Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that new construction, changes, or repairs comply with local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:

  • Review and approve plans that meet building codes, local ordinances, and zoning regulations
  • Inspect and monitor construction sites to ensure overall compliance
  • Use survey instruments, metering devices, and test equipment to perform inspections
  • Monitor installation of plumbing, electrical, and other systems to ensure that the building meets codes
  • Verify level, alignment, and elevation of structures and fixtures to ensure building compliance
  • Issue violation notices and stop-work orders until building is compliant
  • Keep daily logs, including photographs taken during inspection

Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR); and plumbing systems. Although no two inspections are alike, inspectors do an initial check during the first phase of construction and follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is finished, they do a final, comprehensive inspection.

The following are types of construction and building inspectors:

Building inspectors check the structural quality and general safety of buildings. Some specialize in structural steel or reinforced-concrete structures, for example.

Electrical inspectors examine the installed electrical systems to ensure they function properly and comply with electrical codes and standards. The inspectors visit worksites to inspect new and existing sound and security systems, wiring, lighting, motors, and generating equipment. They also inspect the installed electrical wiring for HVACR systems and appliances.

Elevator inspectors examine lifting and conveying devices, such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, lifts and hoists, inclined railways, ski lifts, and amusement rides.

Home inspectors typically inspect newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, townhomes, and other dwellings. Prospective home buyers often hire home inspectors to check and report on a home's structure and overall condition. Sometimes, homeowners hire a home inspector to evaluate their home's condition before placing it on the market.

In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors examine all home systems and features, including roofing, exterior walls, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior, plumbing, electrical, and HVACR systems. They look for and report violations of building codes, but they do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes.

Mechanical inspectors examine the installation of HVACR systems and equipment to ensure that they are installed and function properly. They also may inspect commercial kitchen equipment, gas-fired appliances, and boilers.

Plan examiners determine whether the plans for a building or other structure comply with building codes. They also determine whether the structure is suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site.

Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of potable water, waste, and vent piping systems to ensure the safety and health of the drinking water system, piping for industrial uses, and the sanitary disposal of waste.

Public works inspectors ensure that federal, state, and local government water and sewer systems, highways, streets, bridges, and dam construction conform to detailed contract specifications. Workers inspect excavation and fill operations, the placement of forms for concrete, concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving, and grading operations. Public works inspectors may specialize in highways, structural steel, reinforced concrete, or ditches. Others specialize in dredging operations required for bridges and dams or for harbors.

Specification inspectors ensure that work is performed according to design specifications. Specification inspectors represent the owner's interests, not those of the general public. Insurance companies and financial institutions also may use their services.

A primary concern of building inspectors is fire prevention safety. For more information, see the profile on fire inspectors and investigators.


Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers do many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, barricades, forms (molds that determine the shape of concrete), scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction, such as concrete mixers
  • Help other craftworkers with their duties
  • Follow construction plans and instructions from the people they are working for

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, doing a wide range of tasks from the very easy to the extremely difficult and hazardous. Although many of the tasks they do require some training and experience, most jobs usually require little skill and can be learned quickly. 

The following are occupational specialties:

Construction laborers do a variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Although most laborers are generalists--such as those who install barricades, cones, and markers to control traffic patterns--many others specialize. For example, those who operate the machines and equipment that lay concrete or asphalt on roads are more likely to specialize in those areas.

Most construction laborers work in the following areas:

  • Building homes and businesses
  • Tearing down buildings
  • Removing hazardous materials
  • Building highways and roads
  • Digging tunnels and mine shafts

Construction laborers use a variety of tools and equipment. Some tools are simple, such as brooms and shovels; other equipment is more sophisticated, such as pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, and surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use laser beam equipment to place pipes and use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.

Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of basic tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set forms. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.

Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following are examples of trades that have associated helpers:

  • Brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons
  • Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
  • Roofers

Woodworkers

Woodworkers build a variety of products, such as cabinets and furniture, using wood.

Woodworkers typically do the following:

  • Read detailed schematics and blueprints
  • Prepare and set up equipment
  • Lift wood pieces onto machines, either by hand or with hoists
  • Operate wood-making and cutting machines
  • Listen for unusual sounds or detect excessive vibration
  • Ensure that products meet specifications, making adjustments as necessary
  • Use hand tools to trim pieces or assemble products
  • Remove and replace dull saw blades

Despite the abundance of plastics, metals, and other materials, wood products continue to be an important part of our daily lives. Woodworkers make wood products, using lumber and synthetic wood materials. Many of these products are mass produced, including most furniture, kitchen cabinets, and musical instruments. Other products are custom made with specialized tools in small shops.

