A plumbing inspector is a plumbing professional who specializes in conducting inspections of plumbing systems to confirm that they are safe, legal, and installed by licensed professionals. The government is usually the largest employer of plumbing inspectors, with some governments hiring full-time inspection staffs, while others contract jobs out to licensed plumbing inspectors as needed. In order to work as a plumbing inspector, someone must usually be fully qualified and licensed as a plumber, with an additional certification which allows him or her to work as an inspector.
On new construction projects, the plumbing inspector examines plumbing systems and appliances as they are put in place to confirm that the installation is legal. The plumbing inspector checks vents, traps, faucets, fixtures, and lines. He or she can also ask for proof that the plumbers doing the work are licensed and that their licenses are current. Some plumbing inspectors choose to specialize in residential or commercial plumbing, while others can inspect both types. If a plumbing installation fails inspection, the builder will be cited, and the problems identified by the plumbing inspector must be fixed.
After extensive renovations which involve plumbing systems, the plumbing inspector may be dispatched again to confirm the safety and legality of the plumbing. This can be especially important when people retrofit vintage plumbing systems, as mistakes could be costly or dangerous when people are replacing entire plumbing systems. Plumbing inspectors can also be called in when a problem with a plumbing system develops, as when the water company suspects that a restaurant is discharging grease directly into the sewer.
For plumbers who do not enjoy field work, it is possible to work as a plumbing plans examiner. Plans examiners look at proposed plumbing layouts and plans to determine whether or not the system will comply with the plumbing code. Getting plans passed by an examiner is often an important part of the process for applying for a building permit. When plumbing systems are inspected on site, the plumbing inspector often consults the plumbing plans to determine whether or not the physical plumbing matches that on the proposed plan, and he or she can ask for an explanation if there is a variation.
Inspectors can be employed at various levels of the government. In all cases, their primary goal is to protect public health and safety by making sure that plumbing systems are appropriate for the tasks they are being used for. Plumbing inspectors are also concerned with violations of the code which could be clues to illegal activity, such as plumbing in a garage which might suggest that it is being used for a granny unit.