Resources and Links

Getting Started

The following practical information should prove useful to the certified DSA inspector. We will try to cover a wide range of topics.

Inspector Certification and Approval
Click here for link to DSA IR A-7 "Inspector Certification and Approval". It outlines certification requirements and explains the difference between Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 inspectors.

Inspector’s Job File

DSA IR A-8. To download free copies of IR's (Interpretation of Regulations) click here. The project inspector’s responsibilities include: a thorough understanding of all requirements of the construction documents. Identification, documentation, and reporting of deviations from the contract documents. Submittal of verified reports. The inspector must maintain approved construction documents, including DSA approved plans and specifications, at the job site in an organized manner.

Keeping good records and maintaining ready access to building codes, references and approved documents is not only required but is beneficial to the inspector, the District, the State, the consultants and the project. Here are some of the key items that should be in your job files:


Photographs showing work progress, excavations, underground utilities, footings, framing, various attachments, HVAC rough, electrical rough, finish substrates, fireproofing, testing, impact of weather exposure, damage to work installed and areas of concern or dispute are valuable to all team members. They also help the inspector to re-trace his steps when issues come up as a result of work installed in months past.

There’s nothing as good as a digital camera and a computer hard drive to perform this task. Photos can be moved to CD’s or DVD’s when disk space becomes an issue. Copies can be distributed as needed. Digital photos can also be emailed to the Architect or other parties to help resolve site construction issues. When using Microsoft Word to write reports, use ‘insert photo’ to paste photographs into the file. Use arrow pointers to highlight areas in the photograph.

Use this rule of thumb when taking photographs: take pictures of anything that gets concealed or anything that represents a deviation from the plans. Make sure your photos or photo files note the date they were created. If you download your camera daily, the file creation date will typically be entered automatically and only changed if the photo is modified.


Every product to be incorporated into a structure requires an approved submittal. The contractor(s) submit products to the architect who then returns the submittal to the team members with a stamped approval or “no exceptions taken” noted on the cover sheet. Any submittal that says “revise and resubmit” is NOT approved.

Products submitted should reflect product information that is covered in the approved contract specification, although there will often be some changes or substitutions made. The District is typically made aware of changes or substitutions in case there is a maintenance issue (e.g. the District uses a particular sprinkler head throughout the District to simplify maintenance issues). Submittals will contain product data, manufacturers installation recommendations, as well as safety, fire, or toxicity evaluations.

As work progresses through it’s various phases, the IOR should refer to both the approved submittals and the contract specifications, catching any variances prior to the actual installation. As an owner's representative, the inspector is in an ideal situation to make sure the District gets what it's paying for.

Contract Specifications

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood elements of school construction,  contract specifications are a vital part of the contract documents and are approved with a stamp by the consultants as well as DSA. They are no less important than the approved plans.

The contract specifications reinforce, and in some cases augment, information and details provided on the approved plans. Specifications cover all elements of the construction, including testing and inspection. They typically contain contract information specifically outlining the scope of each contractors contract. They may also contain specific soils recommendations, the DSA Testing and Inspection sheet (T&I sheet link click here), various blank forms to be used for inspection requests, requests for information, change order requests, etc.

When there is a discrepancy between the approved plans and the contract specifications, the specifications may prevail, depending on the way that the contract is written.

Where testing is required, such as nondestructive testing of welds or pull testing, specific information may be provided in the specifications that apply to the test requirements (e.g. method and amount of testing required, tensions, loads, etc.). It is not uncommon for the requirements in the contract specification to exceed minimum code requirements.

Treat the specifications with respect and read each section carefully. Are circuit and panel identification required on all receptacle covers? Do conduits and piping require identification? What is the depth of scarification when preparing the site for concrete flatwork, fire lanes, parking lots? Is one or two layers of 15 pound kraft paper required with lath? Is the lath self-furring diamond mesh? The contract specifications will answer these kind of questions in detail.

The first part of each section in the specifications will note related sections that also apply. This will be followed up with acceptable product types and descriptions. Each section will typically provide information on submittals, mock-ups,  and installation methods.

T&I Sheet - Structural Tests and Inspections Form

The architect or structural engineer is required to prepare a DSA form 103, List of Structural Tests and Special Inspections sheet, and have it approved by DSA for project start-up. When you first meet with your architect, ask for a copy of this completed and approved form. The minimal testing and inspections required by DSA for your project will be itemized by category on this form. Your DSA field engineer will ask to see the form when he visits the site.

