We’re in the middle of our first round of inspections. Code compliance is a city or township issue with various municipalities adopting or not adopting different forms of general sets of building codes. There are huge, thick books you can get at your local library that are titled such exciting things as National Electrical Code (NEC). Your town or city will subscribe to some or all of the parts within these national or international volumes. I don’t know much about where the codes come from besides that. I suppose like most things, it’s a conglomeration of interest groups, academic and trade professionals, politicians, and other municipal officials. It’s then up to your city or county inspector’s office to know and enforce the codes of their jurisdiction. While I’m sure there are endless debates to have about the nitty-gritty of individual codes, I think it’s good enough to accept that the spirit of the codification of these ideas is to provide for the safe habitability of structures and a uniform system of assembly and maintenance.
But rules are only as good as those that enforce them. A law that no one follows isn’t much more than some extra paper gathering dust somewhere. That’s where the inspectors come into play. And like a referee, an inspector is going to use their best judgement to figure out how the rules apply in a situation by situation play call. For our project, we have two rounds of inspection. This is because we’re doing work that involves opening and closing walls. The first round, called the “Rough In” is where the inspectors come through an look at things that will be hidden later in the project. For example, our plumbing inspector will look at all the pipes that will one day hide behind bathroom walls. Likewise, the electrical inspector will examine the wire runs before you start hooking up your outlets and switches. If we were just doing cosmetic changes like patching drywall or replacing flooring, then we could do just the final inspection. In many ways, the final inspection is just a walk through to make sure that there’s no glaring problems like doors that don’t work or faucets that don’t turn on. The rough in is a more technical examination of what’s under your hood.
As of writing this, we’ve had 2 of our 4 inspections. In the city of Cleveland, you pull a general permit for building alterations and then additional permits for each of the mechanicals: electric, plumbing, and HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Condition). So each of these four forms have an associated inspector that will come through for those systems. Often times that inspector will be a former or even current tradesperson in that field. Our plumbing inspector, for example, was a plumber for over 30 years prior to working for the city. So far, so good. Our electrical checked out and the inspector said it looked really nice and professional. Likewise, our plumbing looks good too. The only negatives so far are that we need to hardpipe the gas hot water heater into the gas line (it’s currently hooked up with one of those flex hoses) and two hanging pipes need to be strapped in the basement. Both of those things we can do and have checked on the final inspection because they’re not hidden behind walls. Our HVAC inspection will be pretty simple. It’s just examining a couple of ducts we moved around and a vent line I put into the kitchen for an exhaust hood over the stove. The general inspection then is everything else: structural changes, proper insulation, proper installing of various doors, windows, and whatnot.
Once we clear this hurdle, we can literally finish everything. It’ll open a torrent of drywalling, flooring, painting, tiling, and all manner of fun stuff. In the mean time, we’re working on finishing around the edges. We’re doing things like patching drywall damage in bedrooms and prepping the floors for sanding and staining. Unfortunately, due to recent scandals in the county over the last 5 years plus the recession, Cleveland has dramatically reduced their headcount in the inspector’s office, so getting on people’s schedule has been slow going.
Awesome. As I was writing this post, I just got in contact with the HVAC inspector and we’ll meet this afternoon. Maybe we can get this all cleared up sooner rather than later.
Anyways, Cleveland has about a third of the inspectors they once did and people have been shuffled around so I’m sure they’re very busy people. Case in point, there’s only 3 HVAC inspectors for the entire city. That’s not just for residential properties. These people also have to inspect commercial and industrial properties as well. While I just need a signature on my 10ft of 6″ duct work, other people need entire apartment buildings checked out. That’s got to be a huge workload.