Career and Job Search Guide

Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors evaluate completed construction projects to determine whether these structures adhere to municipal building codes and zoning regulations. Building codes are designed to protect human health and safety. Federally mandated codes are provided by the International Code Council (ICC); however, municipalities often have their own building codes. Building inspectors perform a preliminary inspection after a construction project begins and subsequent inspections during a project. Building code regulations are usually region specific. For example, buildings in regions with frequent hurricanes would have different regulations than buildings in deserts.

An assortment of building inspectors have a variety of duties. Building inspectors review a building's structure for any safety violations, and many inspectors have expertise in structures built with reinforced concrete or steel. Plan examiners review building plans to ensure whether a proposed plan will comply with building codes and environmental regulations. Many inspectors visit construction sites prior to construction to examine the area where a foundation will be built, returning later to examine the foundation. The type of construction project is usually the determining factor whether more inspections are required. After a project is finished, building inspectors must complete a very detailed final inspection.

Building inspectors are also required to perform through fire safety evaluations by inspecting sprinkler systems, fire alarms, smoke control equipment, and adequate fire escape doors. Inspectors are also required to determine all building fire risks, even evaluating whether nearby buildings present fire hazards. Electrical inspectors evaluate electrical wiring and equipment to make sure newly completed buildings comply with all applicable electrical code regulations. Electrical inspectors must inspect all electrical systems and wiring, for example, security systems and wiring designed for climate control systems, to determine whether these systems meet code.

Elevator inspectors inspect all the components and systems engineered to safely and efficiently operate an elevator, ski lift, railway, and numerous other machines to ensure all safety codes are met.

Home inspectors examine new and previously owned residential buildings to inspect for code violations. Frequently, people searching for new homes in the market hire inspectors to inspect houses they are considering to buy. Home inspectors determine whether codes are violated, but they have no enforcement authority. Home inspectors are often hired before a home is sold or as part of a contractual obligation before a home is purchased. Home inspectors inspect plumbing, electrical systems, climate control systems, the foundation, and all other sections of the home, including the roof and garage. Many property owners hire inspectors to evaluate their home's status prior to an appraisal.

Mechanical inspectors evaluate climate control systems, commercial cooking equipment, gas piping systems, and butane tanks to determine proper installation and compliance with building codes.

Plumbing inspectors determine whether plumbing systems adhere to building codes. They inspect water distribution equipment, generic plumbing systems, and draining systems.

Public works inspectors inspect projects initiated by municipal, state, and federal government agencies, such as road and water system projects, to make sure project details are adhered to. Public works inspectors evaluate all components and aspects of infrastructure projects. They also keep records of work performed and the amount of supplies used to complete a project so accurate costs can be determined. Public works inspectors can either possess expertise in highway construction or dredging techniques essential for bridge construction.

Specification inspectors are responsible to make sure proposed projects are completed according to blueprint details. Building owners usually hire specification inspectors to make sure their interests are met. Unlike other inspectors, they do not work for the public's interest. Finance and insurance firms often consult specification inspectors.

Information collected and essential for inspectors to complete their jobs are usually stored or collected in computer databases, so it can be easily accessed. Many inspectors take their laptops with them to a construction problem. Inspectors also utilize computer technology to monitor how many permits are issued and retrieve information about building codes online.

Most inspectors conduct their inspections from simple visual examinations but often utilize tape measures and other equipment to finish a job. Inspectors take photos and prepare written reports for records. When inspectors discover problems, they contact contractors or other construction supervisors to notify them of the problems. Government inspectors are authorized to stop construction if code violations are not corrected.

Certain investigators are assigned to conduct investigations when it is suspected that remodeling or construction work has been performed without the necessary permits. Inspectors working for cities are usually responsible for ensuring building codes are enforced within a city, and they often arrange new inspections for code violators and assist people who have violated building codes get access to permits.

Work environment. Building code inspectors often perform their work by themselves. Sometimes inspectors are assigned to work with groups while examining large buildings since they often specialize. Inspectors spend a majority of their time performing inspections, but they also spend time examining blueprints and performing administrative work.

Sites where inspections are conducted are often dirty, and inspectors are often required to walk up stairs or climb ladders, sometimes maneuvering themselves in awkward spaces. Working as an inspector is relatively safe, but they are required to wear hardhats and follow safety rules during their inspections. Under normal circumstances, inspectors work normal hours during a week. When there is increased demand for construction, they often work extra hours. After construction site accidents, inspectors, without delay, must visit the site to conduct an investigation and prepare a report. Inspectors working in private industry or running their own businesses usually have erratic schedules and often work nights and weekends.