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Hector the Inspector

RonWHC Member Posts: 232
If after the 5th call, or 3rd fax, or waiting hours at the scheduled appointment time, you give up on an inspection & D. C. finds the job after a year - they can, & will, cite you for an expired permit. Then it's back to the waiting line w/ a check for a new permit & the 2nd inspection.

D. C. Permits have little to do w/ safety. Just taking money & providing an ego trip for some of their payroll inhabiting types.

They are intentionally forcing contractors to opt for 3rd party inspections w/ $300.00 price tags. Then they lose the approval forms & won't issue an Operating Certificate. Heads they win. Tails you lose.


    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,512

    Hot off the press is the latest "Contractor". Dave Yate's collumn on "Hector the Inspector" was hilarious.

    Unfortunatly that is typical of some of the inspections taken place. Some inspectors in Ma. & CT. where I am are just like that and the permits are getting expensive.

    Were not getting much for our money and our customers are getting screwed.

    Make you realize why (some/most) don't wan't to bother with permits.

  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    I thought it well written *~/:)

    It seemed to convey the likelihood of future inspections being of similar ilk. Possibly proportionally controlled and with the exact same rigor in collecting the fees. *~/:)
  • big willy
    big willy Member Posts: 92
    It has become a joke

    on every jobsite that that I work on. The not so funny part is that the inspectors job is the safety of the end user of the building or home. During so many service calls I look at the way the equipment was installed and can clearly see that things are not up to code. Its so ironic when you get called on somthing stupid like the white wire in daves story, when so many other big things get glossed over. Talk about missing the forest for the trees.
  • Wayco Wayne_2
    Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,479

    This conjures up memories of my first inspection of my first job. It was a heat pump system with the ductwork in a crawlspace. I was so proud of my work. I had sealed all the duct and wrapped it meticulously, and done the best job I knew how. The inspector showed up with a pedulous belly hanging over his belt, holding a cup of coffee in one hand, and a bavarian cream in the other. "Where's the duct work?"...."In the crawl space." .... "Is it wrapped?"...."Sure is. Want to see it?"...."Naw, I gotta go. Here's your sticker." Then he turned and waddled off the property. And I stood mouth agape for a few minutes feeling kinda cheated but glad I had passed inspection. That was Arlington County in VA 20 years ago. Wash DC won't even send an inspector unless you make a fuss. Just pull a permit and you're OK. They just are revenuing. WW

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  • Rich Kontny_3
    Rich Kontny_3 Member Posts: 562
    Not All

    I fear that we are labeling here and are insinuating that all inspectors are like this. Here in the Milwaukee area and in Wisconsin I have found that there are many very competant and knowledgeable inspectors who are an asset to therir community.

    Inspectors can also be a resource to us as they see far more installs and circumstances than we do. I happen to enjoy and utilize my relatonship with inspectors.

    Here the "Hector the Inspector" scenario is very rare and probaly less prevelent than incompetant contractors.

    Rich Kontny
  • Keith_8
    Keith_8 Member Posts: 399

    My experience in Fairfield County has been that the inspectors are earning their fee's. They are continuing their education and have the owners best interest at heart.

    From my vantage point as a contractor they are fair and willing to discuss a difference of opinion.

    The golden rule applies here.

  • Doubly agreed...

    It sounds as if Dave is living and working in a third world country. I don't envy him for that. However, here in Colorado, I can count the incompetent inspectors I've come into contact with in the 33 years of doing business on one hand. Actually, one finger, and yes, I've chosen the middle finger for matching his abilities...

    I'm certain that there are other areas of the states that have a less than desireable inspection force. Having worked with the Rocky Mountain Educational Institute's chapter of the ICC for 4 years in a row, and had the opportunity to meet these men and women behind code enforcement, I can tell you that Daves situation is NOT the norm here in Colorado. These people are genuine in their efforts to protect the health and property of the tax payer and are dedicated to furthering thier education.

    Many of my competitors view them as a PITA, but I view them as protective angels. Unfortunately, they are so busy taking care of people who HAVE taken out the permits and are TRYING their best to comply to the code that they DON'T have time to catch the trunk hacks leaving a trail of devestation... You simply can't be every where all the time.

    Great article Dave, but I think it's probably a local issue, and not necessairily wide spread across the country. This thread prove me wrong however...

    Wish there was something I could do to help. If you want my contacts at the Educational Institute, I will be glad to forward them to you.

