THE UNBRIBABILITY OF INSPECTORS
The reason Elliot Ness and his fellow FBI agents were nick-named the Untouchables was because they were unbribable. Every inspector I have ever met is a spiritual descendant of Elliot and his bunch. Every man- and woman-jack of them spurned my offer of cement bags.
I ended up failing every inspection (except the electrical inspection) at least once. This was not always due to my desire to get away with something. In at least one case, it was due to sheer and massive ignorance.
The framing inspector came to the house late in the day. I hate it when inspectors show up in the afternoon. It gives me all morning to wander the house and wonder what else I can do to be ready for their scrutiny. I can never seem to get any of my regular work done because all I can think about is the heavy hand of fate in the form of the inspector's finger directing my attention to some mistake that will cost me hundreds of dollars and a week's worth of labor to correct.
I was already uptight with anticipation before the framing inspector arrived. I was worse when I opened the door to find the framing inspector was a woman. This was a problem.
I believe in women's rights, and I also believe that women are as fully capable as men. My mother can swing a hammer with the best of them, and she is the best drywaller that I have ever seen. My problem with a woman inspector is that she is of the opposite sex. I have no idea how to treat her.
With a male inspector, you wander the site, you both spit out an open window, and you talk about the Sonics, or the Seahawks, or the Mariners, depending on the season.
With a woman, who is not your wife or related by blood, it is completely different, especially when she has some power over you and your project.
All I could do with the framing inspector was follow her around with a note pad and scribble. She spoke with the speed and assurance of an automatic weapon. She fired off discrepancies faster than I could write.
"Let's see...no fire door from the garage, you need a continuous top plate here, need a fire break there, and look at this...my, my...you need a fire stop around this furnace duct."
She had pointed all this out before she had even gotten out of the old part of the house and into the addition.
"This is all preexisting," I stuttered.
She forced a smile. "Really, Mr. Rayment, it should be fixed."
I nodded respectfully. "Did you know I bought too much cement at the hardware store?"
She did not even hear me. She had already gone into the addition. "Tsk, tsk...your sheathing should be continuous to the full height of the wall, more fire break problems, you need an electric smoke alarm cross-connected with an alarm downstairs so they will go off simultaneously."
"Really, and what about your attic access?"
"I've got the old one in the hallway closet."
"Make a new one. 22X30 with at least a 32-inch overhead clearance." The woman was all business.
After the pipe-cutting episode, I wasn't sure that a 32-inch clearance was possible in the attic. "Just a minute," I pleaded.
She wandered over to the window. I would have spit, but I wasn't sure it was proper etiquette.
"You ought to build a deck out here."
It was one more item for my growing list. "I don't even have a permit for that."
"Let me see the downstairs again."
"You're not done yet?"
She seemed particularly intrigued by the glu-lam beam that was holding up the entire second story. "Is the camber up or down on this beam?" she asked.
"Which way is it supposed to be?" I was not going to commit myself on this subject until I was sure. I had had a tough time installing it. Now that I had built an entire story on top of it, I could imagine jacking up the house, pulling out the beam, flipping it over and then renailing all the joists into it. My stomach was doing flip flops and my forehead felt prickly.
"You don't know, do you?" It sounded like an accusation.
I shrugged. "Well the board didn't come with a sign that said, 'This side up'".
She climbed on a chair and looked over the beam intently. "You had a fifty-percent chance to screw this up...Looks like you got lucky."
I breathed a sigh of relief.
"But you do need some blocking."
I was still relieved. It would probably take me a month to correct all the discrepancies on the list, but at least I was not going to have to jack up the house. (Anything but that!)
As a result of this inspection I had a list of corrections as long as the mortgage agreement on my house. I got her out of there as fast as I could, but not before she found a few more problems. "Hey, you don't have a fan in your laundry room, and this duct has to be further from the window."
After she left, I fell on the couch. I was in shock. I held the list in front of my face. If only the B-B PUD had provided this list before the inspection...