What's the deal with building related codes being proprietary?
Never thought anything that could be "law" and enforced by government
should have to be purchased, except paying for the printing cost.
What does "National" mean in "2011 National Electrical Code?"
I've got no problem buying auto shop manuals, but I don't have to buy
their cars, and they're not holding code violations over me.
These proprietary codes never smelled right to me.
I don't have a business.
Thought codes were about public safety, not business.
As I said, codes are about public safety.
It's government workers enforcing codes, not businesses.
I pay their salaries.
Laws are public knowledge, and codes should be too, since they are
enforced like law. Simple as that.
Already said I'd pay for costs.
I don't like paying profits to a company to see codes that can be used
by government workers to have me in court and fine me.
It's not a big deal to me, since I don't plan on doing any work
needing code inspection, and I can always find somebody to do it.
It's more about philosophy.
If a cop gave me ticket for breaking a law I never heard of, and told
me I had to pay a private for-profit company to get the book of laws,
I wouldn't like that at all.
Greg Fretwell was a city or county inspector.
I'd like to hear his views on this.
Codes apply to homeowners too.
Let's break for a story. Not because it's too relevant, but just
A neighbor across the alley lit his garage up using gasoline to clean
Don't know all the details, but the fire took out my electric service
legs and blistered the big doors on both my garages.
The city (Chicago) required I get a new service with outside meter.
Okay, made sense, but I wasn't exactly flush.
And I'm now connected to inspectors. On their list.
First electric contractor I had out for an estimate wanted about $1000
to do the meter and leg hookup. Told him I would call him.
Let's call him McCoy.
(Estimated numbers just to show relative cost. I don't remember exact
numbers, and don't even remember what we did for power.
Probably ComEd hooked it up without a meter, but that's dim.)
Second guy came out the same day, and said $500.
Even putting price aside, I liked him better.
Told him I would call him, but he probably had the job.
I called the first guy , McCoy, and told him I was getting the job
done at half his price. He was surprised and asked who.
I told him Fifth Avenue Electric. FAE for short.
He hit the roof, and told me they weren't licensed, they buy their
permits, just call the city inspection office, blah, blah.
Anyway, I bought it.
Last thing I want is unlicensed work, and inspectors on my ass.
So I told McCoy to come out and finalize the deal.
I called the "unlicensed" guy back and told him that I was told his
company wasn't licensed, and I couldn't go with him.
He told me any work he did would be legal, but I told him I didn't
want to take any chances. He didn't press me.
I was actually a little disappointed in him, but that was because I
didn't know "the system."
Now in the meantime I had a visit from the city inspector.
He walked through the basement and told me fix this and fix that.
A ceiling light over the laundry tub needed a porcelain fixture, and a
junction box needed a cover.
He looked at me and pointedly said, "I'm not going upstairs."
That made me happy, and I asked him to repeat it.
My house was a 2-flat, built in the 1920's, with original electrics.
Imagine the code violations.
So McCoy comes riding in on a new Honda Gold Wing to do a contract.
I won't get into this except to say I'm a Harley guy.
Not that I ride, but that's what I would ride.
First thing McCoy wants to do is inspect the entire house to see what
has to be done.
I tell him I talked to the inspector and he won't go past the
McCoy made a mistake and wanted to argue about that.
"My reputation" bullshit.
And he wouldn't back down, and stuck to that line.
Instead of getting the service job and minor fixes, he pissed me off
so badly I almost hit him. I basically ran him back to his bike.
I was so pissed I went right to the phone and called FAE.
Just told him to come out and do the job.
Mostly to get back at that asshole McCoy, since I still had concerns
about permitting, but it worked out anyway.
When FAE came out first thing he said was "I really thought I lost
you. What happened?" I told him about my run-in with McCoy.
Anyway, we became friendly fast, and he told me the city pulled his
company's license because they wouldn't kick back to inspectors.
His dad owned the company, was a long time electric contractor and
would never swing that way.
This guy was my age, about 30 then, and had 10 brothers!
I met about 5 of them as they worked on my place.
He explained that they had so many friends in the business to pull
permits for them that it hardly slowed them down.
And it was all legal, so no worry about the inspector.
You don't have to be licensed to do the work, just to pull the permit.
Think about that.
He told me I really needed some more circuits, switches and outlets
upstairs and he would run them for 25 bucks each if I did the
re-plastering. I told him I was short on money, and he said don't
worry, pay me when you can.
Owed him about $500 when he was done, paid him in a couple months.
