How to Prepare for Building Inspections

preparing for a building inspection

Preparing for a building inspection is the last major step in completing your project. Once you have all the pre-required permits, you will need to apply for a building permit. You will need copies of all the required pre-permits and a copy of your building plans to submit to the building department. The cost of the permit is normally determined by the cost of the project. The bigger the project the higher the cost.

Once submitted the building department will review your file and verify you have all required permits and drawings. The building inspector will perform what is called a plan review of your plans, checking for code compliance and safety items. If your plans are complete and code compliant you would then be issued a building permit for your project.

Preparing For a Building Inspection

Inspections are broken down into segments.

The building inspector wants to see your work before too much is completed and changes can be made without too much hassle. Inspections and the number of inspections can vary greatly by jurisdiction. Be sure to get the list of required inspections from your building department.

Let just touch on a few of the big inspections:

  • Footing/ foundation– this inspection is done after your footings are dug and form boards are in place and prior to pouring concrete. The inspector will be looking at footings and the foundation for correct sizes and frost depths per your building plans.
  • Rough-inspection – This is completed after the floor, wall, and roof framing is completed. You will also need to have all of your rough mechanical, plumbing and electrical installed and inspected prior to scheduling your rough building inspection.

Points of Focus

Be sure to have your required truss prints of the roof system on site. The inspector will need to verify all required bracing is in place and the loading is correct according to any snow loads for your area. Checking for stair rise and run per code will be another thing they will be looking at.

These can only vary by 3/8″ per most codes. Another major point to look for is looking for proper egress requirements in doors and windows. A swinging 3/0 x 6/8 door meets the egress requirement for exiting and bedrooms require and egress window of at least 5.7 sq. feet, and be less than 44″ off the floor. There is an exception for ground floor windows to drop to 5.0 sq. feet.

  • This means if the ground is closer than the required 44″ to the window sill the size can be reduced. 

Fixed or operable windows must include safety glass if they measure larger than 9 feet square, the bottom edge is less than 18 inches above the floor, the top edge is more than 36 inches above the floor, and there is a walking surface within 36 inches of the glass.

Tempered glass is not required unless all four of these conditions are met. Per the International Residential Code, all glass or panels in fixed, operable, swinging, sliding and bifold doors must be constructed from safety glass, regardless of size.

In addition, any glass located adjacent to a door within a 24-inch arc of the door must be constructed from safety glass if the bottom edge of the glass is less than 60 inches above the walking surface. The only exception to these rules is decorative glass, and any glass opening too small for a 3-inch ball to pass through.

While these IRC rules apply to all residences in the United States, San Francisco law also requires all glass located within 40 inches of an exterior or interior dwelling unit door be tempered or burglar-resistant.

Last But Not Least: Preparing For a Building Inspection

Finally: this one is key. Final means final. Nothing will upset a building inspector more than asking for a final inspection before the project is complete. This means paint, doors installed and trim applied, cabinets hung, flooring laid, all siding, brick or stone and everything else in the house.

Be sure to have your address posted also, this is a building code requirement. Final inspections usually tend to go a little more smoothly if you had a good rough inspection. Both the electrical inspector and the building inspector should also test your smoke alarms to be sure all are working and are inter-connected.

Double checking your handrail and guard railing height before the inspection is a good idea. IBC states that, at a bare minimum, guards must be able to sustain a 200 lb. force. In other words, imagine a man possibility falling against the railing. The railing has to sustain 200 pounds of force.

IBC also states handrails must be between 34-38″ measured from the nose of the stair tread.

However, it is important to note that, from a testing standpoint, the guardrail must sustain 2.5x the minimum force. So, really the guardrail must be able to sustain 500 pounds of force.

Balusters and in-fill rails must sustain a minimum of 50 pounds, or a minimum testing force of 125 pounds. Life safety issues are big things to look for.

While this isn’t even close to being a comprehensive list of what any inspector will be looking for, it is a short list of things you or your builder can do your own mini-inspection prior to calling the inspector out.

Anything you can catch beforehand always makes for a shorter, or no list after the actual inspection.

There you have it. The process is quite orderly and simple if you know the proper steps. Work with your local building department and inspector for a smooth running and code compliant project. Knowing the code requirements before you do any work saves both you and your inspector a lot of time and money, and simplifies the process of preparing for a building inspection.

For more information, check out the EZ-Hang Blog.

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