California construction codes liberated -- now free for download

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "Our gift to all the makers out there this 4th of July is the full text of the California building, electric, mechanical, plumbing, energy, and fire codes, known technically as 'California Code of Regulations Title 24' and perhaps better known in the real world as '$890 MSRP.' It's not just a good idea to copy this data, it's the law." Link (Thanks, Carl!)


  1. For those of us who use plumbing & mechanical codes this is great. I’m fighting off the urge to cut up my Uniform Plumbing Code and a very thick pile of ASTM specifications to add to the archive.

  2. Don’t fight the urge, Jim, do it..

    Or just search the web for a torrent – it’s not like the Cal codes haven’t been ‘available’ for a while..

  3. Great. Professionally researched, peer-reviewed, empirically approved building codes have now been devalued to cost less than a box of Timbits. I’m sure we’ll all be cheering when they show up on Wikipedia next and every contractor in the state “reviews” the code in their own best interest and it becomes the accepted gospel.

    Wood trusses: Attach with some nails if you have a few extras laying around.
    Concrete: Dig a hole, throw in the mix and wait for it to rain. Save 40% of your costs by not using water!
    Shear tab connections: Uhhh weld some bolts together or bolt some welds together or actually it’s optional.
    Fire exits: make sure there are the same number of exterior doors on the outside of the building as on the inside.

    This isn’t the same “free information” as the Grateful Dead show from Boston in 1971 folks, these are for your safety.

    Remember, free = valueless.
    Or as Cory says, “Thanks, Carl!”

  4. >phoulx:

    >Great. Professionally researched, peer-reviewed, >empirically approved building codes have now been >devalued to cost less than a box of Timbits.

    Phoulx, did someone piss in your Cheerios this morning? Price and value are two different things and they can vary separately. The amount charged does not increase or decrease the value of the code in any way.

    >I’m sure we’ll all be cheering when they show up >on Wikipedia next and every contractor in the >>state “reviews” the code in their own best >interest and it becomes the accepted gospel.

    Er, no. Putting something on a wiki does not give it any legal standing.

    >Wood trusses: Attach with some nails if you have >a few extras laying around…

    I’m not following. The whole point of the code is to specify how many nails, and how strong the truss needs to be. Making the code readily available will help people build things solidly and without making it up as they go along.

    >Remember, free = valueless.

    So if someone offers me the title to a car, or the deed to some land, I should just say no?

    >Or as Cory says, “Thanks, Carl!”

    Sorry, the reference means nothing to me. Whoever was selling the code is going to find that there are problems with their business model, but that’s their problem, no?

  5. Phoulx,

    Based on your comment, I’m tempted to think that you’re a shill for code publishers. Talk about spreading meaningless FUD.

    Having these codes in the public domain (easily accessible to anyone who wants or needs them) is very valuable. Say you’re building a new dream home (or doing a remodel, or looking at an apartment to rent, etc…) wouldn’t it be in your best interest to be able to access the actual rules that dictate how your home/apartment should be built? Do you really think that leaving that solely in the hands of inspectors and builders is the best thing for any consumer?

    As someone who has spent the vast majority of his professional life in the building trades, I can tell you, even as a builder, I’d be thrilled if I could access PDFs of all the various codes, regulations etc… without any sort of problem, and I’d be happy if consumers could do the same thing.


    Because inspectors, architects, and builders don’t know everything. Do you really want to leave your home’s ultimate safety solely in the hands of one or a handful of inspectors, or architects, or builders etc…? Do you really want to have to “take our word for it” when someone tells you that the new kitchen is going to cost 2x as much to “bring it up to code?”

    I work with architects, inspectors, and subs every day and I can tell you I often have to refer to our copies of things like the “International Building Code” to answer questions. Just recently, I had to argue with some architects on a point in the codes that ended up saving our client several hundred thousand dollars because the architect wasn’t following the code. They said they were, but when I investigated and trudged through it, I figured out they had made several mistakes. Several expensive mistakes.

    Recently the news covered the story of one homeowner who may have to tear down the dream house that he’s building after spending $250,000 because someone in the city made a tiny mistake and approved something they shouldn’t have. Now, I think he’s spent another $50k fighting the city, the city spent several thousands trying to come up with a solution with an architect and they still ended up telling him he needed to tear it down. Now they’re talking civil suite, all because some of the codes and regulations that the city operates under are not easily accessible and the one person who could catch the mistake, didn’t.

    In fact, one of the biggest problems we run into is dealing with entities (e.g. water companies, cities) that don’t make their regulations public AT ALL (or those who make their own additions to things like the IBC). We’re not talking “available for a price”, we’re talking “you can’t buy them for any price”. In fact, I’ve taken inspectors out to lunch largely so that they might lend me their code books so that I could make copies of the codes so I could reference the rules that we had to build large projects with (and I’ve instances of supervisors asking me “how did you get that” when I presented them their own rules which they were contradicting).

    Don’t kid yourself, selling the codes, rules, and regulations that you have to build homes by helps exactly one group of people. Those selling them. Keeping them secret benefits one group, the one that has them and tells everyone else what they have to do. Everyone else is getting screwed (and ask yourself this, how do you think a city, county, or state picks one set of codes over another? Hmmm… I wonder if anyone might exert some sort of influence on them to pick their codes over the competition…)

  6. Ummm, phoulx, making the code more accessible will only improve building practices. Now more than ever in California, neither contractors nor architects (nor owners nor building officials) can cite lack of code access when a question comes up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen contractors claim ignorance of code (or worse – make stuff up) and stall by having the architect and building officials chase down hard copies. Same with architects. Same with agencies. This will help keep all parties (from builders to designers to the AHJ) honest and moving forward.

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