Although the term “woodworker” may evoke the image of a craftsman who builds ornate furniture using hand tools, the modern woodworking trade is highly technical and relies on advanced equipment and highly skilled operators. Workers use automated machinery, such as computerized numerical control (CNC) machines, to do much of the work.

Even specialized artisans generally use a variety of power tools in their work. Much of the work is done in a high-production assembly line facility, but there is also some work that is customized and does not lend itself to being made in an assembly line. Woodworkers are employed in every part of the secondary wood products industry, from sawmill to finished product, and their activities vary.

Woodworkers set up, operate, and tend all types of woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood-nailing machines. Operators set up the equipment, cut and shape wooden parts, and verify dimensions, using a template, caliper, and rule. After wood parts are made, woodworkers add fasteners and adhesives and connect the pieces to form a complete unit. They then sand, stain, and, if necessary, coat the wood product with a sealer, such as a lacquer or varnish.

Many of these tasks are handled by different workers with specialized training.

The following are types of woodworkers:

Cabinetmakers and bench carpenters cut, shape, assemble, and make parts for wood products. They often design and create sets of cabinets that are customized for particular spaces. In some cases, their duties begin with designing a set of cabinets to specifications and end with installing them.

Furniture finishers shape, finish, and refinish damaged and worn furniture. They often work with antiques and must judge how to best preserve and repair them. They also do the staining and sealing at the end of the process of making wooden products.

Wood sawing machine setters, operators, and tenders specialize in operating specific pieces of woodworking machinery. They often operate computerized numerical control (CNC) machines.

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders, except sawing, operate woodworking machines, such as drill presses, lathes, routers, sanders, and planers.


Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers do many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:

  • Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
  • Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
  • Build or take apart bracing, barricades, forms (molds that determine the shape of concrete), scaffolding, and temporary structures
  • Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
  • Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction, such as concrete mixers
  • Help other craftworkers with their duties
  • Follow construction plans and instructions from the people they are working for

Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, doing a wide range of tasks from the very easy to the extremely difficult and hazardous. Although many of the tasks they do require some training and experience, most jobs usually require little skill and can be learned quickly. 

The following are occupational specialties:

Construction laborers do a variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Although most laborers are generalists--such as those who install barricades, cones, and markers to control traffic patterns--many others specialize. For example, those who operate the machines and equipment that lay concrete or asphalt on roads are more likely to specialize in those areas.

Most construction laborers work in the following areas:

  • Building homes and businesses
  • Tearing down buildings
  • Removing hazardous materials
  • Building highways and roads
  • Digging tunnels and mine shafts

Construction laborers use a variety of tools and equipment. Some tools are simple, such as brooms and shovels; other equipment is more sophisticated, such as pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, and surveying equipment.

With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use laser beam equipment to place pipes and use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.

Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of basic tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set forms. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.

Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following are examples of trades that have associated helpers:

  • Brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters
  • Carpenters
  • Electricians
  • Painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons
  • Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
  • Roofers

Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures--such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters--made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
  • Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
  • Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers

Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.

The following are types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.


Glaziers

Glaziers install glass in windows, skylights, storefronts, and display cases to create distinctive designs or reduce the need for artificial lighting.

Glaziers typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints or specifications for size, color, type, and thickness of glass to be used
  • Remove any old or broken glass before installing replacement glass
  • Cut glass to the specified size and shape
  • Make or install sashes or moldings for glass installation
  • Fasten glass into sashes or frames with clips, moldings, or other types of fasteners
  • Add weather seal or putty around pane edges to seal joints

Glass has many uses in modern life. For example, insulated and specially treated glass keeps in warm or cool air and controls sound and condensation. Tempered and laminated glass makes doors and windows more secure. The creative use of large windows, glass doors, skylights, and sunroom additions makes buildings bright, airy, and inviting. Glaziers specialize in installing these different glass products.

In homes, glaziers install or replace windows, mirrors, shower doors, and bathtub enclosures. They fit glass for tabletops and display cases. On commercial interior projects, glaziers install items such as heavy, often etched, decorative room dividers or security windows. Glazing projects also may involve replacing storefront windows for supermarkets, auto dealerships, banks, and so on.

