To Inspect or Not To Inspect....That is the Question

Last month I introduced you to the "Construction Alliance" with reference to "Classified Excavation" and left you to fend for yourself. This month we will dive into the August guideline of the month, which is "Inspection of the Construction Project". In the end, I hope you will better understand why inspections are performed, who performs inspections, and who pays for inspections.

Why are inspections performed?

 During the construction of a project, quality control is an essential component to verify compliance with the Contract Documents and to guarantee the life, safety and welfare of the building occupants, think building codes. There are three different ways in which quality control is guaranteed:

  • Observations
  • Testing
  • Inspections

Observations are usually completed by the design professional during their regular walk through of the job site. During site observation, the design professional will look for a general compliance with the Contract Documents. Should anything appear out of the ordinary, they will write up a non-conforming work notice that alerts the Contractor to a deviation. This allows the Contractor time to repair the issue before items are covered up by subsequent work.

Testing is completed at varying stages of the construction to verify compliance with the materials' essential physical characteristics. An example of testing would be for cast-in-place concrete. The Structural Engineer will provide specifications for certain attributes that the concrete should have, such as compressive strength. When a Contractor pours the concrete, a testing laboratory will make concrete cylinders to verify it's strength. Should a cylinder not meet the specified strength, remedial action would be necessary.

Inspections are similar to observations, but are usually more stringent and performed to confirm that work is complete in accordance with the Contract Documents and the building codes in use at the time of permit issuance.

Who performs inspections?

Inspections are performed by one or more of the following:

  • Owner / Third party inspection company
  • Design Professional of Record
  • Contractor
  • Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

If the Owner has sufficient knowledge, they may self-perform inspections. However, most Owners do not have that knowledge and would elect to use a third party agency to perform inspections. In some cases, it is required by the building code that an independent company, or Special Inspector, perform that work. This inspector can be any competent agency which meets the requirements of Chapter 17 of the International Building Code.

The Design Professional of record will usually perform two inspections, one at Substantial Completion and one at Final Completion, just before final payment in released. This is to confirm that the work is complete according to the Contract and Building Codes.

The Contractor has an obligation to the Owner to do continual inspection of their work and the work of their sub-contractors to verify that the work is complete according to the Contract and Building Codes. Since the Contractor is running the work, they will also be scheduling the inspector at the times appropriate for the inspection required.

The AHJ will perform inspections at varying stages of the work to satisfy the interest of the public's health, safety and welfare.

inspection report

Who pays for inspections?

 In all instances, the Owner is the one paying for the inspection service. Whether it is directly to a third party inspector the Owner has hired or it is lumped in with the construction contract. Securing building permits from the AHJ covers the cost of those inspections.

The value of the inspection!

I recall one project in particular, where the building required drilled concrete piers. Once the subsurface contractor reached the required depth, the specifications required an inspection of the bottom of the pier to verify suitability of the soil. An inspector was lowered to the bottom of the excavation and discovered a rather large void (think cave) they had drilled into. We did not know the exact size of the void, so estimating the amount of concrete to fill it would have been difficult. A more cost effective decision was made to use a steel sleeve, lower the steel cage into it and fill it with concrete. This decision saved unknown quantities of concrete by using the known cost of a steel sleeve. Without having that inspection, the Owner would have literally been pouring money into a hole.

Please make certain to read the guideline "Inspection of the Construction Project", and if you have any comments, please let me know. Hold on tight, because next month I'll break down the exciting world of lien waivers!


Till next month…


Senior Specifier - Conspectus, Inc.

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