Construction and building inspectors are tasked with examining not only buildings, but also construction projects such as highways, streets, sewers and water systems, dams, and bridges. They ensure that all construction activities comply with local codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and plan specifications. There are many types of inspectors, including building inspectors, plan examiners, elevator inspectors, mechanical inspectors, and home inspectors. Each specializes in a specific area of construction.
Construction and Building Inspectors Building inspectors, usually employed by the local government, confirm the overall safety of a building. They generally make inspections several times during the construction process, beginning with the initial inspection during the first phase and continuing with additional inspections throughout the construction process to ensure that all regulations and codes are being followed. In areas where severe weather phenomena such as hurricanes or natural disasters such as earthquakes are more common, inspections also involve ensuring projects adhere to additional safety requirements designed to protect the building and its occupants.
Plan examiners examine architectural plans for the construction and renovation of commercial and residential buildings to ensure all codes and regulations are followed. They also check that the building design is suitable for the environmental demands of the building site.
Elevator inspectors are responsible for inspecting elevators to ensure they are operating safely and for supervising all maintenance. In order to become an inspector, individuals must complete any required educational course work and have a minimum of five years’ experience working as an elevator mechanic.
Mechanical inspectors perform inspections of heating, ventilating, cooling, and fire suppression equipment to ensure these systems comply with established codes, laws, and regulations. Plumbing inspectors confirm that all pipes, fittings, and fixtures are safe, legal, and installed by licensed professionals. They also check vents, traps, faucets, fixtures, lines, and appliances as they are put in place.
Home inspectors are trained and/or certified to perform limited, non-invasive examinations to determine the condition of a home. This is often done before a home is sold. Inspections include checking the overall condition of a home and more specifically the condition of the roof, heating and cooling systems, and plumbing and electrical systems to identify items that require extensive repair and items that need general maintenance. Inspectors can also identify some fire and safety issues. Inspectors prepare written reports, often with the help of home inspection software. These reports outline components and systems that need major or minor repair or replacement so the buyer can make an informed decision about their pending real estate purchase.
All types of inspectors must possess a mix of technical knowledge, experience, and education. Many have worked in the construction field as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and architects. Regulations for inspectors vary by state, but requirements usually include obtaining a specific level of education, having a minimum amount of experience, and passing a licensing examination. Most construction and building inspectors get much of their training on the job. However, because of the technical nature of the work, those who have studied engineering or architecture or have a degree from a community college with courses in building or home inspection, construction technology, drafting, and mathematics generally have the best employment opportunities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook expects above average employment growth for inspectors of about 17 percent over the next 10 years. While all jobs in the construction industry are sensitive to economic fluctuations, more of these workers will likely be needed as demand for building structures that can withstand natural and manmade disasters and the desire to improve the overall quality of constructed buildings increase. There is also a growing need for inspectors who inspect newly built or previously owned homes before purchases are finalized.
Salaries vary depending upon experience and specialty. The median salary for construction and building inspectors is $24.13 per hour. The middle 50 percent earn between $18.78 and $30.46 per hour. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $15.03 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $37.53 per hour. The highest wage earners are usually the building inspectors, especially those who work in larger metropolitan areas. Since a high percentage of inspectors are employed by local governments or architectural and engineering services firms, these professionals typically receive standard benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid vacation time.