    Hang tough dude, and NEVER lose sight of your credo. "Protecting the health of the nation"

  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Which one?

    in some of these jurisdictions, such as the one Dave wrote about, the "golden rule" reads like this: "Whoever has the gold makes the rules". Clearly, all inspection operations are not created equal. You guys who operate in areas with decent inspections and Code enforcement are pretty lucky.

    But I wonder how much liability this lax enforcement would incur for these jurisdictions, if they passed a job that wasn't up to Code and someone got hurt or killed? With the right lawyer......

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  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    I've been pleased

    with the inspectors and plan check folks I have worked with in 3 different states now.

    Sorry, Dave that you have some so "in the dark" and unwilling to learn and change. It wseems the more you call them out the more bitter they get. Power and authority does weird things to some people :)

    The biggest problem I have is the rual areas where there are no AHJ's, permits required, or even a person to contact with questions.

    As far a the inspector or city being held responsible for issues with "missed" inspections. Aren't city and county governments immune to lawsuits in this regard. Seems it is always pushed back to the installer for liability?

    "I fought the law and the law won"....

    hot rod

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  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    You're thinking of \"sovereign immunity\"

    which has been crumbling for some years now. I remember hearing in the late 1980s or 1990s or so that some or all of the Maryland state government had lost theirs, not sure how they did.

    The U.S. Constitution only refers specifically to the Federal government's sovereign immunity, not that of the States or local governments. As I say, with the right lawyer the government could be held liable, and it's high time someone nailed them on this.

    Here's a link:


    Also, scroll down (waaayyyy down) to the very last paragraph on this page:

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/anncon/search/display.html?terms=sovereign immunity&url=/anncon/html/amdt11_user.html

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  • Jason_29
    Jason_29 Member Posts: 29
    Keith, please email me about a project in Greenwich, CT.

    > My experience in Fairfield County has been that

    > the inspectors are earning their fee's. They are

    > continuing their education and have the owners

    > best interest at heart.


    > From my vantage point

    > as a contractor they are fair and willing to

    > discuss a difference of opinion.


    > The golden

    > rule applies here.


    > Keith

  • Ruthe Jubinville_2
    Ruthe Jubinville_2 Member Posts: 674

    has continuing ed required for their plumbing/gas inspectors. I know because Jerry was one for the last several years.
  • Brad White
    Brad White Member Posts: 2,398

    when does the RICO statute kick in? :)

    That kind of institutionalized extortion, especially under the "color of law", should be prosecuted. JMHO

    "If you do not know the answer, say, "I do not know the answer", and you will be correct!"

    -Ernie White, my Dad
  • Jed_2
    Jed_2 Member Posts: 781
    Whatya Expect

    Dave has a long history of postings about PA code Politics and Public Services. I actually didn't read the article, but, from the reaction, am not surprised. Dave is obviously fighting an uphill battle in a State that really needs to seriously think about joining the 21st Century. Pennsylvania has a long history of corruption, and apparently, intends to continue that avenue. What's a citizen to do?

  • Maine Ken
    Maine Ken Member Posts: 531

    Brad, you are obviously confused. RICO involves racketeering and "ORGANIZED" crime. No way governmental agencies could be accused of be organized!!!

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  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    Start posting that great article

    in as many local newspapers as you can. Get as many eyes on it as possible.

    Oh, and up the insurance on your home and self if Jed is correct :)

    hot rod

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  • Steve Ebels_3
    Steve Ebels_3 Member Posts: 1,291

    The term organized government is an oxymoron.

    We had decent inspection until recently here in my locale. It was handled by state level inspectors who were competent, willing to listen and offer advice and were indeed concerned about public safety. They took their job seriously.

    Our county recently decided that they would do plumbing, HVAC and electrical in house and hired some guys to do the inspections. I've not run into the new HVAC guy yet because a lot of our work has been outside the local area. From what I hear though, he's pretty much a rubber stamp type guy. Crawls and attics don't get looked at, things get passed with an "it'll be OK comment, etc etc. Looks to me like a revenue generator for the county.

    I hope I'm making a premature judgement because as I said, I haven't had a lot of interaction with the guy.
  • Comments & questions.....

    Nothing like Easter with a 2-year-old to brighten the spirits! Interesting comments. Before I ask you all a few questions, I’d like to respond to your posts.

    Ebebratt – Absolutely. The customer is taking one on the chin.

    Steamhead – There’s another word for it: extortion.

    Weezebo – No, I do not expect much, if any, improvement.

    Rich – Agreed, it is not all and was not written to throw a blanket over all inspectors.

    Keith – I wish we had the same.