Workers who replace and repair glass in motor vehicles are not covered in this profile. For more information, see the profile on automotive body and glass repairers.  

For most large scale construction jobs, glass is precut and mounted into frames at a factory or a contractor's shop. The finished glass arrives at the jobsite ready for glaziers to position and secure into place. Using cranes or hoists with suction cups, workers lift large, heavy pieces of glass for installation. In cases where the glass is not secure inside the frame, glaziers may attach steel and aluminum sashes or frames to the building, and then secure the glass with clips, moldings, or other types of fasteners. 

A few glaziers work with plastics, granite, marble, and other materials used as glass substitutes.  Some work with films or laminates that improve the durability or safety of the glass.


Roofers

Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.

There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:

  • Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.

    For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.

    An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
  • Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.

    For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).

    To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.

A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.


Roofers

Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.

There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:

  • Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.

    For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.

    An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
  • Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.

    For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).

    To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.

A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.


Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians typically do the following:

  • Read and understand operating manuals, blueprints, and drawings
  • Perform scheduled maintenance, such as cleaning and lubricating parts
  • Diagnose and identify malfunctions, using computerized tools and equipment
  • Inspect, repair, and replace defective or worn parts, such as bearings, pistons, and gears
  • Overhaul and test major components, such as engines, hydraulics, and electrical systems
  • Disassemble and reassemble heavy equipment and components
  • Travel to worksites to repair large equipment, such as cranes

Heavy vehicles and mobile equipment are critical to many industrial activities, including construction and railroad transportation. Various types of equipment, such as farm machinery, cranes, and bulldozers, are used to move materials, till land, lift beams, and dig earth to pave the way for development and construction.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians repair and maintain engines, hydraulic systems, transmissions, and electrical systems of agricultural, industrial, construction, and rail equipment. They ensure the performance and safety of fuel lines, brakes, transmissions, and other systems.

With many types of equipment and mechanical and electrical systems, service technicians use diagnostic computers to identify problems and make adjustments or repairs. Although the use of computerized testing equipment, such as tachometers and dynamometers, is common, technicians also use many different power and machine tools, including pneumatic wrenches, lathes, and welding equipment.

Service technicians also use many different handtools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, to work on small parts and in hard-to-reach areas. They generally purchase these tools over the course of their careers, often investing thousands of dollars in their collections.

After locating malfunctions, service technicians repair, replace, and recalibrate components such as hydraulic pumps or spark plugs. This may involve disassembling and reassembling major equipment or making adjustments through an onboard computer program.

The following are types of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians:

Farm equipment mechanics service and repair farm equipment, such as tractors and harvesters. They also work on smaller consumer-grade lawn and garden tractors. Most mechanics work for dealer repair shops, where farmers increasingly send their equipment for maintenance.   

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics repair and maintain construction and surface mining equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, graders, and excavators. Many work for equipment wholesale and distribution shops and large construction and mining companies. Those working for the federal government may work on tanks and other military equipment.

Rail car repairers specialize in servicing railroad locomotives, subway cars, and other rolling stock. They usually work for railroad, public and private transit companies, and rail car manufacturers.

For information about technicians and mechanics who work primarily on automobiles, see the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.

For information about technicians who work primarily on large trucks and buses, see the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

For information about technicians and mechanics who primarily work on motorboats, motorcycles and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.


Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures--such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters--made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
  • Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
  • Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers

Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.

The following are types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.


Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures--such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters--made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
  • Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
  • Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers

Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.

The following are types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.


Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data to estimate the time, money, resources, and labor required for product manufacturing, construction projects, or services. Some specialize in a particular industry or product type.

Cost estimators typically do the following:

  • Consult with industry experts to discuss estimates and resolve issues
  • Identify and quantify cost factors, such as production time and raw material, equipment, and labor expenses
  • Travel to job sites to gather information on materials needed, labor requirements, and other factors 
  • Read blueprints and technical documents to prepare estimates
  • Collaborate with engineers, architects, owners, and contractors on estimates
  • Use sophisticated computer software to calculate estimates 
  • Evaluate a product's cost effectiveness or profitability
  • Recommend ways to make a product more cost effective or profitable
  • Prepare estimates for clients and other business managers
  • Develop project plans for the duration of the project

Accurately predicting the cost, size, and duration of future construction and manufacturing projects is vital to the survival of any business. Cost estimators' calculations give managers or investors this information.

