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An important step in estimating a construction project is thinking about outside influences that can impact your project. For instance, inspectors.

There’s no question that the building inspector who shows up at your job can increase the cost of your project. That’s why you need to know the inspectors in the areas where you work and when necessary, add an inspector factor to your estimate.

Some inspectors come onto a jobsite, look around, sign off the paperwork and leave. On occasion they’ll find something that needs correcting or maybe ask a few questions. For the most part, if you’ve established yourself as a responsible contractor who can be trusted to do the job right, they’ll put in the required appearance, sign the inspection forms, and go about their day.

But there are other inspectors who are always looking for something to find fault with. When you know one of those inspectors is likely to be on your job, you should factor in a little extra time to redo or rework some phase of the project so they’ll sign off on it. That way, if you need to do additional work the cost won’t come out of your pocket. The money is already in the estimate. When you don’t add a little extra, the money for any additional work comes right out of your profit.

Of course, I’m assuming that you’re building the job right, to code. If you’re doing sloppy or bad work, the inspector isn’t the problem, you are. But we all know that some inspectors don’t think they’re doing their job right unless they find something you’re doing wrong. Even if you’ve done everything right, they’ll find something wrong. I am sure you have run into inspectors like that, I met more than a few in my time.

I know from many years working on jobs that these problem inspectors have pet ‘Gotchas’ that they look for. If you’re new in an area, ask around at the supply house. Call some of your friends who might have had a job checked by one of these inspectors. They can probably give you a good idea what the problem inspectors look for. You can judge from there how much additional time and material to add to the estimate to cover yourself.

It might be a good idea to check with your employees and get their take on both the job and the potential inspector on that job. Don’t ignore your employee’s input, because they’re often the ones at the jobsite when the inspector shows up. They know what the inspector looks for. At the same time, if an inspector has taken to disliking one of your employees, make sure that the employee isn’t on the job when the inspection is scheduled. I’ve seen inspectors refuse to do an inspection when they saw an employee they didn’t like on the job. This isn’t supposed to happen but in one situation, the contractor had to go to the building department, over the inspector’s head, to get the issue cleaned up. It’s no fun, and that’s cost the contractor both time and money.

Be sure you know the code requirements for the work you’re doing. If you’re not sure, find out. If friends and/or associates in the business don’t know, call the building department where you’ll do the work and ask them how you should do the job. Be sure you’re clear on what you’re asking because what the folks in the office hear might not be what the field inspector sees when they get to the jobsite. And the field inspector won’t care what someone in their office told you. These conversations should all happen before you put the numbers on your estimate sheet for that phase of the job.

You also might have a one-on-one with your home or building owner if you know the inspector assigned to their job has a reputation of being a royal pain. That way they won’t be upset with you if they see a list of things the inspector wants changed or added.

Be sure and include a clause in your contract that says you will extend the job completion date if the inspector wants changes to the job. Along those same lines, be sure you have language in your contract that says you will write a change work order for any additional work that the inspector may require on that job. These could require additional expense and if it’s beyond what you have in your estimate, you don’t want to eat those additional costs.

One other thing I’ve found with inspectors. The newer they are, the more faults they seem to find. Some new inspectors need to prove that they’re worthy of the job; others might still be angry at having failed in their own business and are now taking it out on other contractors. Whatever the case, be aware that the younger and newer inspectors will probably cause you more problems or additional work than those who’ve been around for a while, and this of course will increase your job costs.

You aren’t in control of what inspector shows up on your job, or if the inspector who does show up is having a bad day and decides to take it out on you. All you can do is try to be ahead of those problems and protect yourself when you create the estimate.

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