Developing Relationships with Building Inspectors

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Developing Solid Professional Relationships are Key To Success

Over the years I’ve been very fortunate to work on some amazing projects. I’ve found over time that one of the keys to most of my successful projects has been my ability to develop strong, respectful relationships with building inspectors and code enforcement officials. Let’s face the facts here folks: If you can’t satisfy the building inspector and/or the fire chief, you’re not going to be successful. I too often see and hear other contractors fighting with building code officials instead of trying to work together toward a common goal. In every one of those situations the relationship sours and progress quickly stalls.

Do Your Homework: First let me start off by saying I’m not suggesting that you kiss up to an inspector. What I’m suggesting is that you learn as much as you can about the technical issues involved in your project ahead of time. Then as issues come up on the job you’ll be able to answer them or at least argue intelligently about the issue. If you’re not familiar with the code then I highly suggest you take some classes occasionally. The quickest way to get respect from building code officials is to show knowledge and understanding of the code issues. NEVER try to pretend you know the answer if in fact you have no idea. If you have questions I encourage you to ask a building code official as they are often more than happy to help explain the issue.

Not In Front Of The Owner: During inspections I highly recommend that you keep arguments to yourself  unless you are alone with the building code official. If the owner or architect are present I recommend you wait until after the meeting to present an argument in defense of a violation. Code officials don’t really appreciate having you question them in front of  owners.

Give and Take: My last piece of advice is likely the best: If you want to develop a good relationship with a building inspector you need to be willing to give and take. You can’t…..no….you won’t win every battle with the building inspector. The key is to learn to give and take with the inspector, give him something he wants and you’ll likely get relief on an issue that’s bothering you. Ultimately if you take the time to develop a strong relationship with your building inspectors they will make your life much easier. They will help you succeed and shine for your clients. Without their support you’ll be climbing one hill after the other while the competition passes you by.

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Todd Fratzel is the editor of Tool Box Buzz and president of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web-based media company focused on the home improvement and construction industries. He’s also... Read more

5 comments on “Developing Relationships with Building Inspectors

  1. Nate Britto

    I completely agree, it is not about kissing up to any one. It’s almost the same principles as showing your “Boss” at work that your a good worker, who takes pride in his work, and can be trusted to complete the job right. If you apply these simple task when dealing with an Inspector, the outcome will be much more satisfying. I have my Massachusetts Construction Supervisors License, and when I first started dealing with inspectors, I got the “low down” from other Contractors which inspectors were a “jerk”, a nightmare, etc. To be honest, they never were as bad as I heard, and I didn’t have to kiss up to any of them. Each Inspector has there own “thing” that they would like to see done a certain way. So I would start picking up on who wants what a certain way, and I would do it that certain way. I also knew that I had to prove myself to these guys, and show them I’m not just some “Hacker” trying to make a quick buck, and move on to the next one. You have to give respect to get respect, and if you respect the codes, and the respect the Inspectors it is going to pay off. Show them that you care about your work, and you respect there position and I promise even the most “Hard Headed”, ignorant inspectors will start to throw back some of that respect you have been giving them. The bottom line is, and you can use this in almost all aspects of life is, put pride in all that you do and the outcome will never disappoint you.

  2. Webmaster

    Todd your dead on…. learn as much as you can about the technical issues involved in your project ahead of time. Then as issues come up on the job you’ll be able to answer them or at least argue intelligently about the issue. Well done sir. ROB

  3. jeff_williams

    Good stuff Todd. One thing that I learned early on when dealing with inspectors is that they are really working towards the same goals you are. A safe and successful building project. One that gives the owners, builders, and community a little pride. As an inspector they want everything to be done right. As builders that should be our goal too. If they point out something you missed, own up to it and thank them for it.

  4. Beth

    Since I’m not a general contractor, I don’t deal with inspectors except for when we are waiting for them to sign off on something so that we can go onto the next step in the project. Last year we were video taping a project for ZIP Systems, and once the building inspector saw the cameras, he “found” a few things wrong that the contractor said had never been a problem before. But the contractor was gracious, did exactly what he asked to fix the problem and we were back on track by the afternoon. Best to win them over with honey. What your grandma taught you stands true with building inspectors just like all other humans in life.

  5. Dirty

    Great article Mr.Fratzel. We have a very unique thing going on over here where good listening and understanding goes a long way. These guys will let you know that they are in charge and they will be treated with respect at all times or they can make your life not so nice!

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