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City Permit Inspectors: What to Know and How to Prepare

Fence (in progress)

If you’re planning to build a fence that is taller than 6 feet – or a deck that sits more than 30 inches above the ground – your project will require a visit from the city inspector. If you’re new to the inspection process, the following will help you understand how to prepare for the visit, what to expect and how to accelerate the whole procedure. This kind of preparation work will help minimize building delays. Whether you’re planning an alteration to your current fence design or you’re hoping for a brand-new wood or vinyl fence installation, read on to discover helpful tips regarding the city permit inspection process.

How to Obtain a Building Inspector

Every city has its own procedure for arranging inspections. Here in Portland, the first step is to apply for a permit for that cedar or PVC fence installation. When you pick up your permit, an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) number is assigned to your project. You can call the inspection request phone number (503-823-7000) to schedule inspection appointments and get approval information from inspectors. Visit the City of Portland’s website for more information.

What to Expect during the City Inspector’s Visit

An inspector’s main job is to assess whether new building projects comply with city codes. Typically, a city inspector must also review repair and renovation projects. Different inspectors specialize in different construction projects; there are electrical inspectors, mechanical inspectors and public works inspectors (their job is to check that all water, sewer and other systems that hook into city lines are properly installed). Building inspectors provide approval for deck and fence installation projects. Here are a few tasks that building inspectors do:

  • Check building contracts for safety and usefulness.
  • Check that the fence design meets regional laws. Zoning laws are included here.
  • Record findings. Specialized software and computer equipment may be used to record an inspector’s log, take photographs and write reports.

For fencing projects, the city inspector will check that the fence is properly placed in relationship to the property line. He or she will also check the height of the fence, which city laws govern. For decking projects, the inspector will need to verify that the foundation work is strong and will hold safely.

In general, be prepared to interact with a picky, finicky person. These are qualities that city inspectors must have in order to consistently apply city laws. Be as friendly and as helpful as possible – this will speed along the inspection process and make it easier to work with the inspector in the future.



[ Photo by: @cdharrison, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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