Know Your Project A Comprehensive Guide to the Building Inspection Process

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building inspector

Understand how a building inspection impacts your rehab project.

Whether you’re building or rehabbing your investment property, the structure will require an inspection during the construction project—and you’ll most likely have more than one. Familiarizing yourself with the building inspection process can help investors better prepare for inspections, ensure compliance with building codes and regulations, and avoid costly mistakes that may result in failed inspections.

Building inspectors thoroughly examine the property to ensure that it meets all safety and code requirements, the construction follows the approved building plans, and all necessary permits have been obtained. You’ll need to get their final approval before occupancy of your building takes place. Let’s discuss what a building inspection is, how to choose the right inspector, and what to do if you fail an inspection so you have all the details you need to complete the building permit inspection process.

What Is a Building Inspection?

A building inspection is when a licensed inspector thoroughly examines a property to ensure it meets all building codes, zoning ordinances, and contract specifications. A building inspector will thoroughly examine the entire property, including its major systems and components, to ensure compliance with building codes, zoning ordinances, and contract specifications. This includes:

  • A foundation inspection
  • An electrical inspection
  • A roof inspection
  • An HVAC system inspection
  • A plumbing inspection

There are several other inspections they may need to do, and the required inspections in your area could vary, which is why it’s important to have a professional complete your inspection.

The size of the home, how thorough the inspector is, and the issues they encounter will determine how long the inspection takes. However, when the inspector visits the site, it typically takes them about two hours to inspect the property. Then they have to complete their report, which can take several days.

Having your building inspected regularly throughout construction can prevent major issues. If an inspector catches an electrical mistake your crew just made, it can be easy to remedy. But if the mistake isn’t caught until you’ve installed the drywall, it could be a more costly fix. If you want to ensure your final inspection is approved, get inspections more often.

Choosing the Right Inspector

Choosing the right inspector is vital for a property owner and real estate investor. You could end up working with this person on a future project or, hopefully, lots of projects, so making a good connection can help you create a long-lasting relationship that could help your building projects go smoothly down the road. When selecting the best inspector to take on your project, consider their:

  • Qualifications: Inspectors must have different licensing and credentials in each state. However, knowing whether your inspector has the qualifications to provide the inspection you need to get through the building permit process is important.
  • Experience: The more experience an inspector has, the better they are at helping you meet inspection requirements. Look for someone who has been in the industry for several years. Typically five or more is a good range.
  • Knowledge: You want to look for inspectors who know the building code specification for your state and have experience inspecting various home types. Also, look for those who know about homes of different ages.
  • Review data: Check out what people say in reviews for the inspector. Are they mostly good or mostly bad? Is there a theme among the complaints, such as poor customer service? Previous reviews can help indicate how well you might work with them.
  • Fees and services: Ask about the fees and what services those fees include. Many inspectors base their rates on the home’s square footage, but you want to make sure that if you need special inspections, you know what they’ll cost.

Common Types of Building Inspections

All structures share some common themes, so it’s no surprise that there are some common types of building inspections that all real estate investors should know about. The same inspector may do these inspections, or you might need to use multiple inspectors depending on their expertise and the state and county requirements where you want to build. Here are the details on each one:

Structural inspections

A structural inspection is when the structural components of a home are looked over in detail. Structural engineers may perform this task. Building code requires specific load-bearing ranges and structural connections based on the regulations in the area where construction happens. This inspection ensures compliance with these regulations. 

During the structural inspection, the engineer looks at the following:

  • Foundation
  • Joists
  • Frame
  • Roof
  • Walls
  • Windows
  • Doors

Inspectors are looking for:

  • Rotted timbers
  • Water damage
  • Cracks in the roof or chimney
  • Drainage issues
  • Gaps in the flooring

Any of these issues could indicate a serious problem. Even new construction can suffer from these setbacks, but catching problems early in the process is good.

Mechanical inspections

A home has many mechanical components, and during a mechanical inspection, these components are examined by a professional with knowledge of how they work. Mechanical inspections involve a thorough examination of the mechanical components of a property, including its electrical, heating, air conditioning, and plumbing systems, to ensure their proper functioning and compliance with building codes and regulations. 

