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What Type of Inspections Are Required for Commercial Buildings?

Have you ever pulled a permit for a construction project and wondered what types of inspections are required?

Many people have this question and it can greatly vary depending on the type of project you are working on and the jurisdiction where the project takes place.

Building inspections are a crucial part in any building project to ensure a building is safe for the occupants. The purpose of the inspections required by the International Building Code (IBC) is to verify compliance with the minimum safety standards set forth in the adopted codes by verifying that the building being inspected is built in accordance with the approved construction documents.

The building inspector will inspect all the components of a building in various stages during construction. Although some inspections might be common in most types of buildings, there are some inspections that can be specific based on their geographic location and use. 

To see a list of commercial inspections required, we must look to Section 110.3 of the International Building Code (IBC) which outlines what applicable inspections are required when a permit is issued.

Therefore let us take a look at what those required commercial inspections are.

Footing and Foundation Inspection

The first inspection that typically takes place for any building is the footing and foundation inspection. The inspector will look at the soil on which the foundation is going to be placed on.

A foundation inspection is called for after excavating the soil up to the designed depth and after the placement of any required reinforcement or formwork. The materials used for the foundation must be present on site, except for concrete that is ready mixed and prepared off site.

Concrete Slab and Under-Floor Inspection

Similar to a foundation inspection, a slab and under-floor inspection is done prior to pouring concrete. The inspector will look at the soil and any other required under-slab components such as drainage, waterproofing, damp proofing, reinforcing steel, conduit, piping and other items that are embedded in or below the slab prior to placing the concrete.

After these items are inspected in accordance with the approve plans, then you are allowed to pour. 

When a floor system is being installed other than a slab, similarly these components must be inspected prior to concealing the floor with any floor sheathing material.

Lowest Floor Elevation Inspection

There are some cases where a building is located in a flood hazard area. If this is your geographic location, you will need an inspection to establish the lowest floor elevation. In this case you must provide the building inspector with surveyed documentation of the following specific elevations on the building depending on the following flood zones:

  • The lowest floor elevation must be provided for structures located in flood hazard areas not subject to high-velocity wave action. This is known as A Zones. 
  • The elevation of the lowest horizontal structural member for structures must be provided when located in coastal high hazard areas known as V Zones and Coastal A Zones.

This certification document is the first of two certificates. The first one must be submitted after the lowest floor level is established and prior to any additional construction occurring above this level, so that any errors in the elevation can be corrected. The second certification of the elevation is provided just prior to the final inspection. 

Some communities use the Elevation Certificate form that is developed by FEMA (Form 086-0-33), as insurance agents are required to use this form to write flood insurance policies. 

The Elevation Certificate is also useful during final inspections to record information such as, flood openings, garage floor elevations, and the elevation of equipment that serves buildings. The building inspector will take a copy of this certification to store it in the department’s permanent official records.

Framing Inspection

In a framing inspection, the building inspector will inspect framing members such as studs, joists, rafters and girders. Other items, such as vents and chimneys that will be concealed by wall construction, will be inspected. 

Rough electrical, plumbing, and mechanical works, such as wires, pipes and ducts must be inspected and approved prior to the framing inspection. This is to ensure no changes will occur to the framing such as holes or notches that are a result of the MEP systems within the wall prior to closing it up.

Lath, Gypsum Board and Gypsum Panel Product Inspection

Gypsum board, also known as drywall, is a finished product that gets inspected but other than just a finish material, they can also provide a fire-resistance-rated assembly or some added shear value.

This inspection helps verify that the gypsum board or gypsum wallboard products are properly attached to the framing members. It is important for the building inspector to be able to conduct an inspection of the fasteners before the joint finish material is applied. 

Weather-exposed Balcony and Walking Surface Waterproofing Inspection

When a balcony or other any other type of elevated walking surface is exposed to the weather, such as rain, snow, or irrigation, the structural framing supports must be protected with an impervious moisture barrier. These structural elements must be inspected and approved prior to being concealed by the moisture barrier system.

This is a very important step to ensure the structural elements are protected per the approved construction documents. Structural elements that are not protected from the elements can decay. When a moisture barrier system is used as protection, the building inspector can ask for special inspections to take place if the manufactures installation instructions require additional verification to take place beyond what is required in the code.

Fire-resistant and Smoke-resistant Penetration Inspection

Joint protection and penetration protection within fire rated assemblies such as smoke barriers and smoke partitions, must be inspected before they are concealed.

Energy Efficiency Inspection

In an energy inspection, compliance with the requirements for building envelope (R and U Values, fenestration U-values, duct system R-Value, and HVAC) must be inspected. Items installed in a building such as insulation material, windows, HVAC and water-heating equipment, must be inspected and approved as required by the IECC. 

Other Inspections

Even though the above list of inspections might look like a very large list of inspection items, no one list can include all the items that can be inspected within a building and therefore this section allows the building inspector to require any type of inspection necessary to show compliance with the applicable code provisions. 

Special Inspections

Special inspections are to be provided by the owner for all types of work when required in Chapter 17. Special inspections are a whole other topic but in this post it is important to note that there are other inspections required in other chapters that are not listed in the above required inspections section.

The building inspector must verify that the required special inspections have been conducted. These types of inspections are done by a third party that is paid for by the owner and they typically provide an inspection report of the required inspection to the local building inspector.

Final Inspections

At the end, when all the work required by the building permit is completed, a final inspection is conducted. At this point the construction project should be complete with no items remaining.

One important thing to note here is for those structures located in a flood hazard area, as mentioned above, must have documentation of the elevation of the lowest floor area submitted to the building inspector prior to the final inspection. For a more detailed description as to what documentation is required, you can find this in Section 1612.4.

* Reference Source – 2018 International Building Code – [Buy on Amazon]

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