What Is The International Residential Code (IRC)?

Definition of "What is the International Residential Code (IRC)?"

David Stonier real estate agent

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David Stonierelite badge icon

Achieve Realty

Since real estate is one of the most valuable assets on Earth, architects and builders have to comply with a number of building codes, depending on the size and destination of their buildings. The International Residential Code (IRC) applies to one- and two- family dwellings, with no more than three stories. 

What means IRC and what it stands for?

It’s a building code conceived with the aim of providing a long-lasting building that is also practical and safe. This code was developed by the International Code Council (ICC) and applies nationwide, but also internationally, with some local amendments. So, don’t try to find what is the International Residential Code for Arizona or another state, because it’s the same all over the country. However, in certain cities, on top of the IRC there might be architectural guidelines that impose certain restrictions or color codes. For example, this is the case in Scottsdale, where, in a certain region, you cannot build houses higher than 30 feet. All new single-family homes in Scottsdale must comply with the 2015 IRC. 

The International Code Council (ICC) has published a series of building codes since 2000, so you will find more editions, like the International Residential Code 2012, 2015 and so on. There are currently 15 codes available, with the International Green Construction Code as one of the most promising regulations for housing with a small environmental footprint.

The IRC covers all aspects of construction for maximum safety and durability. There are clear instructions regarding foundations, duct systems, exhaust systems, chimneys and vents, boilers and water heaters, sanitary drainage and even rules for a safe swimming pool. When it comes to fires or other emergencies, the International Residential Code (IRC) also instructs builders and architects on how to provide emergency exits with the appropriate signage. This code provides also the minimum size for an egress window or door - things to remember during a basement makeover!

A building permit is required for everyone who intends to build, renovate or demolish a building to which the International Residential Code (IRC) applies. Building inspections usually take place after the completion of a construction phase. Failure to comply with the building code may result in large fines and the buildings might have to be rebuilt partially or demolished. This adds one more responsibility on the architect’s shoulders. Whenever they sit at the drafting tables, they must include the IRC into their drawings and plans.

There are many versions of the IRC available. For example, the International Residential Code 2012 has been greatly improved. The content of the International Residential Code (IRC) for 2018 is currently available for free, online - click here. Also, if you’re interested in finding the key changes, here you can find a great comparison between 2015 and 2018 editions.


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