Approved Plans

The approved plans will typically include detailed information on all elements of construction. There will be sheets covering everything from grading to irrigation to structural foundation work and finish work. “Approved” means approved by DSA. If there is no DSA stamp, or the stamp is is there but not signed and dated by DSA, you do not have an approved set of plans. A stamp by the architect or structural engineer is not a DSA stamp. If there are deltas indicating changes to the drawings that are dated after the DSA stamped approval date, you do not have a current set of DSA approved plans unless the changes are supported by DSA approved change orders.

There may be information that is missing from the drawings or conflicting information in the drawings. It is the obligation of the contractor or contract management to issue a request for information (RFI) to the Architect to provide the missing information or clarify conflicts in the plans. The Architect will defer structural issues to the structural engineer, civil issues to the civil engineer, electrical issues to the electrical engineer, etc.

When the response comes in from an RFI that reflects a change in structural detailing, handicap access, or fire and life safety, the change must be submitted to DSA for approval. It is preferred to get preliminary approval in writing from DSA of any such changes, since any work that gets covered up that is later NOT approved by DSA, will create unnecessary hardships for all parties involved.

In reviewing drawings, make sure you are always a few steps ahead of the construction. A concrete pour is not just about the rebar and concrete. A concrete wall, for instance, may also include plumbing and electrical rough-in, block outs for piping or HVAC, and embeds for structural attachment. You must have a handle on how to coordinate your review of the drawings so that it includes all trades. It is not your job to coordinate the work, but approval of a concrete pour implies approval of all required elements to be incorporated in that pour.

As noted above, when there is a conflict between the approved plans and the contract specifications, check the contractual information in the specification to see which detail information prevails.

Deferred Approval Drawings

When plans are approved by DSA, there may be certain elements of the construction (e.g. automatic fire sprinkler systems, window wall systems, skylights) that are considered proprietary and require deferred approval by DSA.  These drawings will be issued and approved by DSA independently of the main set of plans and specifications. Deferred approvals will be noted on the front pages of the approved plans. The reason for requiring this delay in the approval process is that some engineered products cannot be adequately detailed on the approved plans until a specific manufacturer is identified and approved in the submittal process.

The deferred approval plans will typically have the same DSA A# as the original plans. DSA is trying to phase out the use of deferred approval process but it currently remains in place.

Shop Drawings

Shop drawings are not reviewed or approved by DSA. It is for this reason that DSA prefers that you do not inspect solely from shop drawings but always refer to the approved plans.

If you look in the contract specification for each trade you may notice a requirement for many of the trades to submit shop drawings for approval by the architect. The shop drawings focus on a particular contract item (e.g. HVAC). The shop drawings typically indicate details of fabrication and installation, including locations, routing and means of attachment or burial that the contractor or subcontractor intends to employ during construction. Review of the shop drawings allows the architect to notify the contractor of deviations from the plans and specifications or layout issues that may cause conflict with other trades (e.g. where there is limited space above a dropped ceiling and the contractor(s) need to install HVAC duct, conduit  and devices (low voltage and power), roof drains, condensate drains, water pipe, vent pipe, fire sprinkler pipe, hanger wires, bracing wires and compression struts in the space provided). The approved plans may be diagrammatic, allowing flexibility in the actual layout. A conscientious architect can make comments or corrections notes on the shop drawings that assist in coordination issues. Review of the shop drawings may also cause the architect to make modifications such as a change in ceiling height to remedy conflict issues.

Copies of approved shop drawings should be maintained on site by the inspector. Use the shop drawings as a reference, but remember the contractor is bound to the approved plans and specifications unless there is an DSA approved change order to support a change (e.g. structural, fire and life safety, handicap access changes). Minor modifications that do not represent a change in project costs or scope, such as relocation of a light fixture or AC vent, piping or conduit runs, would not typically require an approved change order.

The inspector must keep an eye out for detailing on the approved shop drawings that conflicts with the approved plans or code but was not picked up by the consultants during submittal review.


Samples of glazing, plaster finish, ceramic tile, ceiling tile, finishes and other materials are typically submitted to the architect for approval. Duplicates with a stamped approval should be provided to the inspector for reference and maintained on the job site.

Daily Reports

DSA IR A-8. The inspector must maintain detailed records of all inspections at the job site. A systematic record of all work is required.

Click here for sample daily inspection form. The inspector’s daily report is used to track personnel, construction activities, visitors to the site, material deliveries, weather, inspection and testing activities, and to highlight issues (changes, non-conformance).

By using a laptop computer and printer, the form can be standardized as a word or PDF file. Entries can be made and printed out each day. Over time, a legible history of the project is created that all team members can review and comprehend as needed.

By using ‘check-control’ you can develop a history of open and resolved construction and inspection issues. Simply put a check to the left of any line-entry that details an issue. Later, when the issue is resolved, return to the check and circle it with a date. At the end of the project all checked entries on your daily reports should be circled.

