Using Third Party Inspectors
Third party inspectors perform a vital service in the construction industry. All too often this service is value engineered out of the construction process, which can affect the success of the finished project. The third party inspector should be the owner’s first contact since they can determine the scope of work and assist the owner through all phases of the project. This applies to new construction and renovation projects. Third party inspectors are extremely vital in repair and remediation work since the owner may not have hired a general contractor to oversee the project. An experienced third party inspector can act as the owner’s set of eyes on the project from the beginning to the end of the completed work.
Third party inspectors perform a site inspection which can take anywhere from one to three hours. There is a fee for this service and it is often well worth the cost. Third party inspectors often possess some type of technical training and may be a licensed architect or engineer or building envelope consultant. They should be, and usually are, familiar with critical aspects of the project such as construction detailing, air sealing and flashing, and do not have any financial connection or ties to any of the contractors on the project.
Training of the Third Party Inspector
A third party inspector is required to have knowledge of critical details of many different cladding assemblies, working temperatures of materials and applicable codes. The third party inspector is hired by the owner or general contractor and has no connection to any of the subcontractors on the project. The inspector should have attended a recognized training program that is offered by AWCI, the Association of the Walls and Ceilings Industry (www.awci.org), The Exterior Design Institute (www.exterior-design-inst.com) or RCI Roofing Consultants Inc. (www.rci-online.org).
As an instructor for the Exterior Design Institute and having attended its third party training program, there is a wealth of knowledge that the inspector must possess in order to pass the required exam. EDI offers a Level 1 and 2 training program. Both programs cover quality control procedures and report writing for new construction and in-progress inspections. Each program lasts two days with a final exam that is given at the end of the second day. A score of 90 or better on the exam is required to pass either course.
A typical candidate should have the following skill set: basic understanding of the construction process, critical details, manufacturer’s code reports, details, shop drawings and product submittals. The candidate should have a minimum of five years of experience in the construction industry or be a licensed architect or engineer.
AWCI’s training program for third party inspectors is a two-day training program and is offered three to four times a year. Its “EIFS—Doing It Right” program is a training program that is available for installers, industry professionals and third party inspectors. A comprehensive training program has been developed for third party inspectors.
RCI offers a Registered Exterior Wall Consultant designation for qualified individuals who have a background in the construction industry and have passed the required exam.
Selection of the Third Party Inspector—the Interview Process
Each provider of Third Party Inspection Programs has a list of inspectors who have attended their training program and passed the required exam on their Web site. When choosing a third party inspector there are several questions to ask potential candidates in the selection process: background, training, how long have they been inspecting projects, what type of projects have they worked on, and can they provide a list of references of similar projects they have inspected. This is the most important step in the process, so ask as many questions as possible and obtain references from building owners and clients that the inspector has worked for in the past to select the best inspector for the project.
How to Determine the Scope of the Work
Once you have selected, discussed a fee schedule for the initial site assessment and hired the third party inspector, the next step is for the inspector to determine the scope of the work to be completed. The third party inspector will visit the site and conduct a site assessment to determine the scope of work to be completed on the project. The site assessment should include the condition of the building, recommended repairs and the procedure for the work to be completed. A set of specifications is developed to outline the procedure, products and contractor qualifications for the repairs. The third party inspector will furnish a rough estimate of the cost of the repairs, number of inspections they will provide, and fees for their services.
The Next Steps
At this time the project will go out for bid to pre-qualified contractors, bids will be received and the contractors are selected. The contractors who have been awarded the project will select the products, manufacturer’s data sheets, code reports, applicable details, and assemble a submittal package for review by the third party inspector. Once the third party inspector has approved the submittals, the work on the project is started.
The Construction Process
Once work has started on the project, the third party inspector is on the project on a daily basis to inspect and review all aspects of the construction process. Reports are provided to the owner on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to ensure that the work is on budget, on time and installed in a professional manner and according to the manufacturer’s written instructions. Upon completion of the project, the inspector will perform the final inspection, assemble all product maintenance information and warranties and forward to the owner.
As the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for” is an important factor to consider when selecting, hiring and working with a third party inspector to ensure a successful project. I have seen on many occasions in my career, the value of having a third party inspector and how their services can save an owner money and reduce the chances of any call-backs. It is expensive to hire any professional, but even more expensive to fix the mistakes that could have been avoided with the quality control of a competent inspector in place.