When making calculations, estimators analyze many inputs to determine how much time, money, and labor a project needs, or how profitable it will be. These estimates have to take many factors into account, including allowances for wasted material, bad weather, shipping delays, and other factors that can increase costs and lower profitability.

Cost estimators use sophisticated computer software, including database, simulation, and complex mathematical programs. Cost estimators often use a computer database with information on the costs of other similar projects.

General contractors usually hire cost estimators for specific parts of a large construction project, such as estimating the electrical work or the excavation phase. In such cases, the estimator calculates the cost of the construction phase for which the contractor is responsible, rather than calculating the cost of the entire project. The general contractor usually also has a cost estimator who calculates the total project cost by analyzing the bids that the subcontractors' cost estimators prepared.

Some estimators are hired by manufacturers to analyze certain products or processes.

The following are the two primary types of cost estimators:

Construction cost estimators estimate construction work. More than half of all cost estimators work in the construction industry. They may, for example, estimate the total cost of building a bridge or a highway. They may identify direct costs, such as raw materials and labor requirements, and set a timeline for the project. Although many work directly for construction firms, some work for contractors, architects, and engineering firms.

Manufacturing cost estimators calculate the costs of developing, producing, or redesigning a company's goods and services. For example, a cost estimator working for a home appliance manufacturer may determine whether a new type of dishwasher will be profitable to manufacture.

Some manufacturing cost estimators work in software development. Many high-technology products require a considerable amount of computer programming, and the costs of software development are difficult to calculate.  

Two other groups also sometimes do cost estimating in their jobs. Operations research, production control, cost, and price analysts who work for government agencies may do significant amounts of cost estimating in the course of their usual duties. Construction managers also may spend considerable time estimating costs. For more information, see the profiles on operations research analysts and construction managers.


Construction Managers

Construction managers plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from early development to completion.

Construction managers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and negotiate cost estimates, budgets, and work timetables
  • Select appropriate construction methods and strategies
  • Interpret and explain contracts and technical information to workers and other professionals
  • Report on work progress and budget matters to clients
  • Collaborate with architects, engineers, and other construction and building specialists
  • Instruct and supervise construction personnel and activities onsite
  • Respond to work delays and other problems and emergencies
  • Select, hire, and instruct laborers and subcontractors  
  • Comply with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations

Construction managers, often called general contractors or project managers, coordinate and supervise a wide variety of projects, including the building of all types of residential, commercial, and industrial structures, roads, bridges, powerplants, schools, and hospitals. They oversee specialized contractors and other personnel. Construction managers schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes to ensure a productive and safe work environment. They also make sure jobs are completed on time and on budget with the right amount of tools, equipment, and materials. Many managers also are responsible for obtaining necessary permits and licenses. They are often responsible for multiple projects at a time.

Construction managers work closely with other building specialists, such as architects, engineers, and a variety of trade workers, such as stonemasons, electricians, and carpenters. Projects may require specialists in everything from structural metalworking and painting, to landscaping, building roads, installing carpets, and excavating sites. Depending on the project, construction managers also may interact with lawyers and local government officials. For example, when working on city-owned property or municipal buildings, managers sometimes confer with city council members to ensure that all regulations are met.

For projects too large to be managed by one person, such as office buildings and industrial complexes, a construction manager would only be in charge of one part of the project. Each construction manager would oversee a specific construction phase and choose subcontractors to complete it. Construction managers may need to collaborate and coordinate with other construction managers who are responsible for different aspects of the project.

To maximize efficiency and productivity, construction managers often use specialized cost-estimating and planning software to effectively budget the time and money required to complete specific projects. Many managers also use software to determine the best way to get materials to the building site. For more information, see the profile on cost estimators.


Sales Managers

Sales managers direct organizations' sales teams. They set sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for the organization's sales representatives.

Sales managers typically do the following:

  • Oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs
  • Resolve customer complaints regarding sales and service
  • Prepare budgets and approve budget expenditures
  • Monitor customer preferences to determine the focus of sales efforts
  • Analyze sales statistics
  • Project sales and determine the profitability of products and services
  • Determine discount rates or special pricing plans
  • Plan and coordinate training programs for sales staff

Sales managers' responsibilities vary with the size of the organization they work for. However, most sales managers direct the distribution of goods and services by assigning sales territories, setting sales goals, and establishing training programs for the organization's sales representatives.

