right ones.