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Building inspectors: don't believe everything you hear

Posted by Jeffrey Anderson ~ November 6, 2012

You've probably heard the horror stories -- especially if you spend much time talking to the contractors on your home remodeling project. Work having to be redone, schedules delayed, and inspections failed -- you'd think they were describing some sort of Halloween goblin. But no, they're just discussing someone you're almost sure to encounter while remodeling: your local building inspector.

So who are these ogres turned loose to terrorize contractors and DIYers just wanting to remodel a home? It's very simple: they're the people responsible for verifying that all the work being done meets building and mechanical codes.

Why are the codes so important? One of the primary reasons they were established was to enhance the safety of the future occupants of the structure under construction. In the case of a home improvement job, those future occupants are you and your family. It just may be possible that those stories were a bit exaggerated or the contractors talking the most had a little problem with their work quality.

What to expect from your building inspector

Just about any remodeling project that requires a building permit is going to warrant at least one visit from your local building inspector. So is there any preparation required? What should you expect when they arrive? While inspection methods can vary depending on the jurisdiction and building department, these tips should help get an inspector's visit off on the right foot:

display building permit

Post your building permit prominently

  • Building permit. Always have your building and mechanical permits posted prominently where they can easily be seen when the inspector arrives.
  • Company. Just about all inspectors enjoy a little company when they make their visit -- you and the contractor whose work is being inspected should always try to be present. When there's someone there to answer questions, it may prevent confusion that could result in an inspection being failed.
  • Notes. Building inspectors don't like the feeling that they're pointing out problems simply for their own benefit -- take notes on what areas may need corrections as it shows that you care. If you're having a framing or mechanical rough-in inspection, a can of spray paint can be used to highlight the problem area for the contractors making the repair.
  • Cleanliness. Most inspectors aren't too happy if they have to worry about tripping over lumber or stepping on nails -- they may even refuse to enter a structure with too much debris. It almost always pays to spend a little time cleaning the jobsite when you have an inspection scheduled -- it can make the quality of the work look better as well.

clean jobsite

Inspectors like a clean jobsite

Regardless of what you may hear, most building inspectors just want to ensure that your remodeling project is built correctly and safely. If you treat them with respect and take care of the issues that require correction, you might discover that they can actually be very helpful.

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