    ME – You’d need more middle fingers here! The e-mails I’ve received indicate this is a nation-wide issue.

    Steamhead – Doesn’t fly. I was recently asked to testify before a twp comish meeting regarding two sewer lines we’d inspected and found to be running uphill the wrong direction. Once dug up (12’ deep), we discovered the installer had encountered a vein of rock and, rather than jackhammering a trough, they’d simply laid the lines over the rock. The yards were virtually flat, so both should have been easily detected from above. Both were inspected. Both passed. Neither PVC line had any appreciable stone bed & both had a 40’ belly lying completely full of sewage. The twp solicitor told the condo assn reps that neither the twp or its inspector bore any responsibility or liability. In other words – get lost.

    HR – I haven’t called them out. I’m not interested in fighting city hall. But, city hall and PA’s college have both refused any offer of help. I wrote to the Governor and sent him a copy of the article. My offer to help stands, but I’m not going to beat my head against a brick wall. Going public with this issue will no doubt land my firm in hot water locally as it did the last time I wrote about the twisted permit/inspection process we face.

    Ruthie – Guys like Jerry are the cream of the crop. Unfortunately, they’re also the exception in my area. We have just one inspector that I’d put in that category.

    Ron – Bingo!

    Brad – Agreed.

    Jed – This citizen offered to help. No takers.

    Ken – Good point!

    Steve - In one year, our city went through four inspectors. The newest one told me he'll be calling me because there's a lot he doesn't know about the codes.

    OK folks, here’s some things to contemplate.

    1: Are you a legit business? If you answered yes, why is it OK for any of us to be treated like we live & work in a third-world country?

    2: If Dentists, as an example, were required to obtain permits for working on teeth, would they tolerate the governing authority requiring the Dentist to leave his or her practice to waste 30- to 90-minutes at the permit counter to fill out the application? Are any of us less a pro than other professionals?

    3: From your posts, I gather that even in the areas where you are tickled with the professionalism of the inspection process, there remains a blind eye to the trunk slammers and jacklegs. So, just the pros playing by the rules are made to follow the rules? I made it a point to attend a lecture by Leonard Pitts a few weeks ago. I listened intently as he spoke eloquently about discrimination and while he spoke; I couldn’t help but think about how we, as a group, are discriminated against as a class. If we were a racial minority, there would be hell to pay.

    Let’s see if I understand the things posted here:

    • Licensed contractors are paying to be legit businesses, obtain licenses, permits and inspections.

    • In spite of Bell having invented the telephone, the existence fax machines, the proliferation of the Internet – high speed modems & computers – you’re ok with having to leave your otherwise productive work to drive to any one of (in my case dozens) many municipal offices to appear in person to fill out the paperwork and schedule an appointment – a min of 24-hours in advance – for an inspection?

    • “Contractors” who chose to ignore the rules, do not obtain licenses, probably aren’t insured, don’t get permits and don’t bother with inspections get a free pass while stealing work from you & you’re willing to accept that as ok? The inspectors are too busy inspecting legit contractors to bother with law breakers?

    • HO’s get a free pass while moving, on average, every 7 years? Are they taking the uninspected work with them?

    There’s a word that sums up quite succinctly what this is: discrimination. That’s an ugly word, but it fits.

  • Steamhead (in transit)
    Steamhead (in transit) Member Posts: 6,688
    Dave, you didn't have

    the right lawyer! Of course the self-serving township extortionists will avoid all responsibility. What else would you expect? They get to have it both ways!

    The right lawyer could blow them out of the water and into their own sewage.

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  • Floyd_38
    Floyd_38 Member Posts: 1
    Hooorrrrraaayyy for PA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yup, we now have a Uniform Construction Code.....which after 3 years is STILL anything BUT uniform!!!! A bunch a wild *ss blow hards running around trying to figure out how they can one up the guy in the next Township, Boro, Berg, etc.... I do have one guy that is reasonable, has done his homework and schooling, but the rest really haven't a clue and it depends on who or what they talked too last, or maybe what side of the bed they got out of, as too what they consider "right" on any particular day.
    Then there are real issues with the code, like a 3 or 4 tenant apartment building.... 13D don't apply and 13C is cost prohibitive...(sprinklers).

    I'm with ya Dave... you have expressed some of my frustrations very elequently....Ya we need codes....but at what price??? These costs have to be passed on...