Some of the electrical service areas they check are:

  • The electrical supply so they can determine where it enters the home and if it runs overhead or underground.
  • The electric meter so they can pinpoint its location on the property and determine its condition and functionality.
  • The main circuit panel and main disconnect so they can determine its condition and location.
  • The outlets and fixtures to make sure they work properly and that GFCIs function as they should and are installed near plumbing fixtures.

For the plumbing system, they’re going to look for the following:

  • The location and condition of the main water shut-off valve
  • The condition of any exposed pipes and what materials the pipes are made from
  • The signs of visible leaking or pooling water
  • The proper functioning of faucets, drains, and toilets
  • The ability of water to heat and cool, as indicated on faucets

When a mechanical engineer inspects the HVAC system, they’ll look for the following:

  • The type of unit and its condition
  • The signs of coolant leaks or defects in the cooling system
  • The ductwork to determine its condition and what it’s made from
  • The ability of the system to properly heat and cool each room

Interior inspections

Interior inspections will cover all the interior aspects of a home. An inspector is looking for similar issues that a structural inspector looks for but from inside the home. 

Interior inspections will have inspectors looking at the following:

  • Windows
  • Walls
  • Flooring
  • Appliances
  • Doors
  • Ceilings
  • Closets
  • Cupboards

Inspectors are looking for any defects in the functionality of these items, such as a water heater that doesn’t heat water or a spot on the ceiling that indicates a water leak. They’ll likely open each door and cabinet to make sure they work as intended and check the windows for air leaks and proper opening and closing ability. Walking through the home, they’ll check over these things thoroughly, probably taking notes and photographs.

Environmental inspections

An environmental inspection might be required for your home, or you may just want to ensure that you’re constructing a home in an area that meets environmental safety requirements. 

During an environmental inspection, an inspector will look for things like:

  • Mold
  • Radon
  • Pests
  • Gas leaks
  • Lead paint
  • Dirty coils
  • Dirty drip pans
  • Asbestos
  • Bad odors

These problems could mean possible health issues with the property, which must be resolved before inspection approval can occur.

Safety inspections

A safety inspection ensures a home or commercial building meets fire safety codes. The structure needs proper accessibility, with all entrances and exits being easy to get to in an emergency. The requirements for meeting safety code regulations will vary by state. Still, an inspector will check that all doors function properly, the windows open and close, the address is clearly labeled, and alarm systems function if available.

Understanding the Inspection Report

Once your requested inspection is completed, you’ll receive the inspection report. This report may take some decoding, but it has all the details you need to know whether the property you’re constructing meets inspection requirements. The report will provide information about major problems or issues with the home’s primary systems or structure. It will also include details on how to proceed to remedy the issues.

The types of findings this report should include are:

  • Details on the foundation and structural integrity of the home
  • Condition of the roof sheathing and shingles
  • The functionality of water systems and pipes
  • Condition and functionality of the electrical system, including fuses and wiring
  • The functionality of the heating and cooling system

What If I Fail My Final Inspection?

Not all construction projects or homes will pass their final inspection. Failure can occur for many reasons. 

Some of the most common reasons a property might fail an inspection include:

  • The HVAC system doesn’t heat or cool properly or has other problems
  • There are safety issues, such as limited accessibility to doors and walkways
  • There are problems with the finishes
  • The property has drainage issues, or there are drainage issues present in the home
  • The home has structural issues with the foundation or frame
  • There are leaks or signs of water damage present
  • The windows or doors aren’t sealed properly
  • The roof has signs of rot or other damage
  • The electrical system has issues with the outlets, breaker boxes, or wiring

A failed inspection doesn’t mean a construction project can’t be completed. It just might require a second visit from the inspector. Many inspectors charge per visit, so it’s always best to pass inspection the first time, but you can fix any issues and have the inspector return. As long as you pass the final inspection and the inspector signs off on your permits and OKs all your forms, you can get approval for your home.


Building a home or other structure is a big undertaking, and it’s important to understand how to get inspection approval when you take on the project. Use this guide to help you navigate the process. Also, do your research so you choose the right inspector and get informed on the rules and regulations in your state.

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