Home inspections have become standard practice according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition. According to the handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor-Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following are the significant points about construction and building inspectors.
- About 45 percent of inspectors worked for local governments, primarily municipal or county building departments.
- Many home inspectors are self-employed.
- Opportunities should be best for experienced construction supervisors and craftworkers who have some college education, engineering or architectural training, or certification as construction inspectors or plan examiners.
- Home inspection has become a standard practice in the home-purchasing process, creating more opportunities for home inspectors.
The information in this section of the handbook covers all types of building and construction inspectors, but home inspectors are specifically mentioned, as follows:
Nature of the work
Home inspectors conduct inspections of newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, town homes, manufactured homes, residential-unit living (apartments) and, at times, commercial buildings. Home inspection has become a standard practice in the home-purchasing process. Typically, home inspectors are hired by prospective homebuyers to inspect and report on the condition of a home’s systems, components, and structure. Although they look for and report violations of building codes, they do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes. Typically, home inspectors are hired either immediately prior to a purchase offer on a home or as a contingency to a sales contract. In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors inspect all home systems and features, including roofing as well as the exterior, site, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior, plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling systems. Some home inspections are done for home-
owners who want an evaluation.
Training, other qualifications andadvancement
Although requirements vary considerably, depending upon where one is employed, construction and building inspectors should have a thorough knowledge of construction materials and practices in either a general area, such as structural or heavy construction or a specialized area, such as electrical or plumbing systems, reinforced concrete or structural steel. Home inspectors combine a knowledge of multiple specialties; so many of them have a combination of certifications, as well as previous experience in various construction trades. For example, many inspectors previously worked as carpenters, electricians, plumbers or pipefitters.
Because inspectors must possess the right mix of technical knowledge, experience and education, employers prefer applicants who have both formal training and experience. Most employers require at least a high school diploma or the equivalent, even for workers with considerable experience. More often, employers look for persons who have studied engineering or architecture, or who have a degree from a community or junior college with courses in building inspection, home inspection, construction technology, drafting and mathematics. Many community colleges offer certificate or associate’s degree programs in building inspection technology. Courses in blueprint reading, algebra, geometry and English also are useful. A growing number of construction and building inspectors are entering the occupation with a college degree, which often can substitute for previous experience.
Construction and building inspectors must be in good physical condition in order to walk and climb about construction and building sites. They also must have a driver’s license so that they can get to scheduled appointments.
The level of training requirements varies by type of inspector and state. In general, construction and building inspectors receive much of their training on the job, although they must learn building codes and standards on their own. Working with an experienced inspector, they learn about inspection techniques; codes, ordinances, and regulations; contract specifications; and recordkeeping and reporting duties. Supervised on-site inspections also may be a part of the training. Other requirements can include various courses and assigned reading. Some courses and instructional material are available online, as well as through formal venues. An engineering or architectural degree often is required for advancement to supervisory positions.
Another 25 percent of construction and building inspectors worked for architectural and engineering services firms, conducting inspections for a fee or on a contract basis. Many of these were home inspectors working on behalf of potential real estate purchasers. Most of the remaining inspectors were employed in other service-providing industries or by state governments. About one in 10 construction and building inspectors was self-employed. Since many home inspectors are self-employed, it is likely that most self-employed construction and building inspectors were home inspectors.
The routine practice of obtaining home inspections is a relatively recent development, causing employment of home inspectors to increase rapidly. Although employment of home inspectors is expected to continue to increase, the attention given to this specialty, combined with the desire of some construction workers to move into less strenuous and potentially higher paying work, may result in competition in some areas. In addition, increasing state regulations are starting to limit entry into the specialty only to those who have a given level of previous experience and are certified.
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Increase your awareness of housing innovations
The PATH Technology Inventory lists over 160 new technologies—from advanced framing techniques to white LED lighting—that demonstrate great potential for improving housing performance, but that have not been widely used or accepted.
PATH-Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing—solicits submissions of new technologies from trade associations and manufacturers. PATH and NAHB Research Center staffs select technologies to be included in the Inventory to accelerate awareness and acceptance of those technologies.
For instance, aerosol duct sealing can be found in the Building Systems category.
It is described as “a retrofit method for sealing existing HVAC ducts,” and summarized as follows:
“An estimated 15 to 30 percent of a home’s total heating and cooling energy is lost through leaky ductwork, costing consumers about $5 billion annually. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has developed a method for internally sealing heating and cooling ducts using a pressurized aerosol sealant. Aerosol duct sealing can reduce duct leakage by up to 90%, and reduce energy use by up to 30%. It can also be used on existing homes without moving attic insulation or removing wall and ceiling finishes to gain access to ducts.
“Aerosol duct sealing forces vinyl acetate adhesive particles into heating and cooling duct systems via specialized equipment. The adhesive particles are kept suspended by the airflow until they naturally try to exit the duct system through leaks. In the process, particles are flung against the holes where they adhere and build up until the leak is closed.”
As with each technology in the Inventory, information about installation, warranty, benefits/costs, manufacturers, testimonials and CAD details are included when appropriate.
PATH sponsors include the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National on-site Wastewater Recycling Association (NOWRA), Plastics Pipe Institute and the Steel Framing Alliance. To learn more, visit www.toolbase.org/techinv/index.aspx.