Structural engineers assist homebuilders in making sure residences are strongly and safely designed and constructed. They are trained to determine how forces such as gravity, wind, temperature and shifting soil affect buildings. You expect to hire an inspector or perhaps other pros when you buy a house, but do you need to hire a structural engineer as well? Under certain circumstances, the answer is yes.
When you need a structural engineer
You’re most likely to need a structural engineer when buying a house if your inspector has questions about all or part of the home’s stability. A structural engineer can determine the extent of possible problems and what is needed to alleviate them. Here are some examples of situations where an engineer’s expertise can be helpful.
- Perhaps the seller or a previous owner had a room addition, a deck or an attic room built without the required governmental building permits and inspections. In these situations no inspector verified that the work was done properly, so the soundness of the structure needs to be evaluated.
- If a load-bearing wall was removed or shortened during remodeling, the stress on the remaining ceiling and wall supports will have increased. If not done properly, this will cause damage to the home over time.
- Did the seller or a previous homeowner replace a composite shingle roof with a heavier tile or slate roof? Doing so requires reinforced rafters, and a structural engineer can determine if these were added properly.
- If solar panels have been installed on the roof, a structural engineer can evaluate whether the roof structure is adequate to support the additional weight.
- An area with shifting soils may damage a home’s foundation and make a structural engineering inspection important. Extensive termite, water or fire damage also call the structural integrity of a home into question.
How does a structural engineer differ from a specialist contractor like a foundation repair person or a roofer? Those specialists limit their expertise to what they service. A structural engineer holistically examines how the work of these specialists affects the entire house structure.
How to find a structural engineer
If something found in a property inspection triggers the need for an engineer, the inspector can refer you to some choices. You can also search an online database.
Like any other situation when hiring a contractor, find three candidates, read reviews on them and ask questions about the extent of their experience. Contact previous customers for references. Request the engineers’ license information so you can check it with your state’s regulatory authority for any blemishes on the engineers’ history.