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Coffee break Bulletin

Building construction special inspections: When are they required?

Updated: Jan. 8, 2021

Anyone who has watched a building under construction can appreciate its complexity and sophistication. Occasionally, inspection and testing requirements create the need for certain inspections that the local codes official may not be qualified or experienced to address or require third-party assistance.

The model building codes address this need through a specific requirement for structural tests and “special” inspections. A special inspection can be required for materials, installation, fabrication, erection or placement of components and connections where special expertise is needed. The cost of the special inspection is covered by the project owner or the registered design professional.

Special inspections

The following table identifies some of the special inspections required by the codes. It is not an exhaustive list, so be certain to check your locally adopted code for required special inspections.

InspectionInspection function (examples)
Steel constructionVerify integrity of framing welds, joints and high-strength bolts, locations of bracing and stiffening materials.
Concrete constructionCheck reinforcing steel, connecting bolts, application technique, strength, required design mix and curing maintenance.
Masonry constructionAssess mortar joint construction, grout placement, reinforcement welding and prestressing techniques.
Wood constructionCheck high-load diaphragms, framing members at panel edges, nail or staple diameters and length.
Pile and pier foundationsEvaluate materials, sizes, lengths, placement, plumbness, diameters and embeddedness.
SoilsTest soil classification, bearing capacity, fill quality and density.
Sprayed fire-resistant materialsMeasure thickness; density; and bond strength to floors, walls and structural elements.
Mastics and intumescent coatingsEstablish compliance with Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industries standards.
Smoke controlVerify performance, operation and interaction with other systems and controls.
Special casesValidate unusual designs, materials that must be installed to manufacturer’s specifications, alternate methods and materials.

Action step to learn more about special inspections

Enroll in these National Fire Academy (NFA) courses: Fire Inspection Principles I (R0390) and Plans Review for Fire and Life Safety (R0393). The courses are available at the NFA in Emmitsburg, Maryland, or through your state fire service training agency.

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