Home Building Inspections
Dealing with home
building inspections is an integral part of Owner Builder's job. To manage it successfully,
you'll need to understand the "system" and have/develop
the proper attitude.
Home building inspections are the tool
that communities use to insure that homes built in their jurisdictions
comply with the minimum standards they
have adopted for home building. These standards are incorporated
into a set of documents called the "Uniform
To understand where the inspectors are coming
from, you need to understand a little bit about the Building Codes they are enforcing.
Uniform Building Codes were developed for your protection and for the
protection of the community. They seek to insure that buildings
provide light, ventilation, structural integrity, adequate circulation,
and reasonable safety from the hazards of fire. The more specialized
electrical and plumbing codes spell out standards that provide
for the safe and convenient delivery of water and electricity
and for the removal of wastes.
Electric Code and the Uniform
Plumbing Code are pretty
much standard nationwide. There are several building codes in
use, including The Standard
Code (Southern Building Code Congress International - SBCCI),
BOCA National Building Code (Building Officials and Code Administrators),
the CABO One and Two Family Dwelling Code (Council of American
Building Officials), and the Uniform Building Code (International
Council of Building Officials - ICBO) more.
In 2003, more than 190 years of combined building
and fire safety code development and30 years of anticipation
for one organization to produce codes for use across the country
and around the globe became a reality when BOCA, ICBO and SBCCI
consolidated to become the International Code Council.
You can check with your local building
official to see which, if any, of the codes are enforced in
your area. In addition, you should ask for a copy of all local
supplements to the standard codes which have been adopted. Local
conditions often require special additions to or variations
from the general code (example).
It is not necessary for you to be totally
familiar with the codes. Historically, codes have been written
in a somewhat confusing manner. Even
professional builders who deat with home building inspectons every day sometimes
have trouble interpreting the uniform building codes with confidence.
hurt for you to have a copy around for general reference. If you
enjoy your home building experience and decide to carry it further
(as in to become a professional home builder) you'll have to be
proficient in the code(s) to become licensed in many jurisdictions.
for now, just be aware that the interpretation of the building
code in your area is up to the local building official.
hOME BUILDING INSPECTION DEPARTMENT
Whether or not you will have municipal inspections of your construction
will depend on the local statues. If the local jurisdiction
(city or county) has so decided, a uniform building code has been adopted,
building permits are issued, and inspections are carried out
to enforce the code.
There is a wide spectrum of how well
any or all of these jobs are carried out, if in fact they are
carried out at all. A jurisdiction may adopt a code but not
do any inspections. It may hire a "building
official” who's only task is to collect fees for issuing
Even when there are home building inspections, there is a wide latitude as
to the quality of the inspections. Much has to do with the training
and work load of the inspector. In some areas there is only one
inspector who does everything - building, electrical, HVAC, and
plumbing inspections. In other areas, you may find a specialist
in each area.
Good inspectors can help insure that your house will be well
constructed. They will hold the subcontractors accountable. The
subs know what it will take to pass inspection, and they will
generally perform to this standard.
It is possible that you will find
some inspectors that are not up to par. Unfortunately a few occasionally
let the power of their position go to their heads, and they can
make your life miserable. The best advice in dealing with this
type is to grin and bear it. Do whatever you have to to get it
approved - even if it seems ridiculous. You'll
soon be past this irritation and can look back and laugh. It'll
probably make a good "war story” for you to tell.
There is also an unfortunate history (tradition?)
of dishonesty and greed, especially in the last century in the big
cities - inspectors expecting or even demanding a payment
to pass your work. Do not bow to this extortion. Report this person
to his superiors at once. If the superiors are involved, go higher.
As a citizen, you owe it to yourself and to the community to rid
the system of this sort of corruption.
Calling For home building Inspections
Check with your building official to see
what inspections are required, when they are required, and who
should call for them. It’s a good idea to call the day before you want an inspection.
Generally an inspection is made the following day after you
call. However, don’t expect to schedule the inspection
for a particular time. Inspectors have to schedule their work
so that they can make the best use of their time.
They’ll plan their itinerary depending on where there are
home building inspections to be made that day. You may be the first one or the
last one. There’s no way to tell. So don’t be angry
if the inspector doesn’t show up when you expect him to.
Don’t schedule your drywall hangers to arrive at 10:00 am
because you have called for a framing inspection and you think
it will be done the next morning.
Be Ready For The Home Building Inspection
If you have scheduled a home building inspection and find that the work is
not completed as expected, call and cancel the inspection. Most
inspectors are radio dispatched. He will appreciate not having
a wasted trip which will only have to be repeated tomorrow.
If you are on the site when an inspector arrives, just be available.
a professional. Get out of the way and let him do his job. Don’t
be overly friendly. That won’t get your
job passed any more easily. It may even backfire. And by all means,
don’t be belligerent or antagonistic!
If you happened to get red tagged
(turned down because of a deficiency), don’t panic. It’s
not the end of the world. It happens every day. You just have
something that needs to be corrected.
Talk with your sub first.
Chances are he’ll know just
what to do. If not, and you can’t figure it out, call
the inspector and get an explanation. He’ll be glad
to explain what he expects to see.
Then make the changes and
call him back. Make sure
it’s fixed before
you reinspect. This shows the inspector
that you are serious about doing things correctly. Attitude
PRIVATE HOME BUILDILNG INSPECTIONS
If you do not have home buildilng inspections in your area, or you do not feel
like they are adequate, you can hire a private inspector to
do the job. This is a great idea if you are owner building,
it's your first time, and you're doing your own construction management.
in the Yellow Pages or
Home Builders Association,
Association of Realtors, or the local chapter
of the American
Institute of Architects. Take
a look here for
a lead on other qualified residential inspectors.This may be
money well spent, especially if you are still feeling
inadequate about catching what needs to be caught.
BANK HOME BUILDING INSPECTIONS
In addition to municipal inspectors and
if you are not building "out-of-pocket," you will probably have
a bank inspector check the work before the bank issues a "draw"
(a slug of cash from the construction loan commitment so you can
pay some subs and suppliers).
He is not looking for code violations,
but primarily for verification that work has been completed
on that portion of the home for which you are seeking a construction
draw. He will also check to see that the home is being built
according to the plans and specs.
want to set up a loan for a four bedroom 3,000 square foot home,
only to find that you are out there building a two bedroom bungalow.
Requesting a draw is usually all you’ll have to do to
trigger this inspection.
VA, AND FMHA
HOME BUILDING INSPECTIONS
If you are building under any of these programs, you will have
home building inspections by their inspectors in addition to the municipal
inspections. Generally they come at the same point in construction
as the municipal inspections.
These are fee inspections for which you will be billed. When
you set up your loan under one of these programs, you will be
advised as to the inspection schedule required and who to call.
inspectors will be checking to see that your home is built
in accordance with the plans and specifications they have approved
and in accordance with the Minimum Property Standards published
That's about it for inspections. We could write pages and pages
of anecdotes and endless minutia. But why beat a dead horse. You've
got all you need. Remember, home building is about 40% planning,
30% knowledge, and 30% common sense. Actually I just made those
numbers up. But they can't be that far off!
For additional insight into Inspections,
see Lesson Thirteen of our online course
Successful Home Contracting.
to the Home Building Answers' Home Page
from Home Building Inspections
Check out the Code Inspection and
Home Inspection videos on this site