Building inspections are conducted to insure buildings are constructed to minimum required building codes. These codes differ from city to city and state to state. Some municipalities require energy efficiency standards and some do not. There are also different degrees of code enforcement. You may find that your inspector is a real stickler for details. While this might be a hassle, it will help insure that your subcontractors do not cut corners.
Municipalities and Building Departments nationwide have adopted a variety of building codes as their standard. There are several that top the list are likely in use where you will be building your home.
The UBC ( Uniform Building Code ) has been the building code standard for many years. While it is still very much in play throughout the country, many cities and counties are phasing it out for the more recent IBC ( International Building Code ). They are very similar so don’t be overly concerned which has been adopted in your area. In addition to these standard codes, each community may adopt additional building codes to suit their particular area. Ask your inspector if there are any unique situations that you should be aware of as an owner builder.
There are also Electrical, Mechanical and Plumbing Codes that your individual subcontractors will have to follow.
Recently, many building departments have adopted or are in line to adopt the IECC ( International Energy Conservation Code ). Be sure to ask whether or not these codes are in use in your municipality and if there are basic guidelines for design and construction or additional requirements for building inspections.
During a footing inspection the building inspector will check for depth and width of footings, placement of footings, placement of required reinforcement and proper size of reinforcement.
Underground Plumbing Inspection
Underground Plumbing inspections are conducted to test the seal of waste lines underneath the slab. Plumbing lines will be put under air or water pressure. There will be an air pressure gauge or an open pipe filled to the top. The gauge is normally set at a predetermined PSI. If the inspector checks it and it is not still at that number, there is a leak. If it is a water pressure test, the inspector will shake the pipe. Water should be at the top and splash out, indicating there has been no leakage.
The building inspector will also check the fall or drainage of the waste lines. If the waste lines do not flow properly, they will back up inside the house. Shading material such as sand or rocks should support the lines. This helps prevent damage when the trenches are backfilled.
Normally, there is also a Sewer Line inspection at this time. This building inspection is to verify that the waste lines from the house have been connected to the city sewer. If both inspections pass, the owner builder can backfill all their open trenches.
Sometimes this is categorized as the sewer inspection and is conducted at the same time as the Underground Plumbing Inspection. However, the municipality may require a building inspection to verify waste lines to the septic and an additional septic system field inspection, where they check to insure the septic field has been installed to meet the engineered specifications that have been written for the septic. Septic systems are complex and will impact your project a great deal. To read more about septic systems click here.
The preslab inspection is conducted just before the concrete contractor is ready to pour concrete. The building inspector will look at several things to verify that the slab is ready for concrete.
If it is a monolithic slab they will check the footings just as they would a separate footing inspection
They will make sure the slab thickness will meet the approved plan’s specifications
They will check the placement and size of reinforcing steel or rebar.
They will verify the placement of hurricane ties, anchor bolts and other required connectors
Pipes need to have foam wrap around them where they will pass through concrete
You should ask your concrete contractor to walk with you the day before inspection and show you that they are ready for the inspection.
Framing Sheet and Shear Inspection
The Sheet and Shear is a building inspection to check the framing structure of the building. The building inspector will look at the nailing of your shear panels, connectors and roofing sheeting. He will check the trusses to verify that the engineer trusses that were approved were actually installed and placed correctly. Every aspect of framing will be checked. Depending on how seriously your inspector takes his job, the inspection could last a couple of hours. Be prepared. Talk with your framing contractor prior to the inspection. Usually the framing crews are familiar with inspectors and know their hot buttons.
This particular building inspection used to give me fits. There are so many things that can be missed that inevitably something would be. Don’t be discouraged if this inspection takes 2-3 times to pass. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t pass first time.
The owner builder should be on site with the framing contractor for this inspection. This is the general rule for all inspections but I think it is a hard and fast rule for this inspection. It is important that you know exactly what the inspector is calling when he points out a violation. It can be unclear if you aren’t there. The result is that you and your framers will be chasing ghosts, trying to fix an issue that isn’t clearly defined. If the inspector is called back and items he has called are not corrected to his satisfaction, expect to pay a re-inspection fee or refee. You cannot proceed with your project until it is paid. Avoid this if possible.
