Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.
What they do
Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:
- Review plans to ensure they meet building codes, local ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications
- Approve building plans that are satisfactory
- Monitor construction sites periodically to ensure overall compliance
- Use survey instruments, metering devices, and test equipment to perform inspections
- Inspect plumbing, electrical, and other systems to ensure that they meet code
- Verify alignment, level, and elevation of structures to ensure building meets specifications
- Issue violation notices and stop-work orders until building is compliant
- Keep daily logs, including photographs taken during inspections
- Provide written documentation of findings
People want to live and work in safe places, and construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets codified requirements. Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR); and plumbing systems. Although no two inspections are alike, inspectors perform an initial check during the first phase of construction and follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is finished, they perform a final, comprehensive inspection and provide written and oral feedback related to their findings.
The following are examples of types of construction and building inspectors:
Building inspectors check the structural quality and general safety of buildings. Some specialize further, inspecting only structural steel or reinforced-concrete structures, for example.
Coating inspectors examine the exterior paint and coating on bridges, pipelines, and large holding tanks. Inspectors perform checks at various stages of the painting process to ensure proper coating.
Electrical inspectors examine the installed electrical systems to ensure they function properly and comply with electrical codes and standards. The inspectors visit worksites to inspect new and existing sound and security systems, wiring, lighting, motors, photovoltaic systems, and generating equipment. They also inspect the installed electrical wiring for HVACR systems and appliances.
Elevator inspectors examine lifting and conveying devices, such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, lifts and hoists, inclined railways, ski lifts, and amusement rides. The inspections include both the mechanical and electrical control systems.
Home inspectors typically inspect newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, townhomes, and other dwellings. Prospective home buyers often hire home inspectors to check and report on a home’s structure and overall condition. Sometimes, homeowners hire a home inspector to evaluate their home’s condition before placing it on the market.
In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors examine all home systems and features, including the roof, exterior walls, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior walls, plumbing, electrical, and HVACR systems. They look for violations of building codes, but home inspectors do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes.
Mechanical inspectors examine the installation of HVACR systems and equipment to ensure that they are installed and function properly. They also may inspect commercial kitchen equipment, gas-fired appliances, and boilers. Mechanical inspectors should not be confused with quality control inspectors, who inspect goods at manufacturing plants.
Plan examiners determine whether the plans for a building or other structure comply with building codes. They also determine whether the structure is suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site.
Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of systems that ensure the safety and health of drinking water, the sanitary disposal of waste, and the safety of industrial piping.
Public works inspectors ensure that the construction of federal, state, and local government water and sewer systems, highways, streets, bridges, and dams conform to detailed contract specifications. Workers inspect excavation and fill operations, the placement of forms for concrete, concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving, and grading operations. Public works inspectors may specialize in highways, structural steel, reinforced concrete, or ditches. Others may specialize in dredging operations required for bridges, dams, or harbors.
Specification inspectors ensure that construction work is performed 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.
Although construction and building inspectors spend most of their time inspecting worksites, they also spend time in a field office reviewing blueprints, writing reports, and scheduling inspections.
Some inspectors may have to climb ladders or crawl in tight spaces to complete their inspections.
Inspectors typically work alone. However, some inspectors may work as part of a team on large, complex projects, particularly because inspectors usually specialize in different areas of construction.
How to become a Construction and Building Inspector
Most employers require construction and building inspectors to have at least a high school diploma and work experience in construction trades. Inspectors also typically learn on the job. Many states and local jurisdictions require some type of license or certification.
Most employers require inspectors to have at least a high school diploma, even for workers who have considerable related work experience.
Some employers may seek candidates who have studied engineering or architecture or who have a certificate or an associate degree that includes courses in building inspection, home inspection, construction technology, and drafting. Many community colleges offer programs in building inspection technology. Courses in blueprint reading, vocational subjects, algebra, geometry, and writing are also useful. Courses in business management are helpful for those who plan to run their own inspection business.
The median annual wage for construction and building inspectors was $60,710 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $98,820.
Employment of construction and building inspectors is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Public interest in safety and the desire to improve the quality of construction are factors that are expected to continue to create demand for inspectors. Employment growth for inspectors is expected to be strongest in local government.
