International Building Code References

A few 'for dummies' books, which could include building code references

International Building Code References

There are a variety of apps and products available for anyone who works in the construction industry. For instance, we have covered several home design software programs for architects on this blog in the past. Next to these kinds of products, most architects, project managers, and engineers also make use of the ICC’s Building Codes. To make things easier for all construction professionals, there are several Building Code References available that consist of condensed versions of a specific Building Code. In this article we discuss some popular reference guides and see which can provide the most value.


Which Building Code is right for me?

The International Code Council has published a variety of Building Codes. Depending on where you (or your construction projects) are based, you may need to consult a specific building code (and its local amendments). Logically, each reference guide refers to a different code. That means that which reference guide you need, depends on your purpose and locality. So before buying a reference guide, make sure you know which code you have to apply in your project. Because many construction professionals regularly have to consult the International Building Code (IBC), we will use this article to specifically focus on reference guides to the IBC.


This is a comic showing two people discussing which Building Codes (or Building Code References) are the most interesting.
Photo Credit: Roger K. Lewis


DeWALT Building Code References

DeWALT offers a series of Building Code References. The series include reference guides for the Electrical Code, Plumbing Code and Residential Construction Codes, among others. These reference guides use images and short texts to illustrate the codes they refer to. They are compact (usually around 80 pages), and that makes them easier to carry around than their ICC counterparts.


The DeWALT References are particularly useful if you are looking to take a contractor-licensing exam. They can be used to go over the most relevant provisions that will certainly come up in such exams. However, these guides are also quite useful on-site. These guides can help you if you need to quickly look up a specific provision in the Building Code of 2009. But the downside of this series is that they are not fully up to date. Although a version referring to the 2015 International Residential Code is available, we were not able to find a DeWalt Reference Guide for the 2015 version of the IBC.


2015 International Building Code® Quick-Card Pamphlet

If you’re looking for a handy and short reference guide, this Quick-Card pamphlet offers a summary of the 2015 International Building Code in 6 waterproof pages. This pamphlet of help, should you need to look up some general ideas of the 2015 IBC. However, if you’re a construction professional, this Quick-Card will probably not provide you with enough information. The 6 pages simply offer too little in-depth knowledge to truly be useful in that regard.


Code Check Complete 2nd Edition

The Code Check series are a series of books, providing an overview of the most important aspects to be considered for building projects. The Code Check Complete combines the Code Check series of the Building, Electrical, Plumbing and Mechanical Codes all in one book. This complete version has received very favorable reviews and is one of the better code references currently available.


But depending on your locality, this book may be outdated. In particular, the Code Check Complete (2nd edition) refers to the 2009 IBC instead of the 2015 IBC. That means that if you’re working in an area or on a project for which the 2009 IBC is still ‘the law of the land’, this is not an issue at all. However, if you’re working on a new project for which the 2012 or 2015 IBC should be applied, it is better to go for a product that features these.


Building Codes Illustrated

Frank Ching’s Building Codes Illustrated does in fact refer to the 2015 version of the IBC, making it one of the more recent publications in this list. This book clearly explains what regulations have been updated in the 2015 version of the IBC and illustrates the majority of the IBC’s provisions. In addition, it gives an overview of the development of the IBC, which is quite interesting.


We found that the Building Codes Illustrated is a must-have for architects and engineers alike. Its illustrations provide a welcome explanation of specific code provisions, and most users view this book very favorably. That said; take note that relying on this book (or any of the other guides) alone is generally not sufficient. The book provides a welcome addition to the ICC Code Books, but it isn’t a substitute. You should always have the ICC Books on hand, in the case that a code-related issue comes up.



Whether you’re a homeowner or an architect, the Building Code references mentioned here are useful in a variety of situations. Although we are in no way affiliated to any of these reference guides, we suggest using the Building Codes Illustrated. This book offers the most up to date and complete guide to the different ICC codes.


However, we cannot end this article without mentioning a fifth option. The GoFetchCode solution is available online, and offers a simple search bar. This makes your job much easier, as you will not have to manually scan through one of these reference guides or the ICC code books anymore. Use GoFetchCode to search for specific provisions of the California or the Florida Building Code, and find answers to your building code questions in a snap. For more information, take a look at our pricing.

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