Governments around the world have a responsibility to ensure safe building practices and this is accomplished through legal documents; called building codes, that govern the construction industry. Plumbing codes are only one part of the building codes and together they form a minimum safe standard of construction.
Plumbing codes are produced by various organizations and reviewed by the territorial governments. In Canada the provincial governments decide which plumbing code to adopt and in the United States, each state is independently responsible. Municipalities may further adopted their own plumbing codes provided they are to a higher standard than the plumbing code adopted by the territory. The three major plumbing code documents in North America are:
- The Canadian Plumbing Code(CPC) - The primary plumbing code used in Canada, is developed by the National Research Council(NRC).
- The International Plumbing Code(IPC) - The most widely used plumbing code in the United States, is developed by the International Code Council(ICC). To see an adoption map for the IPC click here.
- The Uniform Plumbing Code(UPC) - The second major plumbing code used in the United States, is developed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials(IAPMO).
Using the Plumbing Code
Regardless of which plumbing code your area falls under there are some common traits to these documents. Because they are legal documents that lay out the ground rules for plumbing systems, they are written using very specific language(legalese) and can be difficult for the average homeowner to understand. If you have little experience using your plumbing code, there are two sections that you should familiarize yourself with; the definitions section and the index, these two sections will help you find the information you require quickly and comprehend it better.
The plumbing code's main purpose is to lay out the rules to follow when constructing any plumbing system and it does this using tables, articles and suggested practices. Learning to apply them all together is not an easy task so consult your local code authority for help understanding the code, that's why they exist.
Personal opinion on the plumbing code
I strongly believe that the building codes(especially the plumbing code since I'm a plumber) should be freely available to all who wish to view them. Personally I don't understand how the laws governing the construction industry can be legally copyrighted and sold. I believe and have petitioned the government, to openly publish the building codes so that anyone who wishes could view these documents, but have been utterly unsuccessful. I fully understand that the institutions that produce these codes should be financially compensated for there work but the moment our governments adopt them as code they should become public domain in my opinion. Here is a response I received from the Minister of Industry's office on the subject.