I haven’t started the fun, exciting part of the building process yet, but as I'm heading toward the end of the planning phase, I'm starting to reach out to folks who I'll need for the actual construction phase. So, today I called a building inspector. In this week’s very quick post, I’ll tell you what happened.
I wanted to speak with one of the building inspectors in my county for two reasons:
1) to develop a rapport with him so he would know my name, recognize my project and get to know me as a friendly, cooperative person ? and 2) so I could find out what he needed to complete a pre-construction consultation/evaluation of my plans.
I called my local Department of Inspections and ask to speak to an inspector. I got right through. After a minute or two of chit chat, he asked me who my builder would be. I told him that I planned on being an owner-builder with the help of an experienced, full time builder acting as a consultant. I wasn't sure what his response would be. I was kind of nervous to tell him about the owner-builder thing (inspectors usually aren't big fans of owner-builders). But, all he said was "Oh, okay." He didn't seem particularly surprised or disturbed.
As we talked further, I told him that I like the idea of an inspection process (some more rural counties don't require inspections). And I do. I know that building inspections can slow the building process down and sometimes be headache, but those building inspectors will serve as another set of critical eyes who will be looking at your house for anything that might cause it to be unsafe, weak or less durable. So, I want my house inspected well and I wanted the inspector to know that.
Now, the pre-construction evaluation... The inspector told that in our county, this pre-construction evaluation is required to get a building permit. In some areas, he admitted, it is not required. He said they like to do them to eliminate any potential problems up front, before construction even starts. I think a pre-construction evaluation/consultation is a really good idea, even if it's not required in your area. As I often say, the easiest time make changes to a house is when it's on paper (on the house plan). Better to find out what parts of your plan are not compliant with code before it's built.
For the pre-construction evaluation/consultation, I'll need to provide the inspector with:
-a floor plan
-drawings of all 4 elevations (meaning a drawing to include each side of the exterior of the house)
-a foundation plan
-a plot plan (which shows where the house will be located in relation to your property lines)
-a wall section (This shows cross section cuts of the exterior wall from the roof down through the foundation. These wall sections specify the home’s construction and building materials. They also show the number of stories, type of foundation and the construction of the walls. Roofing materials, insulation, floor framing, wall finishes and elevation heights are all shown).
You may needed different documents, so check with your department of inspections to be sure.
I'll have to provide 2 sets of everything and plans need to be in 1/4 inch scale, meaning a 1/4 inch on the drawings is equivalent to 1 foot. One set of plans will be kept by the inspector to reference throughout the construction process and one set will be marked up by the inspector during the pre-construction evaluation. He will mark those features that need to changed to be code compliant. Not only will he mark the areas of the house that need to be changed, but he will also site the specific building code that he referenced. Seems fair to me.
When I go to drop off my documents for the pre-construction evaluation, I'll pick up the building permit application. I'll fill that out while my house plans are being reviewed.
So, that's what I learned from my first interaction with a building inspector. It went well, I think. I'm now waiting on my structural engineer to complete my foundation plan (my lot is sloped so I had to get an engineer involved). In the meantime, I'll start calling potential subcontractors and their references. I've decided that instead of getting frustrated, I'll do all that I can do while waiting for the professionals to complete their tasks.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast/post is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, Building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.