The Key to Productive Inspections When You Build A New House or Renovate An Existing One

© kia ricchi

Most contractors agree that once a building project breaks ground, the job is halfway done. Yes, it is true. It takes as much time and effort to design, estimate, contract, schedule, and permit the work as it takes to build it!

Obtaining a building permit is one of the final pre-construction tasks. Once the building plans are approved and the permit is issued, your work is authorized to proceed. The permit should include a list of inspections that are required by the Building Department. Whereas a simple repair job may require only a final inspection, the construction of a new house will require several inspections. The appropriate inspector from the Building Department performs these inspections. For example, the building inspector focuses on the structural aspects of a building whereas an electrical inspector reviews the electrical system. Plumbing and mechanical inspectors also have specialized training in their fields. These various inspectors share one common goal: to ensure that your work is done per plan and in compliance with building codes.

Building codes

Building codes are standards that help to protect the public’s health, safety, and general well-being. These codes not only address the structural integrity of a building, but also set forth standards for the building’s components and systems, such as electrical, heat and air, etc.

Building codes safeguard the public and promote well-being by creating standards for:

  • Structural strength
  • Sanitation
  • Light and ventilation
  • Energy conservation
  • Fire protection
  • Egress (means of exit)
  • Handicap access

Building codes are divided into specialties such as building, plumbing, mechanical, and fuel gas. Electrical codes, on the other hand, are developed and maintained separately by the National Fire Protection Association. These codes are the backbone of the inspection process. But do not mistakenly assume that an inspector is reviewing every aspect of your building project. Generally, the inspector does not look for bowed studs in a wall or determine that a (non-load-bearing) wall is correctly located within the building. Unless the work is in conflict with building code, it is not the inspector’s job to point out these relatively minor deficiencies in construction. This burden lies with the site superintendent, your contractor and you.

Before you schedule

An inspection can be easily scheduled by phone, fax, and possibly online by you, your contractor, or your representatives. Before scheduling an inspection, be sure to know the permit number, jobsite address, and the type of inspection you want. Once the inspection is scheduled, ensure that the jobsite and work item that is to be inspected are accessible to the inspector. Unlock any gates and doors so that the inspector can enter the jobsite, and place the plans and permit in plain view where the inspector has ready access to them.

Meet the inspector

There are many instances in life when a small gesture makes a big difference. Meeting your building inspector is one example of this. It is highly recommended that you, your contractor, or your representative be on site when the inspector arrives so that work issues can be more quickly resolved. For example, an inspector may have a question or comment about the work and this matter is often more easily discussed than written as a report. Additionally, an inspector can directly point out the exact location of the deficient work to someone on the jobsite. You should also consider this: By being present during an inspection, you can discuss a course of action that is acceptable to both you and the inspector. If only a minor correction is needed, you may be able to do it quickly while the inspector is on site.

In contrast, if no one can meet with the inspector, the inspector must write this information on the jobsite inspection card or online report (if your Building Department provides this service). The information may be limited to only the building code section number and a brief explanation of the violation. Once the violation is noted, the deficient work must often be corrected and re-inspected before you are allowed to schedule additional inspections. If other work continues before the needed corrections are made, a Building Department official may issue a stop-work order.


Another small gesture that may influence your project outcome is respect. It is important to give inspectors the respect and courtesy that their position deserves. These individuals are often state-licensed professionals who must obtain a license based on technical knowledge, experience, and education. Additionally, many states require that these officials pass an exam on topics such as building codes, construction methods and materials, and ethics. Because building codes change, continuing education is often required of building inspectors. This training broadens and updates an inspector’s knowledge.

It takes two

Because construction is often a complex task, teamwork is essential to a successful outcome. A building permit is an agreement between you (who agrees to perform work that is code compliant) and the Building Department (which agrees to inspect the work for code compliancy). The building inspector is the Building Department’s representative who inspects your work for code compliancy.

Frequent communication with the Building Department and building inspector will ensure that you are informed of the requirements for your job. Through a respectful and communicative relationship with them, your common goal—the successful completion of yourbuilding project—is more readily accomplished.

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