Exceed the Minimum Standards
Building codes exist for a reason and should not be dismissed or ignored, even if you live in a place like we do where there are few permits or inspectors. The codes provide a minimum standard for construction, and usually not a very good one at that. The way I see it, most houses built to code are built of inferior materials, insufficiently reinforced, definitely under-insulated, and potentially hazardous to the occupants in just about any kind of natural or human-made disaster. In other words, it isn't enough to meet code. Plan to exceed it!
Federal building codes outline minimal standards. State, county, and city codes usually raise those standards, but the end result is still the same-houses that waste energy, constantly require maintenance, burn too easily, and fall apart if Mother Nature lurches or sneezes.
For example, you know that a bathroom is going to get wet around the shower, toilet, and sink. Any bathroom built with substandard materials is ultimately destined to rot. Wood sub-flooring, carpet, frame walls, and dry wall are only water resistant to a degree, yet our building codes do not protect us from such blunders, and most bathrooms are constructed to fail. To exceed building codes, and build a house to last, be sure to consult Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
It is also important to familiarize yourself with building codes, to ensure that your plumbing and wiring meets or exceeds standards, and you don't forget anything important, like including a means of fire escape from every bedroom in your home. For those kinds of details, be sure to check out the resources below.
Recommended Guide Books
Building Code Guides for the Do-it-Yourself Builder
by Michael Casey, Redwood Kardon, and Douglas Hansen
Illustrated by Paddy Morrissey
With over 200,000 copies sold, the Code Check series is a handy reference that provides comprehensive information on the most up-to-date codes. The convenient size of these books and their durable, laminated, spiral-bound format enable them to withstand job-site use, with information clearly presented in hundreds of line drawings and tables. Compiled by three certified experts with over 55 years combined experience, the Code Check series is endorsed by the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO).
Code Check A field guide to building a safe house
Code Check is the original book in the series. It is essentially a condensed version of the other books, covering six hundred of the most common building-code questions. It contains residential construction-code information gathered from more than 2,500 pages of major model U.S. building, plumbing, and electrical codes. Completely updated to the current International Residential Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, Uniform Mechanical Code, and National Electrical Code. For greater depth of coverage, we recommend that beginning builders use the other books in this series.
Code Check Building A field guide to the building codes
Code Check Building is a quick and easy guide to commonly cited code violations in the construction of one- and two-family dwellings. This guide outlines the principles behind the codes and provides information on the code requirements for foundations, framing, exterior and interior walls, fireplaces, and chimneys. It is cross-referenced to the current International Residential Code. Building codes and code-authoring organizations throughout the country are undergoing major transformations. Code Check Building emphasizes the life safety principles at the heart of these building codes.
Code Check Plumbing A field guide to the plumbing codes
Code Check Plumbing is an extremely handy guide to have during the planning process and on the job site. Referenced to the Uniform Plumbing Code and the International Plumbing Code, it provides answers to hundreds of common plumbing-code questions. Completely updated to reflect the new International Residential Code system as well as the standard ICBO (International Code and Building Organization code.
Code Check Electrical A field guide to wiring a safe house
The newly revised Code Check Electrical puts hundreds of electrical-code facts at your fingertips. Compiled by a Certified Combination Building Inspectors, Code Check Electrical outlines the principles behind electrical codes and provides streamlined but comprehensive information on electrical code requirements. It's cross-referenced to the current National Electric Code, which is updated every three years, mandating the revision of Code Check Electrical.