I want to build a free-standing covered porch on the front of a client's home. My building inspector is a stickler for a continuous footing on everything. The county/city inspectors would allow a pier footing. Is there a way around a continuous footing?
Kenneth, unfortunately the two primary building codes being used in most parts of the country have a lot of gray areas that individual building inspectors may interpret differently. In addition, states and even local jurisdictions often modify sections of the building code that is being enforced. Special situations within the jurisdiction may be the reason for the modifications or they might just believe the changes make for safer structures.
If for some reason your local jurisdiction has decided that the design of the covered porch requires a continuous concrete footing, it could be difficult to change their mind. However, if the continuous footer requirement is due to the individual inspector's code interpretation, there is a chance the concrete piers might be approved.
Whenever I run into a similar situation, I ask the inspector if they would approve my construction method if it's certified by a licensed architect or engineer. In every case I can recall, the inspector was okay with that suggestion as that official stamp went a long way toward absolving them of any responsibility if there was a future problem. They normally want something with an original certification that they can place in the house's inspection folder at their office.
I would definitely talk to the building inspector prior to spending the money for the certification. Also, you might want to find out how much a local architect or engineer would charge for the official document with their stamp as it could be more than pouring the continuous footing.
I have always found that developing a good rather than adversarial relationship with building inspectors makes for smoother running projects. If your inspector is insistent on a continuous concrete footing for the porch, going along with it might be the best course of action - even if it means a little more work and cost.