Friday, May 18, 2012


First off, as I've said before, renovating a house is an adventure and the worse off the home is, the more exciting and challenging the mission will be.  Keep this adventurous spirit in mind as you read on and remember that inspections are just part of it and anyone who renovates a house has to deal with them and the people who conduct them.

Inspections are as unpredictable as permits. (see Step 7).  The process has less variations than permitting, but each town is different, and also like the issuing of the permits the building officials occasionally change the inspection procedures.  So, like permits, be prepared for anything.

If you need temporary services like electricity and water you'll need inspections (after getting permits).  If you have water and power in working order already, then that won't need inspected.

Next, if you're adding on any square footage, you'll likely need to invite someone from the building department over to see how things look before you have concrete placed.  Usually they get out of their vehicle to count, measure, and review what's been done, but I've had drive-by foundation inspections before where authorization was granted by a honk of the horn and a friendly wave.  (This was a small town and is certainly not the norm.)

After the base is complete (in an addition), the carpentry work will also require a review by the inspector.  All this has to be done to code, but one inspector might tell you you've done a perfect job and then a fellow code enforcer may cruise through a few days later and tell you things aren't quite right yet and you have to make adjustments.  So, be ready. 

In some municipalities, they require a framing inspection if you move or add any walls during the renovation.  This review usually happens before you do the plumbing, electrical, and the HVAC work.  I prefer this inspection sequence because if they want a correction or change it's easier to make it happen before everything is roughed-in within the walls, floors, and ceilings. 

After this, the next inspection(s) will be for the plumbing, gas, electrical, and heating/cooling systems before insulation and drywall.  And, some cities will want to stop by for a second framing inspection before insulation. (and they may even want to review the insulation before you cover it with sheet rock.)

Next, you'll need final inspections after the plumber, electrician, and HVAC contractors have trimmed out their work.  Some places will do all these trades at one time and call it a 'Final Inspection', while others will do them individually and then maybe come back one last time to see everything done to perfection before the Certificate of Occupancy is handed over.

When you hire contractors and tradespeople to do work for you, have them call for their own inspections.  They know what's required and will likely have a working relationship with the building officials. Once their work has been approved, be ready to receive an invoice (and write a check).  

I'm probably making inspections sound worse than they are, but just understand that these officials have authority and you need their approval to keep going.  Also, inspectors are like the people issuing the permits and oftentimes feel the way they do things is the only way.  Fighting the inspector is always an option, but that will cost time and money and I'd recommend you avoid this battle if you can.

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