Inspection Etiquette


Someone is really using their outdoor voice...
Yelling louder doesn’t get your point across…

1. As always be prepared. If you are not ready for a scheduled inspection, cancel it. No one needs to have their time wasted and someone that is ready for an inspection may not get one if the inspector has to show up on an unprepared job. Don’t schedule an inspection just to ask advice or a consultation. That can be done during office hours. Your inspector is a regulator, not your design professional. Never say “I’ve been doing it this way for twenty years.” All that says to an inspector is you haven’t read a code book in 7 cycles. Be polite and friendly. Inspectors are people and will be respectful unless they are dealing with a difficult customer.

2. Have your APPROVED set of plans ready. Inspectors are not interested in your job site set. They want to see the APPROVED plans, stamped special Inspection reports, past correction notices, job card, conditions of approval (from Zoning if a separate document)and your construction management plan if applicable. They also want to see a  clean site with Best Management Practices (BMP’s) employed. Don’t leave your inspector waiting for you to find the plans and other documents. Have everything ready and organized for your inspector. Inspectors don’t like time wasted waiting for unprepared customers to get it together. BE READY .


3. Don’t tell the inspectors about your health and money issues. They are irrelevant to the inspector and, chances are, they have been through similar times.

4. Don’t underestimate the inspector’s knowledge. A seasoned inspector can easily tell legal from illegal construction.

5. “Existing” doesn’t mean you built it over the weekend, therefore it’s existing. Existing means that the work was done with permits to the Codes and Standards at the time it was built.

6. If you disagree with an inspector’s correction notice, talk to them with a code book in hand. If you are not sure what the codes, standards and local ordinances are, it’s your fault. Do your homework. Inspector errors are common, but there are ways to deal with them. No inspector thinks they know it all and most are eager to learn from more experienced trade’s people. Saying “they don’t make me do that in Oak City” is not going to persuade anyone. Inspector’s enjoy good code discussion and if you are open minded, you may learn something too.

CaliforniaBuildingCode7. Always have current Code books on your job. That could save you lots of time. Otherwise it’s back to the office in the morning for another round of “persuade the inspector” without anything to back you up. If you are a trades person, having the current regulations on the job is essential. Inspectors love to see them on the job and know they are dealing with professionals when they see them in your truck, office or on your computer, especially if they are tattered and highlighted.

8. Supervisors, Building Officials and Chiefs usually back up their staff. If they can’t trust their inspectors, they will be removed from the field.

9. Going Political most likely will get you nowhere unless your council person has the authority to sign off on Building Cards. Not likely. If you are convinced you are right and you just have a stubborn inspector, ask for a meeting with the inspector and his immediate supervisor. The inspector will usually arrange the meeting for you, as long as you are polite and it’s an adult discussion regarding an interpretation.

10. If you are calling for a DWV test, have it fully under test when the inspector arrives. Don’t start filling the system when they arrive. That’s called not ready. The same goes for gas tests, electrical equipment strapping, labeling and neutral identification for new services

11. Is an address posted on your job? if there are multiple units, did you leave instructions on how to get in? Way too often inspectors can’t find the job because simple instructions are left out. If you think that an inspector is always going to call your cell phone, think again. Theirs die just like yours. Sometimes yours is busy. Inspectors hate to wait.  Always leave the details on how to make contact at the site. What is apparent to you, may not be to your inspector.

12. Special inspections are not in lieu of inspections by the Authority Having Jurisdiction. You must have the inspector see everything before covering, even if an engineer is required to provide a special inspector report. Have that in hand and ready to submit.

13. Read the Instructions! Have all installation instructions for equipment to be inspected on the job. Highlight the areas of importance. This lets your inspector know that you read them. All too often the inspector will take the correction notice right from the installation standards.

14. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. If you did not pass inspection, it is NOT because the inspector was in a bad mood,  or the inspector just flat out didn’t like you. Chances are your job was cited because it is UNSAFE. Remember, inspectors like to sign off jobs, its less work than writing a detailed correction, and inspectors like to see jobs moving. There is nothing worse than going to a problem job day after day without resolution. If you get a correction, treat it as a learning experience and take responsibility for it. Making it a personality conflict and going to the inspector’s supervisor will not advance your job, especially if your inspector’s corrections are justified. If the corrections are not legal, and your inspector is not willing to work with you, diplomatically bring it to the inspector’s supervisor citing code and verse where you know you are correct.

15. For Pete’s sake, have someone on the job that can answer the inspector’s questions, someone that understands the scope of work and knows where all the job documents are. Most jurisdictions give you a window of when they will be there. That’s a lot better than some other private services give like “sometime on the 25th”. If getting your job passed is important, be there! Don’t let the homeowner stand in your stead and don’t expect the inspector to call you from the job! Inspectors don’t inspect by telephone. They want to be able to get the information they need that will enable the job to be passed. If it is not important for you to be there, it’s not likely to be important enough to inspect by phone, or pass the job if an unknowledgeable person is standing in for the contractor ! 

16. The road to correction notices is paved with good intentions. Builders and contractors tend to ask for forgiveness because their intentions are good. Well, if you fail the bar exam, studied hard and have good intentions, you still won’t be able to practice law. What matters is health and safety. Nothing else.


Thank you to the Inspectors that made contributions to this list, but wish to to remain anonymous.