    Frustrated in North nowhere Pa......
  • We'll suffer for having written that

    When PA adopted the UCC, I looked forward to seeing dramatic improvements. After all, it took the powers that be more than a decade to get the state-wide code passed. At the time, we hoped we’d see a state-wide license. One of the things I really liked about the newly adopted code, was that HVAC work was to be included (finally!). No license required, but at least it’d be inspected, which I had hoped would eliminate some of the slop we’ve seen foisted on consumers. Each HVAC permit was supposed to include a mandatory heat loss/gain calculation using a nationally recognized program – like MJ.

    I was asked for a MJ calc once, just once, & the inspector glanced at it and tossed it aside. I offered to give him a guided tour & lesson on how a MJ calc was performed & what to look for when reviewing one submitted. The more he knew, I thought, the more likely he’d be able to weed out the bad seeds. Not interested.

    During the decade the powers that be in PA fought over the code you’d think they would have, at some point, discovered that there was a severe shortage of inspectors – there still is BTW. The solution? Allow the same process as before with respect to training and educating inspectors go on as it always has – simply grab a warm body, give em a badge & a book & set em loose. Still, we held out hope that this new bumper crop of inspectors would be required to get educated. We were, after all, paying a $2 ‘inspector education fee’ with every permit.

    As it turned out, the code was watered down considerably along its twisted route through the legislators’ hallways prior to being approved. If you decide that a MJ calc is too bothersome, and you simply replace existing HVAC equipment with the same BTU sizing, guess what – you get a free pass – no permit & no inspection required. On the other hand, if you’re a contractor who takes the time to perform the heat loss/gain and you offer the consumer new HVAC equipment that’s now a different size that the WWII-vintage energy-sucking beast they’ve been feeding their hard earned dollars, you my friend are now required to obtain a permit, arrange for an inspection and supposedly submit the heat loss/gain calcs for approval. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s been happening. Instead of improving an already dismal situation, they incentivized folks to do the wrong thing & HVAC work took a turn for the worse.

    As for plumbing? Well, they screwed that up too. Replace fixtures and piping with new, but in the same footprint they occupied previously – no permit & no inspection required.

    There's more - lots more - but you get the drift.

    Then our license fees, permit fees and inspection fee-per-visit sky-rocketed. In any other business, and inspections have become just that, you’d need to improve your services to inflate fees that dramatically. We instead have witnessed the single largest decline in competently conducted inspections I’ve ever witnessed in my almost 40-years in the trades.

    If it’s going to improve, we need to step up and help point the way. I tried to do that, but no one was interested. Hence, my frustration and the Hector the Inspector article.
  • Floyd_39
    Floyd_39 Member Posts: 1
    Wish I could write ....

    like you Dave. I have major problems getting my thoughts from my head to keyboard....
    I was wondering what your thoughts were as to the Modular home industry which is well established in Pa. and their exemption from the codes..... do they have a lobby in Hburg or what???
    Just bought an old church and want to convert it for rental offices.....new bathroom, decks, ramps, emerg. lighting, ventilation, and the list keeps growing......might have been easier to raze it and start over.....

  • Writing is an exercise

    in frustration for me too. As someone with Dyslexia, I miss tons of grammar and spelling errors. So, I try extra hard to re-read anything I write again & again & I still miss lots of things. Dan is to blame for unleashing my voice - both here & in print. My mother is to blame for the patience she's shown in teaching me what no English teacher ever could - the rules of grammar. Never give up pal. Your writing looks just fine to me.

    I guess I'm not surprised modular housing somehow managed to get their own loophole. Our new PA UCC has so many loopholes, it looks like Swiss cheese! We work for a law firm that handles UCC code cases for contractors & that was how I came to know about most of the major weirdness that exists. They printed out a thick volume of oddities after I'd told them I needed to obtain permits and inspections for a major renovation we did for them. Turned out we did not actually need a single permit or inspection for the building-wide PHVAC work! Not that the inspectors and city didn't give it a whirl, they did. But the law firm stood their ground, cited the correct loophole passages & the inspectors took a powder. Can't say as I felt good about that as I'd much rather have had our work inspected. But, it wasn't my call.

    As for manufactured housing, it's no wonder they obtained an exemption - they seem to get their PHVAC products from one of Stephen King's novels! Talk about plumbing from la-la land. But, once you leave the twilight zone that is trailer plumbing, everything should (in theory) comply with codes. Unless, of course, you're replacing one trailer with another similar trailer!

    A little more than a week ago, we called and requested permit/inspection info for a basement bath install. The twp said that particular development has a private sewage treatment system and that, therefore, we needed no permit or inspection. Evidently having a private sewage system means the plumbing codes don't apply to the plumbing systems within the homes! Ever hear of a septic system???? Ain't that private too?

