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Guide to Building Inspections for new residential homes (Queensland)

March 8, 2021
Guides

You’ve got development approval to build a new home. But what about the building inspections and certification process? Whenever you ask someone a question about it do you get a different answer? Whether you’re a professional builder, an owner builder, or just a homeowner wanting to keep on top of things with your builder, you’re not alone in being a bit unclear about building inspections.

To further confuse things, the Building Inspection Guidelines for Class 1 and Class 10 buildings (residential dwellings) in Queensland changed in October 2020.

We’ve summarised the key points about Building Inspections for you in this article, so it’s crystal clear who is supposed to do what, and when. And to help make this article as accurate as possible, we enlisted the help of one of the leading Private Certifiers in QLD and NSW, Professional Certification Group (PCG).

9 things you need to know - a building inspections checklist

If you don’t want to read this whole article, you can simply skim through our summary list of the top 9 things you need to know about building inspections for new residential buildings.

  1. The new Building Inspections Guidelines deal with Inspection of Class 1 (single dwelling houses and townhouses) and Class 10 (sheds, fences, pools, retaining walls) buildings and structures.
  2. A builder must firstly engage a certifier and make details of the owner known to them. The certifier is then responsible for notifying the owner and local government of engagement.
  3. There are four mandatory prescribed “Stages” of inspection by a certifier:
    • Footings/Foundations
    • Slab
    • Frame
    • Final
  4. Each Stage has several “Aspects”. Each Aspect requires sign off using a Form 16 by a certifier or “competent person”, such as an engineer, surveyor, etc. These competent persons are typically engaged by the client (the builder or homeowner) and must be deemed competent for the particular aspect inspected by the certifier.
  5. Competent persons cannot usually certify a Stage of building, only on certain Aspect(s) of a Stage.
  6. Once all Aspects have been signed off by competent persons and/or building certifier, a certifier can certify an entire Stage. When all Stages have been certified, the building approval is complete.
  7. The builder is responsible for notifying:
    • competent persons to request inspections of Aspects, where agreed with the certifier that certain aspects are to be inspected by specific competent persons.
    • the building certifier to request certification of Stages.
  8. The builder must agree with the certifier or competent person on a day and time for the required inspections.
  9. The builder and certifier must maintain accurate records and documentation of all these notifications and inspections.

The bottom line for Building Inspections:

Know the difference between a Stage and an Aspect, who should inspect each one and who is ultimately responsible for notifications.

You can read on now for a deeper look at the Building Inspections Guidelines, but just a heads up … we won’t be discussing any Aspects of swimming pool construction in this article.

The first step: engaging a building certifier

After development approval has been given by the local council, the first thing to do is engage a building certifier. The project cannot begin without one.

“The client” (either builder or owner-builder) engages a certifier. The guidelines explain when and how this engagement is communicated between the builder, owner, certifier and local council (usually 10–15 days after the engagement). This clarifies for all concerned who has what role in the project, including any extra inspections requested by the owner.

There are different levels of licence holder for building certifiers, but all will be able to certify Class 1 and Class 10 structures.

Building Inspections action shot with No Betta Concreting

The Stages and Aspects of Building Inspections

As mentioned in the nine points above, there are four prescribed Stages of inspection for certification.  A project involving alteration to an existing home may not involve all Stages but will require certification of the Stage(s) relevant to the alteration being done.

The development approval from council may also include Stages additional to these.

Each of the Stages has various Aspects, which need to be inspected by various “competent persons”. The table below summarises all the Stages, their Aspects and the role of the relevant competent persons. More detail is available in the inspection guidelines.

Building Inspections StageWhen Inspected?AspectsCompetent person
Foundation (and Excavation) StageBefore the footings are poured • boundary clearances
• footing excavation
• reinforcement
Surveyor OR Engineer OR other person deemed competent
by the certifier for each aspect
Slab StageBefore the concrete is poured • floor level check
• termite treatment
• reinforcement of slab
• vapour barrier
Any person deemed competent by the certifier
Frame StageBefore the cladding or lining is fixed (after if the cladding forms part of the bracing) or, for reinforced masonry construction, before the wall cavities are filled. • sub-floor framing
• lower wall framing
• etc
Any person deemed competent by the certifier
Final Stage • site works
• drainage
• fire safety
• energy, water efficiency
• etc
Any person deemed competent by the certifier

A competent person can theoretically sign off a Stage, with the exception of the Foundation and Excavation Stage and Final Stage. Generally this doesn't happen however, since there are aspects within the Stage that are outside the area of expertise of each competent person.

Instead, the building certifier usually signs off on each Stage, with competent persons approved by the certifier signing off on the various Aspects. There are two Aspects with mandatory requirements:

  • A Surveyor must sign off on the boundary clearances/siting Aspect
  • An Engineer must certify that the footing system Aspect has correct steel reinforcing according to the design.

Other Aspects can be signed off by competent persons appointed by the certifier (or the certifier directly), having regard to the individual’s experience, qualifications, skills and relevant licences. This competent person will frequently be an engineer. 

