How to Become
a Building Inspector
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
If you think there’s no demand for building inspectors in the United States, think again. In 2019, over 120,000 jobs were created for building inspectors. That number is projected to increase by 4,000 in the next decade. To take advantage of this expected growth, you might want to consider learning about how you can become a building inspector.
Plenty of opportunities await aspiring building inspectors. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the government employs 42 percent of building inspectors. This is followed by private sector employment opportunities in the engineering and construction industries.
Read on to learn more about how you can make the most of the myriad opportunities available in this exciting field of work.
What Is a Building Inspector?
A building inspector ensures that architects, engineers, real estate developers, sub-contractors, and even interior designers adhere to building code requirements in their respective states and localities. This includes standards that govern structures, plumbing, electrical systems, and mechanical elements.
Because of the number of structures that they inspect, building inspectors can specialize in several areas. Depending on what you examine, you can become a residential or commercial building inspector, permit technician, plumbing inspector, and even a fire inspector.
You could work on specific construction sites or a series of construction projects. You could also just inspect buildings on behalf of your local authority.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Building Inspector?
There isn’t a rigid set of education requirements that you’ll need to fulfill to become a building inspector. At the very least, you’ll need to have a high school diploma to qualify for the role alongside some industry-related work experience.
That said, pursuing further education and training can help you improve your knowledge of the field as well as your job prospects. Make sure that the track you take provides you with a working knowledge of how construction technology works.
It should also give you a reasonable grasp of construction materials, concrete principles, roofing technology, heating and cooling technology, plumbing, and electricity.
Best Building Inspector Education Tracks
There’s a vast array of building inspection courses, degrees, and certifications that you can complete in-person, online, and even at your leisure to become a professional building inspector. The onus is therefore on you to make sure that the institution you attend is recognized by an authoritative body.
Vocational schools or trade schools are a great way to get industry-specific training in building inspection. Besides the strong emphasis on hands-on training, trade schools also offer a shorter program length of two years or less and a lower cost of attendance. Some trade schools also offer part-time programs that grant more room for flexibility.
The Diploma of Building and Construction is an outstanding example of a trade school course that can be completed while you work. The program lasts for 43 weeks but is offered on a part-time basis. It can also be taken online or in person.
A community college is a great option If you’re looking for a more rounded education. This can equip you with the skills you’ll need to become a building inspector while allowing you to explore other areas of knowledge. Most community college programs last two years, after which you’ll get a certificate or an associate degree.
An example of a qualification that you can secure at a community college is the Certificate Of Completion in Building Inspection (CCL). The CCL is a general qualification with a broader scope. It also provides a pathway to more comprehensive programs like the Associate In Applied Sciences (AAS) in Construction Management.
Building Inspector Degrees
You can also consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree program in construction management or construction economics for more in-depth training and education. Both qualifications are most appropriate if you want to be involved in every aspect of a major construction project instead of just working on inspection.
Because a degree program covers more bases, it will also grant you more employment opportunities. Note, however, that a bachelor’s degree program costs higher and runs longer than the two options above.
Building Inspector Courses
You can also opt for a certificate from the many building inspection courses available online. While some of these courses lack live online engagement, they do give you more freedom to learn at your pace and convenience. What’s more, because these courses usually last a week or less, you can take as many as you want to improve your skills and knowledge.
The Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association (CCPIA) is a great resource for building inspector courses that can be completed online. These include courses in ladder safety, commercial property inspection, and commercial inspection code of ethics.
How to Become a Building Inspector: A Step-by-Step Guide
While educational qualifications are important, you’ll need more than that to become a building inspector. Below is a list of the steps you’ll need to take to jumpstart a career in building inspection.
Determine what you need to operate.
Because there are no standard requirements for aspiring building inspectors, what you’ll need to start your career may vary by state or industry. Before you commit to any track, find out what certifications or licenses you’ll need for your prospective place of work or industry. Then, work towards it.
Decide on an education track.
Once you determine what you’ll need to qualify, examine the education tracks available to you and choose the one that meets your needs. If you choose to learn at an institution, make sure that it’s accredited and offers high quality of instruction.
Get some on-the-job training.
