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What is a Construction Inspection?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A construction inspection is a review and examination of a commercial structure, residence, or municipal project. The basic purpose of the inspection is to protect the safety of both the public and those working on the project site. There are three basic types of construction inspections, and each differs in both the goal and scope of the inspection process.

The most common type of construction inspection is performed by municipal building inspectors. These individuals work for local government agencies, and are charged with ensuring that a construction project is being built according to applicable building codes. This type of inspection may start when building plans are submitted for permits. The plans are reviewed for code compliance, environmental impact of the proposed structure, and the potential effect the structure may have on the surrounding area. Once the inspector is satisfied with the plans, he or she will grant a building permit to the project owner or contractor.

As the building process begins, a series of inspections will take place throughout the life of the project. While the exact number and type of inspections may vary by region and project features, the general principles and intent of this process is the same. A construction inspection will take place after earth work and digging has been completed to test the stability of the soil and to ensure that environmental protective measures are in place. Another inspection will occur once underslab piping or utilities are laid, and before concrete is poured so that the integrity of these items can be reviewed.

Once the basic shell of a building is complete, and the walls are framed, another inspection will occur to review the safety of electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. If these systems are installed per the plans and according to local codes, the contractor will be permitted to begin wall close-ins. A similar construction inspection often takes place before ceilings can be installed over mechanical and electrical work. The final inspection on a commercial project is often called the Occupancy Inspection, and will involve both the Fire Marshal and the local Building Inspector. If these individuals determine that the building systems are safely installed and that all fire safety codes have been followed, the project will be granted a Use & Occupancy (U&O) certificate.

A different type of construction inspection may also be performed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This US agency is responsible for protecting the health and safety rights of employees on the job site. They may conduct random inspections during a construction project, and will look for fall hazards, protective safety gear, and a variety of other items. Contractors that are not in compliance with OSHA standards face significant fines and penalties.

Finally, inspections on residential properties may be performed by home inspectors. These individuals are hired by prospective homeowners to review the safety and integrity of a home and its systems. The home inspector can help to find potential problems that could cause danger to residents, or could result in costly repairs down the road. These inspectors do not have the authority to order problems be fixed, but can save buyers from a bad investment.

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