In some cases, they recruit, hire, and train new members of the sales staff. For more information about sales workers, see the profiles on retail sales workers and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Sales managers advise sales representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large multiproduct organizations, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs.

Sales managers also stay in contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics that their staff gathers, both to determine the sales potential and inventory requirements of products and stores and to monitor customers' preferences.

Sales managers work closely with managers from other departments. For example, the marketing department identifies new customers that the sales department can target. The relationship between these two departments is critical to helping an organization expand its client base. Because sales managers monitor customers' preferences and stores' and organizations' inventory needs, they work closely with research and design departments and warehousing departments.


Mechanical Door Repairers

Mechanical Door Repairers install, service, or repair automatic door mechanisms and hydraulic doors. Includes garage door mechanics.


Construction and Building Inspectors

Construction and building inspectors ensure that new construction, changes, or repairs comply with local and national building codes and ordinances, zoning regulations, and contract specifications.

Construction and building inspectors typically do the following:

  • Review and approve plans that meet building codes, local ordinances, and zoning regulations
  • Inspect and monitor construction sites to ensure overall compliance
  • Use survey instruments, metering devices, and test equipment to perform inspections
  • Monitor installation of plumbing, electrical, and other systems to ensure that the building meets codes
  • Verify level, alignment, and elevation of structures and fixtures to ensure building compliance
  • Issue violation notices and stop-work orders until building is compliant
  • Keep daily logs, including photographs taken during inspection

Construction and building inspectors examine buildings, highways and streets, sewer and water systems, dams, bridges, and other structures. They also inspect electrical; heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR); and plumbing systems. Although no two inspections are alike, inspectors do an initial check during the first phase of construction and follow-up inspections throughout the construction project. When the project is finished, they do a final, comprehensive inspection.

The following are types of construction and building inspectors:

Building inspectors check the structural quality and general safety of buildings. Some specialize in structural steel or reinforced-concrete structures, for example.

Electrical inspectors examine the installed electrical systems to ensure they function properly and comply with electrical codes and standards. The inspectors visit worksites to inspect new and existing sound and security systems, wiring, lighting, motors, and generating equipment. They also inspect the installed electrical wiring for HVACR systems and appliances.

Elevator inspectors examine lifting and conveying devices, such as elevators, escalators, moving sidewalks, lifts and hoists, inclined railways, ski lifts, and amusement rides.

Home inspectors typically inspect newly built or previously owned homes, condominiums, townhomes, and other dwellings. Prospective home buyers often hire home inspectors to check and report on a home's structure and overall condition. Sometimes, homeowners hire a home inspector to evaluate their home's condition before placing it on the market.

In addition to examining structural quality, home inspectors examine all home systems and features, including roofing, exterior walls, attached garage or carport, foundation, interior, plumbing, electrical, and HVACR systems. They look for and report violations of building codes, but they do not have the power to enforce compliance with the codes.

Mechanical inspectors examine the installation of HVACR systems and equipment to ensure that they are installed and function properly. They also may inspect commercial kitchen equipment, gas-fired appliances, and boilers.

Plan examiners determine whether the plans for a building or other structure comply with building codes. They also determine whether the structure is suited to the engineering and environmental demands of the building site.

Plumbing inspectors examine the installation of potable water, waste, and vent piping systems to ensure the safety and health of the drinking water system, piping for industrial uses, and the sanitary disposal of waste.

Public works inspectors ensure that federal, state, and local government water and sewer systems, highways, streets, bridges, and dam construction conform to detailed contract specifications. Workers inspect excavation and fill operations, the placement of forms for concrete, concrete mixing and pouring, asphalt paving, and grading operations. Public works inspectors may specialize in highways, structural steel, reinforced concrete, or ditches. Others specialize in dredging operations required for bridges and dams or for harbors.

Specification inspectors ensure that work is performed according to design specifications. Specification inspectors represent the owner's interests, not those of the general public. Insurance companies and financial institutions also may use their services.

A primary concern of building inspectors is fire prevention safety. For more information, see the profile on fire inspectors and investigators.


Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures--such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters--made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

Carpenters typically do the following:

  • Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
  • Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
  • Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
  • Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
  • Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
  • Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
  • Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers

Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.

Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.

The following are types of carpenters:

Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.

Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.

Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.


Roofers

Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.

There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:

  • Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.

    For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.

    An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
  • Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.

    For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).

    To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.

A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.


Fire Inspectors and Investigators

Fire inspectors visit and inspect buildings and other structures, such as sports arenas and shopping malls, to search for fire hazards and to ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met. They also test and inspect fire protection and fire extinguishing equipment to ensure that it works. Fire investigators determine the origin and cause of fires by searching the surrounding scene and collecting evidence.

Fire inspectors typically do the following:

  • Search for fire hazards
  • Ensure that buildings comply with fire codes
  • Test fire alarms, sprinklers, and other fire protection and extinguishing equipment
  • Inspect equipment such as gasoline storage tanks and air compressors
  • Review emergency evacuation plans
  • Conduct follow-up visits when an infraction is found
  • Confer with developers and planners to review plans for residential and commercial buildings
  • Conduct fire and life safety education programs
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law

Fire investigators typically do the following:

  • Collect and analyze evidence
  • Interview witnesses
  • Determine the origin and cause of a fire
  • Process and document evidence, such as photographs and diagrams
  • Reconstruct the scene of a fire or arson
  • Confer with other specialists, such as chemists, engineers, and attorneys, to analyze information
  • Send evidence to laboratories to be tested for fingerprints or an accelerant
  • Keep detailed records that can be used in a court of law
  • Testify in civil and criminal legal proceedings

Unlike fire inspectors, many fire investigators have police powers and carry a weapon.

Forest fire inspectors and prevention specialists assess fire hazards in both public and residential areas. They look for issues that pose a wildfire risk and recommend ways to reduce the fire hazard. During patrols, they ensure that the public is following fire regulations and report fire conditions to central command.


Roofers

Roofers repair and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, asphalt, and metal.

Roofers typically do the following:

  • Inspect problem roofs to determine the best way to repair them
  • Measure roof to calculate the quantities of materials needed
  • Replace damaged or rotting joists or plywood
  • Install vapor barriers or layers of insulation
  • Install shingles, asphalt, metal, or other materials to make the roof watertight
  • Align roofing materials with edges of the roof
  • Cut roofing materials to fit angles formed by walls, vents, or intersecting roof surfaces
  • Cover exposed nail or screw heads with roofing cement or caulk to prevent leakage

Properly installed roofs keep water from leaking into buildings and damaging the interior, equipment, or furnishings.

There are two basic types of roofs, low-slope and steep-slope:

  • Low-slope: About two-thirds of all roofs are low-slope. Most commercial, industrial, and apartment buildings have low-slope roofs. Low-slope roofs rise 4 inches or less per horizontal foot and are installed in layers.

    For low-slope roofs, roofers typically use several layers of roofing materials or felt membranes stuck together with hot bitumen (a tar-like substance). They glaze the top layer to make a smooth surface or embed gravel in the hot bitumen to make a rough surface.

    An increasing number of low-slope roofs are covered with a single-ply membrane of waterproof rubber or thermoplastic compounds.
  • Steep-slope: Most of the remaining roofs are steep-slope. Most single-family houses have steep-slope roofs. Steep-slope roofs rise more than 4 inches per horizontal foot.

    For steep-slope roofs, roofers typically use asphalt shingles, which often cost less than other coverings. On steep-slope roofs, some roofers also install tile, solar shingles, fiberglass shingles, metal shingles, or shakes (rough wooden shingles).

    To apply shingles, roofers first lay, cut, and tack 3-foot strips of roofing over the entire roof. Then, starting from the bottom edge, they nail overlapping rows of shingles to the roof.

A small but increasing number of buildings now have “green” roofs that incorporate landscape roofing systems. A landscape roofing system typically begins with a single or multiple waterproof layers. After that layer is proven to be leak free, roofers put a root barrier over it, and, finally, layers of soil, in which vegetation is planted. Roofers must ensure that the roof is watertight and can endure the weight and water needs of the plants.


Architects

Architects plan and design buildings and other structures.

