Field trips to construction sites and interviews with contractors or building trade officials are good ways to gain practical information about what it is like to work in the industry and how best to prepare for it. Summer jobs at a construction site provide an overview of the work involved in a building project. Students may also seek part-time jobs with a general contracting company, with a specialized contractor (such as a plumbing or electrical contractor), or as a carpenter's helper. Jobs in building supply houses will help students become familiar with construction materials.
The American Society of Home Inspectors offers a Virtual Home Inspection Tour (http://www.homeinspector.org/Home-Inspection-Virtual-Tour) that allows you to learn about the work of inspectors. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors provides a variety of videos that provide an overview of the inspection process at https://www.nachi.org/tv.
This occupation is made up of four broad categories of specialization: building, electrical, mechanical, and public works.
Building inspectors examine the structural quality of buildings. They check the plans before construction, visit the work site a number of times during construction, and make a final inspection when the project is completed. Some building inspectors specialize in areas such as structural steel or reinforced concrete buildings. Before building inspectors can begin work, plan examiners review the building plans to ensure they comply with building codes and are suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site
Electrical inspectors visit work sites to inspect the installation of electrical systems and equipment. They check wiring, lighting, generators, and sound and security systems. They may also inspect the wiring for elevators, heating and air-conditioning systems, kitchen appliances, and other electrical installations.
Mechanical inspectors inspect plumbing systems and the mechanical components of heating and air-conditioning equipment and kitchen appliances. They also examine gas tanks, piping, and gas-fired appliances. Some mechanical inspectors specialize in elevators, plumbing, heating/air-conditioning units, or boilers. Elevator inspectors inspect both the mechanical and the electrical features of lifting and conveying devices, such as elevators, escalators, and moving sidewalks. They also test their speed, load allowances, brakes, and safety devices. Plumbing inspectors inspect plumbing installations, water supply systems, drainage and sewer systems, water heater installations, fire sprinkler systems, and air and gas piping systems; they also examine building sites for soil type to determine water table level, seepage rate, and similar conditions. Heating and refrigeration inspectors examine heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, and refrigeration installations in new buildings and approve alteration plans for those elements in existing buildings.
Public works inspectors make sure that government construction of water and sewer systems, highways, streets, bridges, and dams conforms to contract specifications. They visit work sites to inspect excavations, mixing and pouring of concrete, and asphalt paving. They also keep records of the amount of work performed and the materials used so that proper payment can be made. These inspectors may specialize in highways, reinforced concrete, or ditches.
Construction inspectors use measuring devices and other test equipment, take photographs, keep a daily log of their work, and write reports. If any detail of a project does not comply with various codes, ordinances, or specifications, or if construction is being done without proper permits, the inspectors have the authority to issue a stop-work order.
Another area of specialty is home inspection. Home inspectors are not employed by government agencies and architectural firms, but by people interested in buying a home. Home inspectors examine the roof, the pipes, the electrical system, the plumbing, and other features of a property and provide a report to buyers regarding the overall condition of the house and its systems. The American Society of Home Inspectors estimates that 77 percent of homes sold in the U.S. and Canada are inspected before their sale.