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National Electrical Code Articles and Information

Old Codes

by Mark Lamendola

Occasionally, someone needs or wants a copy of an old code. An expired code. A superseded code. The problem that person encounters is an old code just isnít usually available.

Why would someone want a code that has expired? For example, why would someone want the 1990 National Electrical Code in the year 2003? That particular code was superseded by the 1993 NEC, then the 1996 NEC, then the 1999 NEC, then the 2002 NEC. It seems odd that it would be of any value.

Suppose someone built an apartment complex in 1992, and the municipality had adopted the 1990 NEC. A set of apartments burns down, killing several small children and doing massive property damage. A forensics engineer determines the installation violated the 2002 NEC. But, the contractor points out that the 2003 NEC didnít exist in 1992. The issue then becomes one of proving the contractor violated the 1992 NEC and/or violated standard industry practices. The plaintiffís attorney will want a copy of that code. The defense attorney very likely also will want a copy.

How do you find old codes? Well, we donít sell them here. Nobody stocks them, in the sense they keep a min/max and order more when they get low. After all, the existing old code books are simply production run leftovers. However, various trade groups will keep a set of old code books on hand. So will many engineering firms and law offices that specialize in areas covered by those codes. What if you need an old code book and canít get any help from these "pack rats?"

To get an old code book, you can try contacting the original publisher. If they have extra copies, they may sell you one. You can also try contacting a dealer and asking for the specific book you are looking for. They often have small lots of such books, and they have a network of folks who may have a copy they are looking to clear from their bookshelves.