Architects typically do the following:

  • Seek new work by marketing and giving presentations
  • Consult with clients to determine requirements for structures
  • Estimate materials, equipment, costs, and construction time
  • Prepare, design, and structure specifications
  • Direct workers who prepare drawings and documents
  • Prepare scaled drawings of the project
  • Prepare contract documents for building contractors
  • Manage construction contracts
  • Visit worksites to ensure that construction adheres to architectural plans

People need places to live, work, play, learn, worship, meet, govern, shop, and eat. Architects are responsible for designing these places, whether they are private or public; indoors or outdoors; or rooms, buildings, or complexes.

Architects discuss with clients the objectives, requirements, and budget of a project. In some cases, architects provide various predesign services, such as feasibility and environmental impact studies, site selection, cost analyses and land-use studies, and design requirements. For example, architects may determine a building's space requirements by researching its number and types of potential users.

After discussing and agreeing on the initial proposal, architects develop final construction plans that show the building's appearance and details for its construction. Accompanying these plans are drawings of the structural system; air-conditioning, heating, and ventilating systems; electrical systems; communications systems; plumbing; and, possibly, site and landscape plans.

In developing designs, architects must follow building codes, zoning laws, fire regulations, and other ordinances, such as those requiring easy access by people who are disabled.

Computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) and building information modeling (BIM) technology have replaced traditional drafting paper and pencil as the most common methods for creating designs and construction drawings.

Architects also may help clients get construction bids, select contractors, and negotiate construction contracts.

As construction proceeds, architects may visit building sites to ensure that contractors follow the design, keep to the schedule, use the specified materials, and meet work-quality standards. The job is not complete until all construction is finished, required tests are conducted, and construction costs are paid.

Architects often work with workers in related professions. For more information on these occupations, see the profiles on civil engineers, urban and regional planners, interior designers, and landscape architects.


Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.  

Automotive service technicians and mechanics typically do the following:

  • Test parts and systems to ensure that they are working properly
  • Identify mechanical problems, often by using computerized diagnostic equipment
  • Follow checklists to ensure that all critical parts are examined
  • Test and lubricate the vehicle's engine and other major components
  • Perform basic care and maintenance, including oil changes, tuneups, and tire rotations
  • Repair or replace worn parts, such as brake pads and wheel bearings
  • Disassemble and reassemble parts
  • Use testing equipment to ensure that repairs and maintenance are effective
  • Explain to clients their automotive problems and the repairs done on their vehicles

Service technicians work on traditional mechanical components, such as engines, transmissions, belts, and hoses. However, they must also be familiar with a growing number of electronic systems. Braking, transmission, and steering systems, for example, are controlled primarily by computers and electronic components.

Other integrated electronic systems, such as accident-avoidance sensors, are becoming common as well. In addition, a growing number of technicians are required to work on vehicles that run on alternative fuels, such as ethanol and electricity.

Service technicians use many different tools, including computerized diagnostic tools and power tools such as pneumatic wrenches, lathes, welding torches, and jacks and hoists. These tools usually are owned by their employers.

Service technicians also use many common handtools, such as pliers, wrenches, and screwdrivers, which generally are their own. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection.

Service technicians sometimes specialize in a particular type of repair that may be subject to specific regulations or procedures. For instance, those focused on air-conditioning system repairs must follow federal and state regulations governing the handling, recycling, and disposal of refrigerants.

In some shops, technicians may specialize. The following are types of service technicians:

Automotive air-conditioning repairers install and repair air conditioners and service parts, such as compressors, condensers, and controls. They are trained in government regulations related to their work.

Brake repairers adjust brakes, replace brake linings and pads, and make other repairs on brake systems. Some technicians specialize in both brake and front-end work. 

Front-end mechanics align and balance wheels and repair steering mechanisms and suspension systems. They frequently use special alignment equipment and wheel-balancing machines.

Transmission technicians and rebuilders work on gear trains, couplings, hydraulic pumps, and other parts of transmissions. Extensive knowledge of computer controls, the ability to diagnose electrical and hydraulic problems, and other specialized skills are needed to work on these complex components.

Tune-up technicians adjust ignition timing and valves and adjust or replace spark plugs and other parts to ensure efficient engine performance. They often use electronic testing equipment to isolate and adjust malfunctions in fuel, ignition, and emissions control systems.

For information about technicians who work on large trucks and buses, see the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

For information about technicians who work on farm equipment, construction vehicles, and rail cars, see the profile on heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians.

For information about technicians who repair and service motorcycles, motorboats, and small all-terrain vehicles, see the profile on small engine mechanics.


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