Part of estimating is to always consider the outside influences that can affect your job costs. Like inspectors.

Can the building inspector who shows up on your job increase your final job costs? Oh boy, can they ever. You need to know the inspectors in the areas where you work and when necessary, add an “inspector factor” to some of your estimates.

I shouldn’t call it a blunder. You aren’t in control of what inspector shows up on your job, or if your particular inspector is having a bad day and decides to take it out on you. But you do need to consider it in 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. But, for the most part, as long as you’ve established yourself as a responsible contractor that they know can be trusted to do the job right, they’ll put in the required appearance, sign the inspection forms and go about their day.

Then there are the 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 job so they’ll sign off on it.

This is assuming that you’re building the job right, to code. If you’re doing sloppy or bad work, the inspector is hardly the problem. But some inspectors don’t think they’re doing their job right unless they find something you’re doing wrong. And even if you’ve done everything right, they’ll find something. No matter how nit-picky. You know what I’m talking about.

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.

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.

Also be sure you know the code requirements for the work that you’re doing. If you’re not sure, ask someone. If your friends and/or associates don’t know the answer, then call the building department where you’re working 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 you ask, might not be what the field inspector sees when they get to the jobsite. And the field inspector won’t care what someone in the office told you.

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Milt Rye
Milt Rye
October 23, 2013 7:08 am

I have found that although the codes are “standardized”, the interpretation of them by jurisdiction and inspector can be very subjective. I have added a clause to my contracts that the homeowners sign acknowledging in a nutshell that I have no control over the inspector. If the inspector requires work that is beyond our written scope in order to get signoff on inspection, that work is a change order and will be charged additionally. Obviously I am not going to charge extra for adding some minor hardware or other minor re-work. That kind of stuff is built into the quote.… Read more »

Lee Brooks
Lee Brooks
October 23, 2013 5:59 am

“And the field inspector won’t care what someone in the office told you. “

This is gold. It sometimes feels like the office staff and the inspectors have never met before and work for different companies.

One thing we have used in the past to keep things moving, is offering to send photos of the corrected work for minor infractions. This will only work if the inspector has and uses e-mail. Yes, sadly, I have worked with inspectors who are not sure what email is, let alone how to use it.

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