More than theoretical knowledge, hands-on training and experience matter more in building inspection. You can get some of this by joining mentoring programs and shadowing professional building inspectors.
Seek further education or certification.
Aside from proper training and work experience, most states also require licenses to operate from building inspectors. You may also need professional certifications from accredited organizations. Again, these requirements vary by state so make sure to check before investing your time and resources.
Apply to be a building inspector.
Different states and territories might (or might not) require that you apply to work in building inspection. If an application needs to be submitted, that will require the submission of all the relevant documents too. Once your application is approved, you can start applying for jobs or canvassing for clients.
Key Building Inspector Skills
The most outstanding building inspectors have an eye for detail. This is especially important when the building under inspection is at a very early stage of deterioration. Sometimes, building developers actively conceal defects from inspectors.
You’ll therefore need to be thorough with your examinations. To accomplish this, you’ll need to be knowledgeable on all fronts. Below are several of the areas you’ll need to be proficient with to become a skilled building inspector.
Knowledge of Your Local Building Code
Being knowledgeable about your area code also extends to knowing things like local laws, state laws, ordinance rules, regulations for sewers, and regulations for floodplains. You might not need a degree to be an inspector but you will certainly do a considerable amount of reading and memorizing.
Knowledge of Design and Construction
As a building inspector, the safety of the residents or users of the structure you’re examining will be your key priority. You need to be able to pick up on defects in foundations, floors, walls, and roofs. You also need to know what designs have been approved by local town planning and whether that has been adhered to.
Knowledge of Building Materials
In the construction industry, developers and sub-contractors are often under pressure to build on time and under budget. This leads to some people taking shortcuts and settling on substandard materials.
As a building inspector, you should be able to tell when those shortcuts have been taken. You should know the quality and strength of all building materials to ensure that the structure can withstand or resist any natural hazards.
Building Inspector Salary and Job Outlook
Building inspectors can look forward to an average salary of $59,941, according to PayScale. This is higher than the average income in the United States across all occupations, which according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $48,516.
This figure may go up or down depending on the industry, state, or company that one works in. PayScale reports that top-earning building inspectors pocket as much as $98,000 per year while those at the bottom 10 percent earn as much as $38,000 per year.
There’s some expected employment growth in the industry within the next decade. Building inspector jobs are expected to grow by about three percent by 2029, according to BLS. That’s as fast as the average job growth across all occupations.
Entry-Level Building Inspector Job Requirements
As an entry-level building inspector, your day-to-day tasks will focus on just that: inspection. To fulfill your duties, you’ll need to have a working knowledge of building inspection methods and best practices, safety requirements, and the use of standard testing equipment.
Codes will be your friend as you start your career. You must be proficient in interpreting and examining compliance with standard building codes, electrical codes, plumbing codes, mechanical codes, energy codes, and fire prevention codes.
After gaining experience, you can then look into earning other professional certifications to move up the ladder.
What Does a Building Inspector Do?
As a building inspector, you’ll likely adopt the same routine every time you are on site. After all, while building codes might vary by state, the core principles of inspection remain. On a typical day, you’ll find yourself performing the tasks below.
Shines a Torch or Flashlight Over Skirting and Cornices
Even if you are operating in broad daylight, a torch or flashlight will help you pick up on any faults and defects along the skirting and cornices of a building. Also check the walls, ceiling, and other areas to ensure that they are properly installed and supported.
Picks Up on Leaks
Leaky pipes are a common problem in buildings and situated on kitchens, showers, and taps. Detecting potentially leaky pipes is important as fixing them can be costly. Moisture meters are readily available to inspectors. They run these moisture meters along walls and over the floor to detect rising damp.
Checks for Structural Cracks
A common find for inspectors is cracked brickwork, even on a recently completed home. Some of those cracks are just settlement cracks, which is normal for newly built structures. These are not a problem for an inspector.
However, some structural cracks may require further intervention or consultation with an engineer. This is a crucial part of the inspection, which is why detailed notes and photos are taken of these cracks.
Examines Roof Voids
Once you are done with your room-by-room analysis and have checked the floors, walls, ceilings, doors, and windows, you can then move on to the roof. Check for problems with the timber, bracing, insulation, and roof flashing.