Site observations by the architect and engineer are required by code. Tracking visits by the architect, engineer and other consultants provides a history of interaction with the site team, including the inspector. Notes on official site visitors, such as the architect or engineer, are requested in DSA’s sample semi-monthly report.

Tracking material deliveries helps to create an accurate timeline of work progress and should include notes by the inspector that he received all necessary material certifications and, when required, sampled materials for lab testing.

A quick overview at the top of each daily report provides an at-a-glance window on project activities. Detailed information can be provided below where each trades activities and work locations are noted.

Documenting the weather may not seem important, but high winds can impact plaster cure, rain can cause leaks and damage where roofing is not compete, intense sun may impact exposed materials that have limited exposure time. Any damage or potential issues that result from weather impact should be noted on the daily report. Tracking rain days also assists the team when reviewing contractor performance issues.

It’s understood that some of these tracking items are not specifically required by code but they are a part of good record keeping and may benefit the inspector, the architect and the owner. They are a clear indicator to the DSA field engineer that you are involved with the project.

Copies of your daily reports may be requested by the District or its representatives. Sign and date your daily report!

Semi-Monthly Reports

DSA IR A-8. The project inspector must make semi-monthly reports on the 1st and 15th of every month and submit copies of the report to the architect, engineer and DSA.

DSA provides a form DSA-155 semi-monthly report  on its web site. Click here to download this and other needed forms. This is where you note work progress, materials testing and special inspections performed, problems or unusual conditions, deviation notices, DSA field trip notes, and official site visitors for a specific 15-day period. Copies of the semi-monthly report must be sent to the design officials and DSA. Copies should be maintained in your files.

DSA does not typically require detailed information in the semi-monthly reports. It is more of an overview indicating project progress. Make sure that you clearly indicate percentage of completion on each report. DSA is also requesting that the project inspector attach a form indicating daily hours worked for the period covered by the semi-monthly report.

Log of Testing and Special Inspections

DSA IR A-8. The inspector is responsible for verifying that all required material sampling and special inspections have been performed.

If you maintain a simple call log, noting the date, your initials, which testing lab you called, a brief description of type of testing, what type of inspection or sampling is required, the area where the testing or sampling will occur and the date and time testing is required, you will have an at-a-glance record of all site testing activities.

The inspector can use the log as a reference to make sure all lab testing reports have been copied to the inspector for his review.

During the project you may be asked to explain testing and inspection cost over-runs. The log will indicate details on each call for inspection.

Concrete and Grout Placement Record

In addition to the use of a log for testing and special inspections, an excellent way to maintain a record of concrete and grout placement is to file copies of all concrete trip tickets, stapling each days tickets together and writing specific location information on the top of the ticket. These tickets can be compared to your log and to field reports issued by special inspectors for a complete history of inspection activities.

Special Inspection Field Reports

Maintain copies of all special inspection and testing field reports. The best way to make this happen is to sign every inspector’s field report and demand a copy at the end of each day. File the copies in sequential order after reviewing them. These reports can be referenced back to your Log of Testing and Special Inspections. They can also be referenced back to your daily reports.

DSA requires that copies of all special inspection reports be issued to the IOR on a daily basis. Any non-compliance issues should be clearly noted on the reports. Corrective work and final acceptance of previously noted non-compliance work should be clearly noted in the daily reports.

Lab Test Records

All test records are to be created and maintained by the approved testing lab. Copies must be distributed to all parties including the IOR. It is the labs responsibility to promptly notify all parties of any test failure.

The IOR should always request to be put on the lab mailing list for test and inspection report distribution. The IOR must review each test report to verify that the lab test was completed and that the results were in compliance with project/code  requirements. These test records should be filed and maintained as part of the IOR project records.

IOR Transmittals

DSA IR A-8. When the inspector notices deviations from the approved plans and specifications, the inspector must verbally notify the contractor.

If you issue and maintain IOR transmittals and a log of the transmittals, documenting deviations from the approved contract documents that do not warrant an immediate notice of deviation or non-compliance, you give the contractor the opportunity to correct the deviation and establish a way to track issues and how they were resolved. It’s like maintaining an open punch-list that can be updated and referenced by the inspector, the contractor, or the architect.

At the end of the project all IOR transmittal items should be closed out or moved onto a final punchlist.

Notice of Deviation

DSA IR A-8. When the inspector notices deviations from the approved plans and specifications, the inspector must verbally notify the contractor. If not immediately corrected, the inspector is required to issue a notice of deviation to the contractor, design professional and DSA.