Mechanical This is an inspection of the ductwork and forced air unit. Inspectors will look for mastic seal inside a/c cans and to make sure that duct work is strapped properly. If copper lines pass through walls, the inspector will also insist on metal strap protection where they pass through top plates or studs.
Electrical Electrical inspections may require a separate call and inspector. Building departments often have electrical inspectors as specialists. The building or electrical inspector will be searching for specific things. There are basic requirements for placement of outlets, protection of wires, and GFI ( Ground Fault Interrupter ).
Plumbing The main item that is called on a plumbing inspection is leaks. If your plumber waits till the day of the inspection to put the house plumbing under pressure, you run the risk of failing. Have the plumber put the lines under pressure for a full day before the inspection, any weak joints or leaks can be addressed. It is also important to protect any lines that pass through wood members.
Sometimes a building department will have the owner builder call all rough inspections together. However, often the Mechanical/Electrical/ Plumbing must all have passed prior to calling the Framing inspection. Because the Sheet and Shear Inspection is so comprehensive the framing inspection is typically anti-climactic. This inspection should pass easily unless there has been extensive damage to wood members caused by trades during rough installation.
The lath inspection is conducted to ensure that lath paper, foam and metal are all properly installed. There are some basic items that the owner builder can check before the inspection is called. Paper should overlap 4 inches for each roll. All staple holes should be caulked on the inside of the paper and vertical foam seams should be covered with diamond mesh, a very tight metal mesh.
This is a building inspection that the owner builder wants to be extremely thorough. Small gaps in insulation batting or cellulose can cause comfort issues in a house that a very difficult to address after the home is complete. A gap in insulation allows for easy heat transfer in or out of your walls. This may leave a particular room cold or hot and put a strain on your air-conditioning unit as it tries to compensate for the deficiency. The inspector will look for netting where necessary, full wall cavities and no compression or gaps.
Drywall Nail Inspection
After you pass insulation, the drywall can be put up. Once the “rock” is hung, a drywall nail inspection is called. Just like the shear panels in the earlier building inspection, the inspector will be looking for proper nailing. This means he will be looking for the proper spacing between nails or screws, as well as the proper size of fasteners. The drywall nail inspection is the last major inspection of the front end.
The plumber will put the finished gas lines under air pressure. A building inspector will check to see if the air pressure gauge is holding pressure and then double check all the different gas stubs to make sure that they are not buried in the walls. The owner builder will receive a tag that authorizes the local gas company to hook up a gas meter.
Electrical Tag Inspection
This building inspection is usually called when the electrical trim work is complete. The building or electrical inspector will check all outlets to make sure there are no loose wires that could be a danger if the power is turned on. Once this inspection is passed, the building department will issue a electrical tag allowing the local electrical utility to place a permanent meter. Passing or failing building inspections such as electrical inspections can impact your scheduling.
Final Building Inspections
The inspector checks the operation of the air conditioning unit and furnace. He may want to enter the attic to look at the forced air unit.
The electrical inspection is a building inspection conducted to investigate the operation and safety of all the electrical in the house. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are also checked. The electrical inspector will view the electrical panel for labeling and test any GFI’s. This is usually the most intensive of the final inspections.
Water leaks, incomplete work, toilets that do not have proper clearance or an unlit gas water heater are just a few of the items that can fail a plumbing inspection. Be sure to walk the house and test all faucets for hot and cold water, toilet flushing and light your range and fireplace.
Final Building Inspection
The final building inspection is an overall review of construction. Steps may be measured for proper height. The garage door is normally tested to make sure it is self closing. Smoke detectors will be tested as well as all items already passed in the previous 3 inspections. Don’t be offended if the final inspector fails you on an electrical item. He is there to double check everything.
Your municipal building department may have other inspections than those listed here. It is imperative that you consult with them prior to building your home.
Certificate of Occupancy