Wilton’s building inspector is the best in the county

He might have started his career as a successful contractor, but Wilton’s top building official, Robert Root, has also found a significant amount of success in his most recent field.
He was recently named the Building Official of the Year by the Fairfield County Home Builders Association for the second time. But he’s quick to acknowledge his staff is integral to allowing him to be such an effective inspector.
“My staff is fabulous. I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said. “It’s a team approach here, and then we have the rest of the land use departments in town who have very good communication with us. All of that is very important to helping both the contractor and the applicant.”
Root has been involved in the home-building process since “he was in grade school” he said Monday morning. He first started working as a contractor with his father’s business in Milford, where Root still lives.
“Eventually, I started a business with my father in Milford” as contractors, Root said.
“But [in the mid-1990s], I had a growing family and I was looking at the long term. I wasn’t sure I would be physically able to do the job in my late 50s and 60s,” Root said. So he took the assistant building official test in 1995, and three years later he took a job with Wilton — though he didn’t even apply for the gig.
“I wasn’t even looking for the job,” he said. “I had just posted my name on the state’s website so people knew I was available for different inspections or odd jobs.”
Nevertheless, 20 years later, he still loves what he does.
“It’s a very interesting place to work because we see something new every day,” he said. “I still get to be out in the field and I get to be somewhat hands-on. I’m seeing everything, from before they dig the hole to just before they hand out the key so the homeowners can get in.
“I’m still part of the creation of the structure.”
During his time in Wilton, Root said, he’s most enjoyed the wide range of state-of-the-art homes he’s had a chance to work on, like the rotating house on Olmstead Hill Road.
“We get something new every day. We see all the new home products and when we go out to do inspections, it’s almost like we’ve gone to all of those home shows,” he said.
The average Wiltonian might come into the building department to obtain any number of permits and permissions, Root said, like building a new patio or installing a new pool.
“We don’t care about what countertops they’re using, or their new fixtures or sinks, we’re just looking at how the structure is built. But there are so many ways you can meet our codes, design wise, and that’s the nice thing. We still get to experience all of those designs and finishes.”
“The only thing I haven’t seen is the television that comes up out of the floor at the foot of a bed,” he said, laughing.
Root said he’s noticed a few trends in new buildings over the last few years, including more geothermal heating units and propane-powered heating and cooling systems.
“I’ve seen a lot of state-of-the-art installations of mechanical systems, like radiant heated floors and solar energy, though we haven’t gotten any wind turbines, yet.”
Of the most interesting projects he’s worked on, Root said he’ll always remember a fireplace built in a bathroom, a wine cooler “as big as” his office, “and wine cellars that are enormous, holding 15,000 to 20,000 bottles.”
The department also handles some events and structures one wouldn’t assume would require a building permit, like the rides at the annual carnivals and the gigantic tents people set up when they host weddings on private property.
If you don’t want a problem with the building department, it seems installing all of the necessary smoke detectors will keep you off the naughty list.
“What bothers me the most is pushback on the smoke detectors. I’ve had people argue with me about the requirement for smoke detectors when they have clearly signed paperwork that said they had to put them in.
“It’s a simple and inexpensive way to protect yourself and your family.”