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.

Construction and building inspectors ensure that construction meets local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

What Do Building Inspectors Do?

Duties

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 followup 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 conforms 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.

Some building inspectors are concerned with fire prevention safety. Fire inspectors and investigators ensure that buildings meet fire codes.

Career Snapshot

Construction and inspector careers and building inspector careers include making sure all new construction, changes to buildings, or repairs are in compliance with local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications. Inspections may be general in nature or may be limited to a specific area, such as electrical systems or plumbing. Employers will seek construction inspectors or building inspectors with a certificate or associate degree which includes classes in building or home inspection, construction technology, and drafting. In most areas across the country, construction inspectors and building inspectors need a license or certificate.

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.

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.

Job Details

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

Education and Experience

A high school diploma or equivalent is typically required to enter the occupation. Some employers may seek candidates who have studied engineering or architecture or who have a certificate or an associate’s 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.

As well, previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is required for the various occupations of this sub-sector. For example, it is expected that an electrician complete three or four years of apprenticeship or several years of vocational training, and often must have passed a licensing exam, in order to perform the job of electrical inspector.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: As of May 2019, construction and building inspectors earned an average base salary of $60,000
  • Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 7%
  • Entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent

Career Growth Opportunity

Public interest in safety and the desire to improve the quality of construction should continue to create demand for inspectors. Certified construction and building inspectors who can perform a variety of inspections should have the best job advancement opportunities.

Professional Associations

  • International Code Council - The ICC is a nonprofit association that provides a wide range of building safety solutions including product evaluation, accreditation, certification, codification and training. It develops model codes and standards used worldwide to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures.
  • National Fire Protection Association - The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization, established in 1896, devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.
  • Association of Construction Inspectors - The Association of Construction Inspectors (ACI) is a leading professional organization for those involved in construction inspection, project management and consulting. For over 20 years, ACI has provided standards, guidelines, regulations, education, training and recognition in a field that has become essential to the integrity of both residential and commercial construction.
  • International Association of Electrical Inspectors – This organization is a non-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.
  • National Association of Elevator Safety Authorities International – This organization has as its mission to promote current codes and standards, teach and educate stakeholders, certify inspectors, and assist the populace in enhancing elevator safety and understanding new elevator technology.
  • International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials - The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials has been protecting the public’s health and safety for ninety-three years by working in concert with government and industry to implement comprehensive plumbing and mechanical systems around the world.
  • American Society of Home Inspectors - By upholding professional excellence throughout its membership, ASHI strives to keep the home inspection industry at a high standard.
  • American Construction Inspectors Association - The RCI Board receives and processes applications for registration, conducts examinations and registers construction inspectors who successfully meet all the requirements provided for in the Rules and Regulations of the RCI Board in the state of California.
  • American Society of Civil Engineers - ASCE strives to give you the best professional and technical resources.
  • Building Inspection Engineers Certification Institute - Building Inspection Engineering is a 50-year-old specialty within the engineering community. This specialty deserves a board-certified endorsement of the engineer who has been tested in the special skills and knowledge about inspection, assessment and evaluation of buildings of all types.
  • Housing Inspection Foundation - HIF was founded in 1991 to help the real estate industry meet the need for qualified Home Inspectors.
  • Certified Commerical Property Inspectors Association - The goal of CCPIA is to help its members become skilled commercial property inspectors and successful leaders in the industry.
  • National Association of Commercial Building Inspectors - NACBI is the leading member association for the commercial building inspection and building science thermography industries.
  • International Association of Certified Home Inspectors - InterNACHI is a non-profit trade organization of residential and commercial property inspectors.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • National Association of Home Builders - NAHB strives to protect the American Dream of housing opportunities for all, while working to achieve professional success for its members who build communities, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The AGC of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry; providing opportunities for firms to learn about ways to become more accomplished; and connecting them with the resources and individuals they need to be successful businesses and corporate citizens.
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry - NARI connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that consumers have a positive remodeling experience with a professional, qualified remodeler.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals. Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • Structural Building Components Association - SBCA is the only international trade association representing manufacturers of structural building components.

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