Similar Job Titles
Building Inspection Engineer, Building Inspector, Building Official, Code Enforcement Officer, Combination Building Inspector, Construction Inspector, Elevator Inspector, Home Inspector, Plumbing Inspector, Public Works Inspector
Energy Auditor, Environmental Engineering Technician, Occupational Health and Safety Technician, Fire Inspector, Agricultural Inspector
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Construction Inspectors Association - The ACIA was formed to provide educational opportunities and promote standards of knowledge and conduct for all construction inspectors.
- American Society of Home Inspectors - ASHI creates advancement opportunities for its members. This is accomplished through efforts such as providing educational resources and events, presenting technical information, connecting members with prospective clients, and lobbying on Capitol Hill. By upholding professional excellence throughout its membership, ASHI strives to keep the home inspection industry at a high standard.
- Association of Construction Inspectors - ACI is the leading association providing standards, guidelines, regulations, education, training and professional recognition in a field that has quickly become important procedure for both residential and commercial construction.
- International Association of Certified Home Inspectors - This organization is the world’s largest trade organization of residential and commercial property inspectors. It is also the inspection industry’s largest provider of education and training.
- International Association of Electrical Inspectors -The IAEI is a not-for-profit professional trade association committed to public safety from electrical hazards by providing expert, unbiased leadership in electrical code and standards development and premier education and certification for electrical professionals.
- American Subcontractors Association - The ASA promotes the rights and interests of subcontractors, specialty contractors and suppliers by building strength in community through education, advocacy, networking and professional growth. Members have access to a plethora of on-demand videos, manuals, technical papers, and more.
- Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's membership represents all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and is comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors. Students and those wishing a career in construction will find an abundance of education and craft training information and resources.
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers - This organization represents 775,000 active members and retirees who work in a wide variety of fields, including utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.
- Laborers' International Union of North America - LIUNA members are a skilled and experienced union workforce trained to work safely in the construction and energy industries. Members also work in every area of the energy sector, helping to build solar plants, wind farms, and natural gas and oil pipelines, as well as, being skilled in the maintenance of nuclear and coal power plant facilities. Click here to review this organization’s training and education
- National Center for Construction Education and Research - The mission of this organization is simple, to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. For those in-training or learning in the field, NCCEAR has competency-based curricula with measurable objectives.
- The Associated General Contractors of America - This association is far reaching with over 27,000 firms, including more than 7,000 of America’s leading general contractors, nearly 9,000 specialty-contracting firms and almost 11,000 service providers and suppliers belong to the association through its nationwide network of chapters. A number of educational programs designed to enhance career development opportunities for individuals and improve the performance of construction companies and the industry are offered. As well, 170 student chapters across the country provide young professionals with an opportunity to observe and develop their skills with current industry leaders.
Magazines and Publications
- The Construction Specifier (official magazine of CSI)
- ASHI Reporter
- The Contractor’s Compass
- ABC’s Newsline
- Constructor Magazine
- AGC Newsletters
- Building Safety Journal
We all depend on the built environment— buildings, homes, and even sidewalks and streets— to be safe and stable. Construction and building inspectors ensure that these, and many other structures, meet building codes, zoning regulations, and requirements spelled out in building contracts. There are many types of inspectors… from general building and home inspectors… to construction and mechanical inspectors… who examine everything from electrical systems, elevators, and HVAC systems… to bridges, sewer systems, and even paint coatings. Typically, inspectors perform an initial check during the first phase of construction, and follow-up inspections throughout a construction project. At project completion, they make a final inspection and write up their findings in a report. These workers spend most of their time inspecting worksites, but also work in field offices to review blueprints and schedule inspections. They may have to climb ladders or crawl in tight spaces to complete their inspections. Most inspectors work for local government… many also work in architecture or engineering firms. Although full-time, regular business hours are typical, additional hours may be needed during heavy construction seasons, or to respond to job site accidents. Inspectors typically learn on the job but most employers require a high school education, and extensive knowledge of construction trades. Many states require a license or certification.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org