    It's a topsey-turvey world we live & work in!

    Check this out: PA's UCC code says all ductwork outside the building envelope must be a min of R-8. So, I ask you (all) - is ductwork located in an attic space where the insulation is in the floor joist cavities & therefore between the ductwork and the conditioned living space constitute inside or outside the building's envelope? PA's UCC edition doesn't spell it out, so each inspector is left holding the judgment bag. Common sense or uncommonly senseless? You make the call.
  • Not my fight Frank

    I was asked to testify about what we found and what we had to do to correct the problems. Fortunately for me, several of the twp commissioners are customers and they cut off the solicitor who had told me to shut up & sit down.

    I kept my remarks brief, strictly factual and to the point. It was, after all, not my fight to fight.

    Prior to getting to that meeting, I’d been included in a number of meetings with the owners and the folks who designed the sewer system. They were very interesting and I learned quite a bit about how development engineering plans get developed. Lots of ‘watching-paint-dry-moments’ but overall it was interesting & I was being paid to attend.

    It’s not over. The condo assn has been working through the original builder and using our sewer-line video inspection film in their negotiations regarding assigning costs. While they’ll not likely recover all of the costs, it looks like the GC is going to accept some level of responsibility. While they seriously considered a suit against the twp, they also recognized that the costs would most likely outweigh any potential benefits. Part of knowing which hills are worthy of dying upon.
  • Paul Mitchell_3
    Paul Mitchell_3 Member Posts: 12
    New Jersey

    I gotta tell you guys that in my part of NJ...Monmouth and Ocean Counties....TERRIBLE..OUT OF THEIR MINDS..Some towns are good. Others just bust you on a whim. They can not see quality work etc. No common sense. No thought processes of their own. Some towns take two plus weeks to issue a simple permit, others a couple days. Every town has different charges, filing fees ec. One own is 90.00 to replace a boiler another 300.00.

  • Tim P._2
    Tim P._2 Member Posts: 47

    "the building envelope is defined by those elements of a building that enclose conditioned spaces..."

    I don't really think it's open to interpretation.

    Did PA legislate any education requirements for inspectors after adopting the IBC?

    edit: Building Envelope is defined in the International Energy Conservation Code, Building Thermal Envelope (same thing) is defined in the Residential Code

    Also, the IRC says "all portions of the air distribution system shall... be insulated to a minimum of R-5 when system components are installed within the building but outside of the conditioned space, and R-8 when installed outside of the building." Not sure how an inspector could get confused? :shrug:
  • daffynitions

    I can see how there would be some confusion when reading that last IRC statement. A literal interpretation could be taken to mean that ductwork installed in an attic space and exposed, therefore, to outdoor air temps could fall within the R-5 category. D'OH!

    On the other hand, a literal interpretation would see ducts located in a basement and, therefore, not subjected to outdoor air temps as needing R-5.

    We've got some inspectors saying outside literally means the ducts must be outside, others who say attic means R-8 and still others who say basement ducts must be R-8. Unless, of course, you cut in at least one register on the basement trunk line, in which case, no duct insulation will be required as he now considers that as a conditioned space!

    Sure makes for one wild & whacky ride! 78 municipalities = 78 possible interpretations & that's only etched in stone at that moment in time. Sometimes they change their minds like Imelda Marcos changed shoes! And, just for good measure, the rules are sometimes adjusted if they have a 'relationship' with the installer (does not apply to all inspectors).
  • jim lockard
    jim lockard Member Posts: 1,059
    argue it down.

    I take the IRC's language of outside the envelope to mean outside of the conditioned space. This definition is futher supported by ACCA Manual D and the US Dept of Energy fact sheet for air distribution system design. I find some inspectors to be quite challenged when it comes to comperhending what they have read. J.Lockard
  • Tim P._2
    Tim P._2 Member Posts: 47

    Outside the conditioned space, but within the building == attic (if uninsulated and unheated) and basement (also if uninsulated and unheated).

    Outside the building means.. outside of the building. Think flat roof with units installed outside and ductwork running across the roof. If they meant outside the building envelope, they would say that.

    All in all, the books are written quite well imho. I have to say I cheat, as I also have the commentaries from ICC. The key is conditioned, which means insulated and heated, nothing directly to do with outside air temperature

    If anybody ever has any questions, just shoot me an email I'd be glad to help.

This discussion has been closed.