Monday, November 21, 2005

To Inspect or Not to Inspect

If you build a house, obviously you're going to have to deal with various inspectors...there's no way around it. There seems to be more of a grey area when you're dealing with improvements to an existing home, however.

One school of thought says everything should be above board. When in doubt, get the inspector on the phone and line up to pay higher taxes when the assessment hits. These are the people that keep the public coffers from going bust (talking local here...the feds bust theirs year after year and it doesn't seem to matter). They have the distinct advantage of not having to worry about nasty surprises down the road due to unexpected problems with their home-improvement work, but they also have many more headaches along the way.

The opposing school of thought can be boiled down to a simple question. "Inspector? What inspector?"

This is true of all the basic sectors of home improvement, from plumbing to electrical to cement work and everything in between. A few years ago, Dad bought a permit to reshingle his roof. Yes, that's right. He had to pay a tax to maintain his house. Gee, I hope this year they'll let me pay a bunch of money to shovel the snow off my walk.

All of this is pretty academic in our case. As I've mentioned, we needed to cover up the foam insulation in our basement with wallboard, and as part of that effort we needed to wire up some outlets for the outside basement wall. I considered not bothering to get it inspected, but there are just too many potential problems when foster kids will be living here, especially given the litigious public atmosphere these days. I can hear it now: "There was a fire? Naw, it couldn't be the severely disturbed pyromaniac 13-year-old they're taking care of...must be the wiring they didn't pay a boatload of cash to have inspected."

Sigh. We have to do two rounds of inspections. We have the outlets "roughed in", which means they're in place and the wire is run out and dug into channels in the insulation, but nothing is hooked up yet. I imagine this allows the inspector to see that we're using the proper guage of wire, that we're not hiding anything behind the wallboard, and that we haven't stashed any dead bodies behind the basement walls. Then, upon receiving that first blessing, we are allowed to continue on and put up the wallboard, finish wiring the outlets, and call for the second inspection.

At that point, either the inspector signs off on this stuff or I sic Sophie on him. That'll show 'im.

Man, but these foster kids had better be worth it.


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