At STA we typically inspect the following Aspects:

StageAspectNotesAspects STA do not cover
FoundationsExcavation of foundation material  • Dimensions of excavations
• Profile of soil excavated
• Bearing surfaces of excavations
Residential design and siting provisions
Compaction of fill material (if necessary)
Cut and fill batters
Piers through fill • Location of piers through compacted fill
• Depth and bedding of piers through compacted fill to natural ground or in accordance with approved design requirements
Residential design and siting provisions
Compaction of fill material (if necessary)
Cut and fill batters
Reinforcement of footing system • Type and placement of steel reinforcing
• Size and gauge of reinforcing steel
• Location and dimension of laps to reinforcement steel
• Type of connections to reinforcement steel
Residential design and siting provisions
Compaction of fill material (if necessary)
Cut and fill batters
SlabReinforcement of slab • Type and placement of steel reinforcing
• Size and gauge of reinforcing steel
• Location and dimension of laps to reinforcement steel
• Type of connections to reinforcement steel
Termite management system
Floor levels
Vapour barrier • Type and location of the vapour barrier
• Type and location of joint overlaps to vapour barrier
• Treatment to penetrations through vapour barrier
Termite management system
Floor levels
FrameSub-floor Framing
(some exclusions exist)
• Member sizes and spacings
• Minimum clearances to ground levels
• Sub-floor bracing
Provisions for sub-floor ventilation
Termite protection
Lower-floor wall framing • Member sizes and spacings
• Bracing
• Tie-down and point-load locations
General Frame exclusions
Insulation for energy efficiency requirements (if applicable)
Upper-floor wall framingWall framing elements to slab or upper levels of multi-storey construction should be checked to ensure member sizes and spacings, bracing, tie-down and point-load requirements comply with the building development approvalGeneral Frame exclusions
Insulation for energy efficiency requirements (if applicable)
Floor framing and flooring
(some exclusions exist)
• Member sizes and spacings
• Diaphragm bracing and blocking
Waterproof/resistant flooring to wet areas
Structural walls
(masonry)
• Tie-down points and lateral bracing elements
• Core filling (if relevant)
• Sizes, lateral support
Roof and ceiling framing • Member sizes and spacings
• Cross-bracing and tie-down
• Point-loads supported
• Location and fixing of truss binders
• Batten fixing and joint location (sheet roofs)*
* Roof Battens may be responsibility of roofing contractor
FinalAll aspects to be approved by certifierSTA is able to provide onsite drainage inspections for the benefit of builders to determine suitability before handover, though responsibility for this Stage remains with the certifier.
Building Inspection Services typically offered by STA Consulting Engineers

Building Inspections notification and certification

When an Aspect of a Stage is ready for inspection:

  • The builder or owner/builder is responsible for notifying the competent person (or certifier) to request an inspection.
  • The competent person certifies that the Aspect they inspect is in compliance with the documentation issued for building approval. 
  • Building Form 16 Inspection certificate/Aspect certificate must be used by the competent person and provided to the builder for issue to the certifier.

Once all Aspects of a Stage are signed off by the relevant ‘competent persons’:

  • The builder is required to provide notification of completion of a Stage to the certifier and provide all relevant information to be assessed. The certifier at this point may need to undertake an inspection, but not in all cases.
  • The certificate of inspection for a Stage must certify the inspected work complies with the building development approval.
  • Again, the Form 16 must be completed, this time by the certifier, and provided to the builder.
  • A building certifier is required to take a holistic view of a building, rather than just consider a single Aspect, such as structural adequacy and ensure all Aspects of a Stage are completed satisfactorily.

If the work does not comply with the building development approval:

  • The competent person may issue an inspection checklist/rectification list following a non-compliant inspection.
  • If work commences and rectification is not carried out, the certifier would issue a Form 61 Noncompliance Notice.
  • The next Stage cannot begin until the work has been rectified and certified with a Form 16.

When all Stages have been certified, the building is complete and a certificate of occupancy can be issued.

Inspecting Aspects: Building Certifier vs Engineer

In a previous post that focussed on foundation inspections only, we explained how things can go wrong with this Aspect and how your engineer can help. While the Guidelines allow you to book the certifier to do Aspect inspections, they also point out that for an individual to be deemed competent to inspect the reinforcement of a footing system Aspect of building work they must be a registered professional engineer.

Furthermore, Engineers can both inspect and troubleshoot to keep your project on track. Like other specialist competent persons, we work in a complimentary way with building certifiers, applying our specialist knowledge on Aspects where we are considered experts. 

In summary, the advantages of using your engineer include:

  • Expert qualifications and capabilities
  • Can design a solution if there’s a problem
  • Will save you time and money
  • Take full responsibility for their designs
  • Provide helpful inspection results

Need help? Talk to us or book an inspection

For advice on how to get going with your Queensland-based project’s inspection and certification schedule, call us on (07) 3071 7444 (QLD).

You can also find out more about our Building Inspections Services, or request a quote online.

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