Construction and Building Inspectors

Significant Points

* About 44 percent of inspectors worked for local governments, primarily municipal or county building departments.
* Many home inspectors are self-employed.
* Training requirements vary widely; some States require a license or certificate.
* Opportunities should be best for those with construction-related work experience; training in engineering, architecture, construction technology, or related fields; or certification as a construction inspector.

Nature of the Work

Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They ensure that their construction, alteration, or repair complies with building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. Building codes and standards are the primary means by which building construction is regulated in the United States for the health and safety of the general public. National model building and construction codes are published by the International Code Council (ICC), although many localities have additional ordinances and codes that modify or add to the National model codes. To monitor compliance with regulations, inspectors make an initial inspection during the first phase of construction and follow up with further inspections throughout the construction project. However, no inspection is ever exactly the same. In areas where certain types of severe weather or natural disasters—such as earthquakes or hurricanes—are more common, inspectors monitor compliance with additional safety regulations designed to protect structures and occupants during those events.

There are many types of inspectors. Building inspectors inspect the structural quality and general safety of buildings. Some specialize in for example, structural steel or reinforced-concrete structures. Before construction begins, plan examiners determine whether the plans for the building or other structure comply with building codes and whether they are suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site. To inspect the condition of the soil and the positioning and depth of the footings, inspectors visit the worksite before the foundation is poured. Later, they return to the site to inspect the foundation after it has been completed. The size and type of structure, as well as the rate at which it proceeds toward completion, determine the number of other site visits they must make. Upon completion of the project, they make a final, comprehensive inspection.

In addition to structural characteristics, a primary concern of building inspectors is fire safety. They inspect structures’ fire sprinklers, alarms, smoke control systems, and fire exits. Inspectors assess the type of construction, the building’s contents, adequacy of fire protection equipment, and any risks posed by adjoining buildings.

Electrical inspectors examine the installation of electrical systems and equipment to ensure that they function properly and comply with electrical codes and standards. They visit worksites to inspect new and existing sound and security systems, wiring, lighting, motors, and generating equipment. They also inspect the installation of the electrical wiring for heating and air-conditioning systems, appliances, and other components.

Elevator inspectors examine lifting and conveying devices such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, lifts and hoists, inclined railways, ski lifts, and amusement rides.

Home inspectors conduct inspections of newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, town homes, manufactured homes, apartments, and commercial buildings. Home inspection has become a standard practice in the home-purchasing process. Home inspectors are most often hired by prospective home buyers to inspect and report on the condition of a home’s systems, components, and structure. Although they look for and report violations of building codes, they do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes. Typically, they are hired either immediately prior to a purchase offer on a home or as a contingency to a sales contract. In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors inspect all home systems and features, including roofing as well as the exterior, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior, plumbing, and electrical, heating, and cooling systems. Some home inspections are done for homeowners who want an evaluation of their home’s condition, for example, prior to putting the home on the market or as a way to diagnose problems.

Mechanical inspectors examine the installation of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems and equipment to insure they are installed and function properly. This may include the inspection of commercial kitchen equipment, gas-fired appliances, and boilers.

Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of piping systems to insure the safety and health of the drinking water system, chemical process piping for industrial uses, and the sanitary disposal of waste. On most construction sites this will involve at least three inspections, including the piping layout, venting, backflow protection, and setting of fixtures.

Public works inspectors ensure that Federal, State, and local government water and sewer system, highway, street, bridge, and dam construction conforms to detailed contract specifications. They inspect excavation and fill operations, the placement of forms for concrete, concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving, and grading operations. They record the work and materials used so that contract payments can be calculated. Public works inspectors may specialize in highways, structural steel, reinforced concrete, or ditches. Others specialize in dredging operations required for bridges and dams or for harbors.

The owner of a building or structure under construction employs specification inspectors to ensure that work is done according to design specifications. Specification inspectors represent the owner’s interests, not those of the general public. Insurance companies and financial institutions also may use their services.

Details concerning construction projects, building and occupancy permits, and other documentation generally are stored on computers so that they can easily be retrieved and updated. For example, inspectors may use laptop computers to record their findings while inspecting a site. Most inspectors use computers to help them monitor the status of construction inspection activities and keep track of permits issued, and some can access all construction and building codes from their computers on the job site, decreasing the need for paper binders. However, many inspectors continue to use a paper checklist to detail their findings.

Although inspections are primarily visual, inspectors may use tape measures, survey instruments, metering devices, and equipment such as concrete strength measurers. They keep a log of their work, take photographs, and file reports. Many inspectors also use laptops or other portable electronic devices onsite to facilitate the accuracy of their written reports, as well as e-mail and fax machines to send out the results. If necessary, they act on their findings. For example, government and construction inspectors notify the construction contractor, superintendent, or supervisor when they discover a violation of a code or ordinance or something that does not comply with the contract specifications or approved plans. If the problem is not corrected within a reasonable or otherwise specified period, government inspectors have authority to issue a “stop-work” order.

Many inspectors also investigate construction or alterations being done without proper permits. Inspectors who are employees of municipalities enforce laws pertaining to the proper design, construction, and use of buildings. They direct violators of permit laws to obtain permits and to submit to inspection.
Work Environment

Construction and building inspectors usually work alone. However, several may be assigned to large, complex projects, particularly because inspectors tend to specialize in different areas of construction. Although they spend considerable time inspecting construction worksites, inspectors also spend time in a field office reviewing blueprints, answering letters or telephone calls, writing reports, and scheduling inspections.

Many construction sites are dirty and may be cluttered with tools, materials, or debris. Inspectors may have to climb ladders or many flights of stairs or crawl around in tight spaces. Although their work generally is not considered hazardous, inspectors, like other construction workers, wear hardhats and adhere to other safety requirements while at a construction site.

Inspectors normally work regular hours. However, they may work additional hours during periods when a lot of construction is taking place. Also, if an accident occurs at a construction site, inspectors must respond immediately and may work additional hours to complete their report. Non-government inspectors—especially those who are self-employed—may have a varied work schedule, at times working evenings and weekends.

Source: bls.gov, elcivics.com, channel4.com, sanjoseca.gov, saskatoon.ca, citytowninfo.com

One thought on “Construction and Building Inspectors

  1. Dear Sir,
    I have been in the construction business for many years I did my trade as a carpenter went to tech in my 4 years of training I then went on a commercial diving course did underwater construction for south african harbors I was then boared after a diving accident I then joined a timber house building construction I did timber buildings in durban and seycheles gongo and spain I later left and joined a civil company doing sewer and water reticulation in the transkie what help me with the sewer is i can use a dumpy level and transfer levels from a bench mark So I run the site as a site agent well this is just a brief report as what I can do ,

    well my point is this most of the companies I worked for would order short cuts in the progress of the projects I sometimes felt disgusted , I am now working on my own doing small projects last year I completed project management and the ms course through Damlin But I still feel many projects done by some contractors and the quality of work is disgusting ,I feel I could use my many talents and work experience to help home owners with new buildings and and buyers of old homes

    now my point is what can I do to become a Building inspector and get in involved in the private sector I finished my trade in 1979 and been in the construction till to date

    Could you give me some advise as how to start I thank you

    yours faithfull

    Noel Greyling

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