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What is Commercial Building Inspection



A commercial building inspection is a detailed evaluation of the systems and structure of a commercial property, performed by a qualified inspector. The goal is to identify any issues or deficiencies that may impact the building’s functionality, safety, or integrity. A comprehensive commercial inspection is strongly recommended prior to purchasing, leasing, or financing commercial real estate.

Why Inspect Commercial Buildings?

There are several important reasons to get a commercial property inspected:

  • Protect your investment – Hidden defects like faulty wiring, roof leaks, structural issues, mold, or HVAC problems can lead to expensive repairs, accidents, lawsuits, and loss of value if not addressed early. A thorough inspection helps uncover these problems upfront.
  • Avoid unexpected costs – Catching issues before acquiring a property allows you to negotiate repairs, discounted pricing, or improved lease terms rather than getting stuck with surprise expenses down the road.
  • Meet compliance requirements – Local regulations and building codes require commercial buildings to meet certain safety and accessibility standards. An inspection verifies compliance.
  • Assess renovation needs – If you plan to remodel or renovate a space, an inspector can evaluate required updates to electical, plumbing, ADA compliance, etc.
  • Evaluate tenant fit-out – When planning a retail or office layout, an inspection looks for any constraints like load limits, fire safety, mechanicals.
  • Limit liability – Documenting the condition of the building upfront protects against tenant complaints and lawsuits related to problems that already existed at the time of occupancy.

What Does a Commercial Inspector Check?

A commercial building inspection is far more complex than a basic home inspection. It involves extensive examination of:

  • Structural components – foundation, framing, roof, exterior walls
  • Mechanical systems – HVAC, plumbing, electrical, elevators, security
  • Interior finishes – walls, ceilings, floors, doors, windows
  • Life safety features – fire alarms, sprinklers, emergency lighting
  • Environmental factors – asbestos, lead paint, mold, radon
  • Compliance – zoning, building codes, ADA accessibility
  • High-risk areas – storage tanks, hazardous materials, waste disposal
  • Historic preservation elements if applicable

Inspectors use specialized tools such as moisture meters, thermal imaging cameras, carbon monoxide detectors, and endoscopes to access confined spaces or see behind walls.

Key Elements of a Commercial Building Inspection In Detroit MI

A standard commercial building inspection follows these steps:

  • Records review – Gather blueprints, previous inspection reports, disclosures, and maintenance logs that provide background.
  • Site evaluation – Inspect exterior areas like parking lots, drainage, landscaping, signage, security lighting.
  • Roof inspection – Examine roofing material, gutters, flashing, vents, and look for leaks.
  • Exterior inspection – Look at facade, windows, doors, loading docks, fire escapes, foundation.
  • Structure inspection – Check walls, floors, framing, ceilings for soundness, cracks, water intrusion.
  • Systems inspection – Test lighting, power, HVAC, plumbing, sprinklers, elevators, security system.
  • Accessibility inspection – Confirm ADA compliance like parking, entries, restrooms, routes.
  • Interior inspection – Evaluate flooring, walls, ceilings, kitchens, bathrooms, common areas.
  • Environmental evaluation – Sample air, materials for asbestos, lead, mold, radon as needed.

The inspector generates a detailed report summarizing the building’s overall condition, any recommended repairs, as well as health and safety considerations. Photos document issues found.

Choosing a Commercial Building Inspector

It’s critical to pick an experienced, licensed commercial property inspector, like those at Blessed Assurance Home Inspection. Warning signs of an unqualified inspector include:

  • Lacking proper licensure for commercial inspection
  • No experience inspecting similar building types
  • Unable or unwilling to check major systems like HVAC, electrical, etc.
  • Does not carry errors and omissions insurance
  • Uses only basic home inspection tools and equipment
  • Produces vague reports without photos

A reputable commercial building inspector will be certified by organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) or InterNACHI. They should have strong references and a portfolio demonstrating expertise inspecting commercial structures like office buildings, retail stores, warehouses, hotels, and multifamily properties. Many specialize in a particular niche.

The Best Practice is to Get Inspected

Given the complexities of commercial real estate, a pre-purchase or pre-leasing building inspection provides immense value to buyers, tenants, and investors in identifying issues early when they can still be addressed. Protecting people and investments, avoiding nasty surprises, meeting code requirements, and facilitating smart business decisions are all good reasons to work with professionals like Blessed Assurance Home Inspection before occupying any commercial property.

