Over the years, I’ve had my share of working with building inspectors—from the plan review stage, the construction phase, all the way to final occupancy—in both commercial and residential settings. It is in those years of experience I learned to understand and work with inspectors, which I have found to be an important skill.
Most contractors would agree that inspectors who have field experience often make the best inspectors. On the other hand, inspectors want to see experienced professional contractors doing the work. With that said, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
When dealing with inspectors, there are two key elements in the forefront that come into play—building codes and standard building practices. These two elements are not in conflict with each other, but instead complement each other. While an inspector may be strong on the codes and weak on building practices, the contractor may be strong on building practices yet weak on certain codes.
Let’s go over a few examples.
Example 1. I had an inspector who wanted to see a drawing that showed each interior light-gauge steel stud 16 inches on center even though the specifications called out 16 inches on center. The experienced contractor would rely on standard building practices and not need a drawing to build that wall.
Example 2. A contractor installs a residential foundation and the granular sub grade at the footings has excellent drainage or it’s a walk-out basement and perfect for gravity discharge of the drain tile. The code requires the installation of a sump crock even thought it will never collect water. Although the inspector may realize this, he or she has to go with the code and make the contractor install the sump crock.
Below are a few suggestions you may want to consider the next time you are dealing with inspectors.
Your approach is everything
A building inspector wants to make sure the project is going to meet all codes through completion. If your first meeting is in plan review, let the inspector know about your company and your experience in construction. Make comments on the plans, details, or the project in general if needed. This can show your expertise. If you have a job schedule, offer it for their file. Give the inspector your business card with a cell phone for any questions that may arise. Ask if any other documentation is needed. You want the inspector to know you are there to assist.
Schedule your inspections properly
Schedule your inspections early, yet give yourself flexibility in your schedule. It’s normal for an inspector to not be on time. Do not have the concrete trucks waiting at the job site before the inspector arrives prior to footing inspection. If you are having an engineer on the job site testing soil and concrete, let the inspector know you will provide a copy of the report for their file. Make sure the inspector’s visit is safe with secured ladders, guard rails, and good housekeeping.
Offer to assist in the walk-through
I would always meet and walk through the job with the inspector. I would also point out key areas, such as structural steel connections, load-bearing areas, framing details, roof penetrations, and utility stub-ins. Then I would ask the inspector if he or she would like me to point out those details on the plans. Always keep all the stamped drawings (civil, architectural, and engineering) out and on the table for the inspector’s access. Include all changes and correspondence from the architect, engineers, city, and state.
Keep detailed documentation
You should always keep a strong daily job-site log. Make sure your inspections are well-documented. Make sure the inspector signs off on all inspections before leaving the site. You may want to take pictures of any areas of concern.
Working with building inspectors can be challenging. Always stay professional and offer help when able. Keep your focus and don’t take things personally. If you get off to a bad start, don’t worry. You will have plenty of time to show that you are a professional. You will see that working with the inspector will make your job easer.