What is a Building Inspection?

Lou Paun

A building inspection is carried out to evaluate the quality of construction, maintenance, or alteration of a structure, which may be a public building, a home, or even public infrastructure such as highways, water systems, and bridges. Regular building inspection guards the health and safety of everyone who uses the structure and is usually conducted by a government employee. The inspector checks to be sure the structure complies with all ordinances and codes, often including zoning regulations.

Building inspectors evaluate a structure's quality of construction.
Building inspectors evaluate a structure's quality of construction.

In the United States, the International Code Council (ICC) has published model building codes and construction codes. These usually serve as the basis for state and local codes, although additional regulations may be included. For example, areas with frequent earthquakes, hurricanes, or wildfires often require construction methods or materials to limit damage if those events should occur. Areas with pollution or erosion problems may require the use of specific materials, designs, or construction methods to reduce environmental damage.

Some inspectors may specialize in ensuring the strength of reinforced concrete.
Some inspectors may specialize in ensuring the strength of reinforced concrete.

During a construction project, the first building inspection is conducted before any construction begins, when the plans are reviewed and the site is evaluated. Another building inspection takes place after the footings are dug, and a third building inspection checks the newly poured foundation. Other inspections occur throughout the project, with large, complex buildings requiring more inspections. There is always a final building inspection before the structure can be used. Sometimes a particular building inspection will be conducted by a different inspector, an individual who specializes in a particular type of area of construction. Inspectors might specialize in reinforced concrete structures or electrical systems, for example.

Building inspectors ensure that a construction project is built according to code.
Building inspectors ensure that a construction project is built according to code.

For older structures, a building inspection focuses on the maintenance of the building. Many states and cities require regular inspection of public buildings to ensure that safety regulations are enforced. Fire safety is a particular concern.

Building inspections may be conducted throughout the construction process.
Building inspections may be conducted throughout the construction process.

Prospective homeowners often require a building inspection before making an offer on a house. In this case, the inspector is usually not a government employee and cannot enforce building codes, although he will include any violations in the report. A home inspection evaluates all aspects of a house, from the roof to the foundation.

Home inspections should be done on a home prior to purchase.
Home inspections should be done on a home prior to purchase.

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