Interpreting the Inspection Report

The commercial building inspection report provides a wealth of detail that informs important real estate decisions. Here are some tips on analyzing the report:

Focus on safety issues first. Problems like fire code violations, inoperative fire suppression systems, exposed electrical, structurally unsound areas, or friable asbestos should rise to the top. Remediating these protects occupants.

Evaluate cost of recommended repairs. The report should provide cost estimates for addressing issues found. Factor these into purchase price negotiations or remodeling budgets.

Check for dealbreakers. Severe mold, pest infestation, major HVAC equipment replacement, foundation repairs, or rewiring needs could potentially tank a deal if costs exceed projections.

Assess recurrence of problems. Issues like water intrusion, cracked walls, or aging roofs can indicate systemic defects rather than one-off fixes. Consider long-term implications.

Analyze impact on operations. A defect that shuts down facilities during repairs can be more disruptive than a purely cosmetic one. Coordinate timing carefully.

Compare costs to value. If renovation costs outweigh the property’s market value or ability to generate revenue, it may not make financial sense to proceed.

Consider code compliance fixes. Outdated access compliance, safety systems, or zoning issues can be expensive to rectify if grandfathered status doesn’t apply.

Coordinate repairs with tenants. Occupied buildings require care to mitigate disruption to tenants during repair work. 

Look at deficiencies holistically. While one issue alone may be manageable, a combination of several moderate defects can prove challenging.

Discuss concerns with inspector. Their insights into report findings are invaluable. They can offer repair recommendations and cost guidance.

Even quality buildings require regular maintenance and periodic upgrades. The inspection report serves as a guide for properly addressing such needs to maximize building lifespan and return on investment.

Preparing for the Inspection

Certain steps taken prior to the inspector arriving onsite help facilitate a smooth, efficient inspection:

  • Have all building documents ready – certificate of occupancy, blueprints, recent utility bills, previous inspection reports, etc. Provide access codes or keys for rooftop and locked areas.
  • Inform tenants of inspection in occupied buildings so they understand activities. No need to disrupt normal business operations.
  • Sweep interior spaces and organize storage areas for easy visual access to electrical panels, mechanicals, walls and ceilings. Safety first.
  • Test all lighting to confirm functioning prior to inspector arriving. Replace bulbs as needed.
  • Clear debris from exterior areas like parking lot, sidewalks, drainage paths. Straighten landscaping.
  • Have ladders, flashlights, protective gear ready for inspector if needed to access high areas like the roof.
  • If area had recent storms, point out any temporary fixes for minor damage that will still be inspected later.
  • Ensure inspector can access elevators, electrical rooms, ventilation systems, attics and crawlspaces. Unlock gates.
  • Move vehicles from parking areas so inspector can evaluate pavement and spaces thoroughly.
  • Have staff on hand who are familiar with all building systems in case questions arise during inspection.
  • Ask inspector in advance about any special equipment or protection needed to safely inspect hazardous materials areas.

Taking these steps helps maximize efficiency during the inspector’s time onsite. This allows the inspection to proceed smoothly.

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Inspection for Building Retrofits and Renovations

Major building renovations, additions, and retrofit projects also warrant thorough inspections at multiple stages:

Pre-Construction Phase:

  • Inspect existing structural, electrical, HVAC, plumbing systems for capacity to support additions.
  • Check for asbestos, lead paint hazards to safely remove prior to demolition work.
  • Survey for preservation elements before altering historic structures.
  • X-ray slab for embedded conduits to avoid hits during trenching or boring.
  • Document baseline conditions at start to compare to end.

During Construction Phase:

  • Periodically inspect undergrounds before backfilling to catch improper installations early.
  • Verify fire safety measures are in place once framing begins.
  • Monitorareas as they are opened up to check for hidden decay or deterioration.
  • Review work completed against permits, plans, specs to ensure correctness.

Post-Construction Phase:

  • Perform final inspection to confirm work meets codes and was completed as contracted.
  • Check new mechanicals and utilities for proper installation and functionality.
  • Examine foundation, structure for soundness after adding weight.
  • Review exterior drainage and runoff patterns.
  • Document as-built status thoroughly as benchmark for future maintenance.

These phased inspections ensure quality workmanship and reveal any underlying issues before enclosing the building components. Ongoing inspections also provide accountability for contractors to fix problems promptly during construction.

In summary, commercial building inspections provide the visibility needed to address safety concerns, avoid inherited headaches, meet compliance mandates, and maximize the lifespan of building investments.


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