No problem with the inspector, and he didn't go upstairs.
A few months later FAE dropped by to return some camping/outdoors
books he had borrowed from me and told me the whole story.
His dad was wearing a wire for the feds while he and his brothers
worked on my house.
Mike Royko wrote a column about his dad wearing the wire.
I read that column once, on the internet I think, but can't find it
now. 1978. Feds indicted one third of the city electrical
inspectors. Big scandal.
Mostly for taking bribes to overlook violations I think, but taking
kickbacks from electrical contractors was part of the mix.
That's my maybe boring story about codes, inspectors and electricians.
I like it anyway.
I meant I pay the inspector's salaries. They have a book they can use
to hammer me with, no different than law.
Since you can get free access to it according to law, it's no big
deal. I didn't know that.
That almost takes care of my "philosophical" objections.
I take your point about who pays, and what's the most efficient way
of getting code created in one place.
I'm not foaming at the mouth about this.
Ed, if I wanted the entire NEC I would just pay the 60-70 bucks for
What got me going on this is I do my own plumbing and simple
electrical work. I always want to follow code.
You made me look harder on my town's website.
The plumbing code for my town is the Illinois Plumbing Code, 2004
Edition (with local amendments.) I can order that for 40 bucks.
From the Illinois Department of Public Health!
Electrical is Chicago Electrical Code, 2007 edition with local
amendments. That's on-line. Clumsy to use, but it's there.
I also found the amendments to those two on the town website with a
Here's a plumbing amendment that's relevant to a discussion of floor
drains here a while back,
"890.1370a). Add a new subparagraph 6):
In addition to the above, at least one vented floor drain is required
in the vicinity of all washing machines, furnaces, hot water heaters,
boilers, reduced pressure backflow preventers, and water meters."
Another plumbing amendment is the addition of some chapters of the
2003 International Plumbing Code. That book has to be bought.
HVAC codes are covered by International Mechanical Code, 2003.
That one has to be bought.
For the sake of comparison I looked at how Ohio villages do it.
The examples I saw all referenced the Ohio Building Code, with no
amendments. That's easy, just look up the Ohio code.
But the Ohio code essentially says read the 2006 International
Looks like that has to be bought.
Anyway, my head is spinning, but now I know how to find codes, whether
they're free or not.
The electrical code is all online, so I don't even care about the NEC.
But after wading through some of the code, I might just ask the guy at
Home Depot what he thinks. Nah.
I'll just ask here.
If I was in a trade, I'd just buy the books, like I did many times for
doing my IT work.
On Sun, 24 Apr 2011 17:16:42 -0700 (PDT), "hr(bob) email@example.com"
Let's make sure we're clear on this.
I live in Morton Grove, Il.
The electrical code for Morton Grove is the Chicago Electric code.
It's the Chicago electric code that is online.
Amendments that apply to Morton Grove are on the Morton Grove website.
Just Electric. Morton Grove codes for plumbing, HVAC, etc aren't
available online. They refer you other code books, but do have
amendments that apply to Morton Grove.
This is the website for Chicago codes. You have to hit "more at the
bottom to get the electric chapters. Division 27.
It ain't as pretty as a book.
And I have no idea how it compares to NEC.
Do me a favor will you?
If you actually read through the codes and find a part that says
"Refer to NEC 2011," keep it yourself, ok?
Well, I didn't find it boring. That kind of story makes my blood boil, but
I've lived with them all my life. The foundation and basement of my parent's
house was built by the son of Sam the Plumber DeCavalcante. (<g> he was a
high school friend of mine and he built a fine basement).
Based on the court case that was brought up here on Sunday, it's all moot,
anyway. It's Katie Bar the Doors -- copyrights are broken once a code is
incorporated into law.
I don't like it, but that's the way it is.
I read that court case (5th Circuit) and I can see their reasoning for it.
As a practical matter, the NFPA's membership has an interest in getting it
accepted and widely used. So there is an interest there that, the court
says, overcomes any problems with who is paying whom.
I just watch out for the underlying principle. For most of my life,
copyright has been an important issue in my work. I just don't like the idea
that people should get all of that work for free.
This time, I'll reverse myself on the issue for this particular set of
circumstances. It's not like a private, individual writer having his work
BTW, my library has a good set of code books and I've used them for over 30
years. They're in the reference section so you can't take them out, but it
works for me. If I were working on my plumbing or electrical night and day,
like I did 30 years ago, I might feel differently.
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