What’s wrong with 3rd-party engineering inspections.

First of all, let me give you some personal background. Besides being a real estate agent, I have also spent years after my Civil Engineering degree at Georgia Tech providing consulting services on both geotechnical and environmental projects for both commercial and residential developers, governments and private citizens. So, I know what I’m talking about here.

I’d also like to say that politically, I’m conservative and believe in small government. Everywhere that government can be replaced by private enterprise is a good thing, in my opinion. However, one of government’s tasks is to protect citizens life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

So, you may ask, what’s a 3rd party inspection? When you build a home, there are several inspections that occur, one of which is the inspection of your home’s footings to make sure the soil underneath is compacted properly and the steel reinforcing bars (rebar) is correctly positioned. The strength of the concrete being poured in the foundations (including a slab foundation) is also tested via an on-site slump test and/or a concrete cylinder breakage test. These inspections help to ensure that your home isn’t going to settle excessively, causing all kinds of problems with your home that can take months or even years to show up.

The Forsyth County commission has voted 4-1 to allow 3rd party inspections for these foundation and concrete pour inspections. Why did they allow this? A developer wanted more flexibility in their work schedule, which is very understandable if they plan on working long hours and weekends, times when a County inspector is not available. As a business owner, I completely understand needing to avoid delays to try and stay profitable.

Unfortunately, I’ve followed behind some 3rd-party “inspections” on properties over my 20+ years in the construction industry. Here are some of the things that really happen:
1) the inspector isn’t a licensed engineer, but is a technician who reports to a licensed engineer. In fact, and engineer actually doesn’t ever actually visit the site.
2) the inspector has so many on their task list for the day that they “trust” a certain builder or developer to do it right, and they end up doing a “drive-by” or “windshield” inspection
3) there can be outright fraud where an inspector is paid cash to overlook deficiencies

As someone who wants to see consumers receive a good product, in this case, I believe having County Inspectors is the way to get it right. Are all of these County Inspectors also engineers? I don’t know, but they should be. Can a County Inspector be paid off just like a 3rd party? Absolutely, but the consequences are pretty heavy if they are caught. Yes, it’s a pain as a builder/developer to wait on an overworked County Inspector to show up, meanwhile your crews are standing around or you have to delay concrete deliveries. I understand all that. However, Forsyth County isn’t a vast area and we have these newfangled cellular telephones these days, which means inspections can be run efficiently by the County as it serves both the citizenry and builder/developers.

Perhaps this is a budget-cutting move, I really don’t know the ins and outs of the whole decision. I just know that this isn’t the best way to ensure that Forsyth County citizens receive a quality product in the form of their biggest investment.

2 responses to “What’s wrong with 3rd-party engineering inspections.

  1. Here’s my simple solution: If you’re building a home, you need to budget the expense to hire your own inspector engineer for the construction process. That way, you know what you’re getting and you have someone working directly for you. Building a home is a huge expense, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it often is.

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