Examines the Exterior of the Building
This part of the inspection places particular emphasis on what’s outside the building. That entails the assessment of the gutters, roof tiles, fascia boards, pergolas, outbuildings, fences, specialized structures, and the pathways around the property.
Building Inspector Certifications
While professional certification is not a standard prerequisite to working as a building inspector, it has been increasingly required by most states in the United States. Note that some certifications will have to be renewed periodically by retraining or completing a set of courses.
M2 Commercial Mechanical Inspector Certification
Offered by the International Code Council (ICC), this certification requires 21 hours of training. It’s designed to give you a better grasp of general administration, water heaters, exhaust and ventilation systems, duct systems, combustion air, and fuel supply systems.
ICC members will need to pay $995 to take the program while non-members must cough up $1,195.
Residential Building Inspector B1 Certification
Also offered by the International Code Council, this certification requires the completion of 21 hours of coursework, usually covered within three days. Members will fork out $995 for this, while outsiders will pay $1,195.
Earning the certification means you’ve mastered several areas of residential building inspection. That includes code administration, building planning, footings and foundation, floor and wall construction, and special construction for residential properties.
Certified Professional Inspector (CPI) Certification
The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI) offers this certification. To earn the credential, you’ll need to complete six steps. First, you’ll need to pass the online inspector examination. Once you do, you’ll be required to join InterNACHI, complete two courses, draft mock inspection reports, and enroll.
How to Prepare for Your Building Inspector Job Interview
After completing your training, it’s time to enter the job market. Before that, however, you’ll need to ace your job interview. Like any other job interview, you’ll most likely get a mix of questions that seek to assess your technical knowledge and soft skills.
For the former, expect to answer questions that test your knowledge of building codes, building materials, and design and construction. Any related work experience will also matter in your job interview. For the latter, be prepared to answer questions that ask about your time management, communication, and organizational skills.
Building Inspector Job Interview Practice Questions
- Can you handle crawling beneath a house or moving through crawl spaces?
- How effective are you at managing your time?
- What are the biggest building foundation problems you have encountered?
- What experience do you have with using survey instruments and test equipment?
- Have you ever been offered a bribe ahead of an inspection? If yes, how did you handle it?
- Are you competent with blueprint reading and interpreting plans and site layouts?
How Long Does It Take to Become a Building Inspector?
The time it takes to become a building inspector will vary on the path you take to gain the necessary skills and knowledge. You will need some form of formal education to bolster your knowledge base.
A standard vocational program will take you about a year to complete. So, too, will a community college program. A degree program, meanwhile, will take you at least three years to complete.
If you are confident in the knowledge base that you have, you can sit a professional certification exam. That is not going to take you more than a day. Otherwise, you can take preparatory programs before you sit the exam.
Several of these are offered by institutions like the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association (CCPIA) and the International Code Council. Some do not last longer than 21 hours of study.
Should You Become a Building Inspector in 2021?
It may be worth considering becoming a building inspector especially since construction activities are expected to increase in 2021. According to consulting firm Deloitte, the construction and engineering outlook for 2021 is positive. That is partly because the industry has found ways to adapt and absorb the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.
Pair that up with the projected creation of thousands of building inspection jobs and a career in one becomes more appealing.
Building Inspector FAQs
Do building inspectors work regular hours?
The vast majority of building inspectors work regular jobs, both in the government and in the private sector. That means that you will need to commit about 40 hours per week. Your hours may vary, however, if you are self-employed since you’ll have to adjust according to client demands and schedules.
Is building inspection a tough job?
Being a building inspector becomes tedious when you write reports. It may also test your physical stamina. While you won’t do any heavy lifting, you might find yourself crawling through tight and dark spaces depending on the infrastructure you’re inspecting.
Is a home inspector the same as a building inspector?
No, a home inspector and a building inspector are not the same. A home inspector deals with evaluating the integrity and condition of a building before its sale. A building inspector evaluates the construction or renovation of a building, ensuring compliance with building codes. A home inspector is usually employed by either the seller or the buyer of a building. A building inspector is usually employed by a government agency.
What industries employ building inspectors?
A significant number of building inspectors work for the government while seven percent of the population are self-employed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.