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Major Home Inspections During Construction

When homes are being built or renovated, new construction inspections are generally required by the local jurisdiction as part of the permit process. The primary responsibility of these municipal inspectors is to ensure compliance with all applicable building codes. Most of the building codes are oriented toward structural integrity and safety.

If you are looking for inspections focusing more on quality assurance, then consider hiring a third party company to provide professional inspection services. These companies will conduct more frequent inspections during the construction process with a closer eye on the actual quality of the craftsmanship, not just on whether it meets the minimum standards outlined in the building code. In other words, if you want to make sure your rooms are square, walls are plumb, floors are level, and craftsmanship is of high quality, then hire an independent service.

The primary inspections city officials concern themselves with align to critical phases in construction when the infrastructure is still visible. As such, during the construction of a new home, inspections are typically conducted during the following three or four major phases: foundation phase, open wall phase, closed wall phase (optional), and finishing phase.

 

Foundation Inspection

The foundation inspection may actually involve several reviews depending on the jurisdiction. The primary purpose is to evaluate the footings and mechanical systems pre-pour, the foundation walls and slab pre-pour, and the water-proofing and drainage pre-backfill (if not simply a slab on grade).

Early in the construction process, the foundation inspection is conducted to assess whether the footings meet the required engineering specifications for the lot. This is done before any concrete is poured to ensure the proper depth and width of the footings. The type of footing and any steel reinforcement being used is also checked against the plans. After all, the foundation was designed and engineered to account for the geotechnical characteristics of the building site, and the size and weight of the structure being built.

Inspectors at this phase are also looking to ensure the rough plumbing penetrations are properly installed before the concrete slab is poured. Similarly, the foundation walls are checked for compliance with the engineering plans. The last part of the inspection involves the water-proofing and drainage systems. Once all of these components are deemed appropriate, the foundation can be backfilled and construction may recommence.

 

Open Wall Inspection

The open wall inspection (aka pre-drywall inspection, framing and mechanical inspection, pre-cover inspection, or four-way inspection) is intended to assess the structural components of the home’s skeleton and the mechanical rough-ins before they are permanently concealed behind insulation and sheetrock. The open wall inspection may be conducted as a single inspection or done separately by experts for each of the underlying components: framing, HVAC, plumbing, and electrical.

1) Framing

Framing is ready for inspection once all walls are up (studs and exterior sheathing), sub-flooring is in place, roofing is complete (including shingles), and windows and exterior doors are installed. The inspection covers all aspects of framing, including:

   Missing or misplaced framing members

   Warped or defective framing members

   Usage of proper wood grades

   Structural Components: e.g. trusses, posts, and beams; girders and joists; span widths; load path, bearing walls, and point load analysis

   Safety: fire blocking, straps, anchor bolts, brackets, ties, fasteners, connectors

The inspector also looks to see if any improper alterations were made to by other contractors to accommodate the mechanical systems, which could potentially weaken the structure.

2) Rough HVAC

The HVAC inspection examines all the ductwork in the home as well as the furnace installation. Inspection of the gas line may also occur at this point.

3) Rough Plumbing

Rough plumbing includes running all pipes for supply lines as well as the drain-waste-vent system. The rough-in includes installation of all drains, tubs, and shower pans. During this inspection, pressure testing the entire system may also occur.

4) Rough Electrical

Electrical wires for all outlets, switches, and fixtures are examined for proper gauge, grounding, and nail stop protection through the framing. All electrical boxes are set.

 

Closed Wall (optional)

Most municipalities won’t require another inspection until the final inspection. However, you may be subject to a closed wall inspection, which takes place after the insulation has been installed and drywall is hung. The building wrap and exteriors may also be part of this inspection.

 

Final Inspection

The final home inspection is a full inspection covering all the systems of the home and is required prior to municipalities granting a certificate of occupancy (or equivalent depending on where you live). Some of the items you should expect to be scrutinized are as follows:

   Electrical testing of all lights and outlets

   Plumbing fixtures are hooked up properly with no leaks

   Smoke detectors are working

   All systems and appliances are operational

   Roofing system is sound (shingles, flashing, gutters, and downspouts)

   Doors, windows, and exterior penetrations are sealed properly

   Final grading is as per plan