International Residential Code to Be Updated for 2021

Key changes are coming to the International Residential Code next year. Here's what builders need to know.

The new 2021 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) is set to be released by the end of December, making updates to structural, fire and energy-efficiency requirements. This is the first time since 2018 that the code has been updated.

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State and local jurisdictions will begin to adopt new aspects of the code over the next year. As is custom, each jurisdiction will be able to adjust or amend the 2021 IRC to address the specific requirements of their local geography and climate.

Here are some of the specific changes coming to the 2021 IRC:

  • Braced wall lines must be placed on a physical wall or placed between multiple walls.
  • Emergency escape and rescue openings require a clear 36-inch-wide path to a public way.
  • An engineered design is required for storm shelters.
  • Deck design now considers snow load, tributary area for footing and post height, and guard details.
  • Specific requirements for deck guardrails were added.
  • Minimum footing size tables are revised to more accurately reflect current practice.
  • New appendices for cob construction and 3D-printed construction are added.
  • A 30 percent reduction of airflow is permitted for balanced ventilation systems.
  • A surge-protective device (SPD) is now required at the service panel.
  • The number of receptacle outlets required for peninsular and island countertops in kitchens is determined by the area of the countertop surface.
  • GFCI protection is now required for damp and wet locations not included in the other 10 areas requiring GFCI protection.

The National Association of Home Builders is preparing a Code Adoption Toolkit designed to help homebuilders make a smooth transition into working with the 2021 IRC. It will be available in early 2021.

According to the NAHB website, “The Toolkit will include lists of significant changes, estimated cost impacts of those changes and suggested amendments for both single-family builders and multifamily developers that may improve the model codes adopted in your jurisdiction.”