What Does a Building Inspector Do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A building inspector is responsible for examining buildings to make sure that they conform with the building code, and are safe to use. Many inspectors work for regional governments and planning offices, inspecting and approving new construction along with remodeling projects. It is also possible to hire an independent inspector who can inspect a prospective real estate purchase or offer advice on the building or remodeling of a building.

Building inspectors are familiar with local codes.
Building inspectors are familiar with local codes.

The primary goal of the inspector is to enforce the building code. The code is designed to create a minimum level of safety and construction quality, and in some regions, the building code may also address aesthetic issues. Because building codes tend to change frequently, building inspectors spend a great deal of time keeping up on the latest additions, alterations, and removals to the building code, so that they are judging buildings to the proper standard.

Building inspections may be conducted throughout the construction process.
Building inspections may be conducted throughout the construction process.

As a general rule, when a new structure is built, before the structure can be used, the building inspector must be allowed in to examine it, confirming that it is safe for use. If the inspector clears the building, it can be occupied or sold, depending on the intent of the owner. Some inspectors also inspect plans for new construction which are brought to government offices for approval, so that issues with a structure can be identified early, saving time and money.

When people apply for a building permit to remodel or tear down, a building inspector will be involved to confirm that the process is done properly, safely, and legally. Inspectors can also flag people for violations, as for instance when someone makes an unauthorized addition to a home, or when a structure presents an obvious hazard and should be condemned. People are usually given a set period of time to address or correct violations, or face legal penalties.

If a building inspector examines and clears a building and a safety issue later develops, he or she could potentially be held liable, as could the government office which authorized the construction. For this reason, inspectors tend to be meticulous and finicky. People who are planning building and remodeling projects should definitely make a habit of being friendly and cooperative with the inspector, as a stickler can turn a construction job into a nightmare. While a friendly relationship won't lead the official to turn a blind eye to problems, it may lead to more rapid inspections and approvals, along with helpful suggestions and tips.

A building inspector may inspect and approve remodeling projects.
A building inspector may inspect and approve remodeling projects.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


My son works for a commercial real estate company and works with commercial building inspectors on a regular basis.

When they are getting ready to rent the property to a new renter, they have to make sure everything is up to code. They know they can receive some big fines if things are not kept current and safe.

I know that some people view building inspectors as very picky and hard to please, but they do have an important job making sure the building is safe and legal. The responsibility can fall back on them if they miss something that causes harm down the road.


One of our former neighbors is a building code inspector and when we moved in to our current house, we hired him to inspect the house before we signed the contract.

We were buying the house from a bank, and he found a new things we were able to negotiate with the bank for a lower price on.

It gave us more confidence knowing we had an inspector that we knew and trusted and would be honest with us.


@Sara007 - I am glad that you had a building inspector come in and look everything over. Nothing is worse for a home buyer than getting stuck with a lemon.

My friend is currently getting his building inspector certification, and they really emphasize that the building inspector career is all about safety and preventing people from making bad purchasing decisions. I am glad that there are building inspectors out there that are available to give people good honest advice about the homes they are looking at. Buying your first home should be an adventure, and not something that you lose sleep over or get swindled doing.


When you are buying your first home makes sure that you have a certified building inspector look at the place before you sign anything binding. You would be surprised at the sorts of problems that rest hidden from untrained eyes.

My husband and I thought we had found the perfect property, and on a friend's advice we decided to have a home building inspector come in and look at everything before we purchased it. It turned out that the piping was shot and it needed a new furnace. It would have cost of thousands of dollars to make the repairs, and it was so far out of our budget that we ended up just moving on to another home.

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