No one likes to be corrected. I won’t lie to you; some of the modifications imposed on us over the years have seemed silly, wasteful and downright maddening. I can recall being forced to make major staircase revisions due to a 1/16-inch discrepancy in riser height. Sometimes in the construction business, we wish it were a game of inches.
But in this game the rules are black and white, and in your inspector’s eyes, rarely open to interpretation. The rules maintain building standards and sometimes save lives. Today we’ll be examining typical building inspections required over the course of a project, and I’ll provide advice on how to pass the tests with flying colors, even if the rules themselves lack shades of gray.
If you execute the work yourself, it’s important to have someone experienced inspecting the details. Your inspector is a great resource, with a wealth of knowledge based on education and experience, and can be someone who, like a friend, is willing to share his or her vast expertise.
In the following sections, we’ll review the variety of inspections that might be required for your project.
Jurisdictions provide clear guidelines regarding how to go about scheduling your inspection. In many jurisdictions the inspections are now requested through automated phone or online systems.
Other concrete setups that might require inspection before pouring include footings, stem walls and retaining walls.
Your inspector will check to confirm that minimum trench depths and clearances are maintained for each of the different utility types.
The inspector will look closely at joists to confirm that the material and layout match the approved structural plan details, and confirm all are properly secured, with the required hardware installed.
Again, inspectors will confirm that your work has been properly secured (nailed or screwed), inspecting the coverage and confirming installation of the required hardware.
Inspectors can be extremely helpful if you’re doing your own work and have questions. If you are receptive to their advice, there is a good chance your inspector will spend extra time with you, explaining how to properly proceed with various steps of your project.
In California, for example, R-values for ceiling, wall and underfloor insulation types are specified in energy calculations issued by energy consultants, to confirm that a home conforms to regional energy-efficiency standards.
These are typically the last inspections required before that long-awaited day when your inspector pulls into your newly completed driveway and prepares to execute the final inspection.
We will specifically review many of the common final inspection requirements in next week’s final installment of this series. Whether the final inspection day runs smoothly or results in awful surprises is greatly dependent on your effective communication with the inspector throughout the process. Establishing plain old effective communication can be nearly as vital to a successful permit sign-off as the thoroughness and competence of the party or parties responsible for the work.
Pools are usually inspected under a permit that’s separate from the one for the residential structure. The process can run concurrently with yet be separate the home inspection process. Pool inspections are often completed at pre-gunite, pre-deck and pre-plaster stages. Inspectors will check for installation of door alarms at all home exits not fenced separately from the pool by a barrier meeting minimum pool enclosure standards, including self-closing hinges at gates and height requirements.
Over time, good contractors develop relationships with inspectors built on trust and experience, and this goes a long way toward ensuring a successful approval for each of the sign-offs required on your project.
Alternatively, if you are doing your own work, you need to begin building that relationship right away. Between the two of you, there is going to be one expert, and not to be dismissive, but you’re not it.
Everyone wants to be respected. I suggest treating your inspector as if he or she were your mentor. You might just discover that your inspector will act like a good one.