It is requested in DSA’s semi-monthly report form 155 that the inspector should include information on any ‘deviation notices’ issued. Also called a ‘notice of non-compliance’, a notice of deviation gives notice that work is being set in place that is not in compliance with the contract documents and that the contractor has not responded to a verbal request to make corrections. You will not be able to close out the project if there are open notices of deviation. Notices of Deviation should not be issued without first communicating with the contractor in an attempt to resolve the issue without a notice.

Remember, changes from the contract documents are allowed when the changes are approved in writing by the responsible design professionals and DSA. Changes do occur and are not necessarily a bad thing; if they get approved.


Contractors use the RFI (request for information) submittal process to request detail clarifications or to note conditions that will require a deviation from the contract documents. The RFI is submitted to the architect for review. When the RFI is returned it will have comments, details or sketches from the architect or consultants. If the response represents a change to the contract documents it must be supported by an approved change order. Work that proceeds prior to receipt of an approved DSA change order, or preliminary change order, is done at the contractor’s own risk and should be noted in a deviation notice.

The inspector must review and maintain all RFI responses.


Addenda, like change orders, must be approved by DSA. At bid time, contractors are notified in the contract specifications of addenda; changes not shown on the bid plans that may add or delete scope from their work. Specific information on addenda content is typically found in the front section of the contract specifications. When DSA approves the contract specifications containing they will also stamp and approve the addenda. Watch out for addenda slipped into the approved specifications after DSA approval of the specifications.

Including addenda in the contract specifications allows the architect to introduce changes not shown on the bid set of plans.

Change Orders and Preliminary Change Orders

DSA IR A-6. During the project, changes to the approved plans must be submitted by the architect to DSA for approval. Change orders typically represent changes to the monetary assessment of the project and must include any structural, life safety, handicap access, or energy conservation changes. Any work that proceeds without DSA approval is done so at the contractor’s own risk, even when the change order is approved by the architect or engineer. For structural changes the engineer must convince the state that the change is required and support the change with calculations and sketches.

Change orders must also be approved by the school district. The district's concerns are typically financial.

It is not uncommon for a contractor to proceed on a change order issued by the architect, prior to approval by DSA. You can issue an IOR Transmittal stating that the contractor is proceeding at his own risk without DSA approval. Sometimes a notice will cause a contractor to think twice about proceeding without DSA approval. You can speak with the architect and engineer to get reassurances but you should also let them know that DSA approval should be forthright.

Take your stand in writing. If the DSA field engineer drops by the job site and questions you on work proceeding without DSA approval, you can present your IOR transmittal as evidence that you have put the contractor on notice. The field engineer may select to speak directly with the architect in response to this kind of issue.

A method of getting early approval for changes is for the architect to submit specific changes for preliminary approval by DSA. Preliminary change orders (known as Field Change Directives) are reviewed on the evidence of details and calculations provided and do not address cost or financial scope changes which will be included in the full change order. When properly presented, preliminary change orders are usually expedited by DSA, allowing the contractor to proceed without risk of rejection by DSA or the DSA approved inspector. Title 24 does NOT require all field orders to be included in a change order.


Coming soon.

Project Close-Out

The IOR is responsible for submitting a DSA 6 form whenever a portion of the project is to be occupied. This form must indicate any incomplete work that may impact occupancy. The IOR must also submit a DSA 6 final report when all work has been completed or when the IOR is concluding his/her services. This form should only cover the time period during which you were engaged on the project. If another IOR was on your site before you arrived, the previous inspector is responsible for issuing a DSA 6 form for work completed under their watch.

Each special inspector is responsible for issuing a completed DSA form 292 Special Inspection Verified Report to DSA or to the approved testing lab (available at: http://www.documents.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/lea/DSA-292.pdf).

The approved testing lab is responsible for issuing copies of daily reports and verified reports to DSA for all inspections and testing (see links below).

The special inspector and the approved testing lab share the responsibility of getting their reports and close-out forms to DSA. Daily reports should have been issued by the lab to DSA within 14 days of being issued. You should have received daily copy of all field reports for your review. Assuming you have reviewed all special inspection daily reports and all lab test results and found them to be in compliance, you need only submit your own form 6 and let the testing lab and their inspectors handle their own verified report submittals. DSA has a suggested format for all inspection daily reports. Daily reports issued to DSA by the testing lab may attach a cover sheet conforming to these formats and stamped by the lab engineer.

Here are the final verified reports that the testing lab is required to submit to DSA:

There are also requirements for the contractor, design consultants, and the lab of record, to issue close-out reports. You must verify these reports are posted on DSA Box and are noted in the applicable lines of the Inspection Cards before you can sign off the cards as complete.


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