Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:
Construction and building inspectors ensure safety compliance of buildings, dams, bridges, and other structures; highways and streets; and sewer and water systems. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR); and plumbing systems. Inspectors typically check a project several times: for an initial check in the early construction phase, for followup inspections as the project progresses, and for a comprehensive examination after its completion. At each inspection, they may provide written or oral feedback about their findings.
The following are examples of types of construction and building inspectors:
Building inspectors check the structural quality, architectural requirements, and general safety of buildings. Some building inspectors focus on fire prevention and safety. Fire inspectors and investigators ensure that buildings meet fire codes.
Coating inspectors examine the exterior paint and coating on bridges, pipelines, and large holding tanks. In their checks throughout the painting process, inspectors ensure that protective layers are correctly applied.
Electrical inspectors examine a building’s installed electrical systems to ensure compliance and proper functioning. These systems may include new and existing sound and security systems, lighting, photovoltaic systems, generating equipment, and 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. They inspect both the mechanical and electrical control systems.
Home inspectors typically examine houses, condominiums, townhomes, and other dwellings to report on their structure and overall condition. Home sellers or home buyers, or both, may seek inspectors’ objective assessment of a dwelling before placing it on the market or submitting an offer.
In addition to checking structural quality, home inspectors examine home systems and features, including the roof, foundation, interior and exterior walls, and plumbing, electrical, and HVACR systems. They may identify violations of building codes but do not have the authority to enforce compliance.
Mechanical inspectors examine 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’ work differs from that of quality control inspectors, who inspect goods at manufacturing plants.
Plans examiners determine whether the plans for a building or other structure comply with adopted building codes, regulations, and ordinances.
Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of systems that ensure the safety of drinking water and industrial piping and the sanitary disposal of waste.
Public works inspectors ensure that the construction of federal, state, and local government water and sewer systems; roads and bridges; and dams conforms to specifications. They may specialize in projects such as highways, structural steel, or dredging operations required for bridges, dams, or harbors.
Special inspectors ensure that critical construction work, such as high-strength concrete, steel fabrication, and welding, is installed and tested according to design specifications. Special inspectors represent the owner’s interests, not those of the general public. Insurance companies and financial institutions also may use their services.
Most employers require inspectors to have at least a high school diploma, even for workers who have considerable experience.
Some employers may seek candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or architecture or who have another postsecondary credential. Many community colleges offer a certificate or an associate’s degree program in building inspection technology and have courses in building inspection, home inspection, construction technology, and drafting. 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.
Some jurisdictions require that construction and building inspectors take continuing education courses to maintain their credentials.
Most states and localities require construction and building inspectors to have a license or certification. Some states have individual licensing programs for construction and building inspectors. Others may require certification by associations such as the International Code Council, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, and the .
Similarly, most states require home inspectors to follow defined trade practices or to get a state-issued license or certification.
Home inspector license or certification requirements vary by state but may require that inspectors have experience with inspections, maintain liability insurance, and pass an exam.
Many states use the National Home Inspector Examination as part of the licensing process. Most inspectors must renew their license periodically and take continuing education courses.
Inspectors must have a valid driver’s license to travel to inspection sites.