Successful building projects rely on rigorous quality assurance measures, and to comply with code requirements, every project must go through testing and inspections during construction. For some building owners, especially those taking on their first project, these tests can come as a surprise.
It’s easy to understand why. Although required, testing is an additional project cost, and building owners are responsible for hiring a testing agent. You will need to factor this expense into your budget and plan for testing in your project timeline.
To set expectations, this article will discuss the type of tests and inspections you can expect, how to hire a testing agent, and what happens if an inspection fails—preparing you for the construction process.
What Tests and Inspections are Required on a Building Project?
Before construction, your architect and structural engineer will determine which tests are required for your project. Tests are based on building codes and your unique project specifications, including:
Generally, tests fall into two broad categories: site tests and laboratory tests.
Site Tests and Inspections
Site tests occur on the building site and may be visual assessments or involve special equipment. Soil testing is one of the most common site tests. With this test, geotechnical engineers will determine if the subgrade is suitable for construction by checking the soil’s compaction level.
Other site tests relate to material strength. Welds, bolts, and reinforcements are inspected for steel construction, while mortar joints, grout, and connectors are tested on loadbearing masonry.
Additional site testing may be necessary to meet fire safety requirements. For example, a testing agent will check the thickness and bond strength of spray-applied fireproofing products.
Laboratory tests involve moving building material samples to an off-site location for further analysis. Depending on the use, some materials need to be broken down and tested in a controlled setting to ensure they will not cause any project-related issues.
Concrete testing is one of the most common laboratory tests. With this test, a concrete cylinder is broken down in a lab and analyzed at standard temperature and humidity levels. The testing agent will perform tests at regular intervals to measure the concrete’s strength as it cures.
How Do You Hire a Testing Agent?
As mentioned, building project tests are an additional cost outside the construction budget. The owner is responsible for hiring a testing agent and covering the cost.
Typically, a single testing agent can perform all required tests, but in some situations, you may need to bring in an additional specialist.
We always recommend hiring a testing agent directly, rather than have a contractor hire one. This approach ensures neutrality and leads to the most accurate assessment. Remember: the testing agent works for you, not the contractor or architect.
If you are undertaking your first project, your architect can help you hire a testing agent. Typically, they will write a Request for Proposal (RFP) and help you assess your options. Their experience will help you find the most reputable agent.
Although building owners are responsible for hiring the testing agent, contractors are responsible for coordinating communication and scheduling tests. The contractor, along with the architect and structural engineer, will also submit the necessary documentation to city officials.
What Happens if a Test or Inspection Fails?
Failed tests are rare but can occur. If you find yourself in this situation, rest assured that the testing agent caught the issue before construction continued.
Often, the contractor will absorb the cost of the failed test. If construction is not up to specifications, the contractor will need to redo the work and purchase new materials. As such, failed tests can occasionally delay project timelines.
Learn More About the Construction Process
Building project tests ensure your building meets code requirements. Although they are a normal part of every project, they may surprise some owners—especially those undertaking their first project.
Before construction, discuss testing with your architect, so you know how much to budget. Starting the conversation earlier in the design process will help you plan your project costs accordingly. If you are new to the process, your architect can help you find a trusted testing agent.
Throughout construction, your architect will remain by your side to coordinate communication, observe progress, and advocate for your interests. Learn more by reading about an architect’s role in the construction process.