The structural integrity of a building must be preserved at all times to avoid the possibility of a collapse. So, before you knock down that wall or make major changes to your home, it’s important to ensure such actions would not compromise the structural integrity of your building. To determine that, you need a structural engineer.
Surprisingly, many people are not aware they need one until a contractor, home inspector, or any other third-party recommends their expertise.
What is a Structural Engineer?
A structural engineer is a licensed professional that has been trained to analyze the effects of external forces – like gravity, temperature, wind, and pressure – acting on a building. Based on their training and vast experience, they can determine how resistant a structure is to these forces.
Therefore, they are keen to detect early warning signs of a building failure or forms of structural weaknesses. The insight they provide can help you make important decisions.
When To Hire a Structural Engineer
Does this mean that if you want to change anything or move anything in a building, you need a structural engineer? No! But there are some specific instances where having them is a must. Here are some of those instances:
- Major Home Renovations
If you want to do a small renovation – for example, a bathroom remodeling – you may not need an engineer, depending on how intense it’s going to be. However, if you’re thinking about adding a deck, room, deck, garage, enclosed pool, or floor to your building, you need a structural engineer.
Major renovations require that some load-bearing walls are altered or the foundation bears more weight. A structural engineer will determine if these add-ons will compromise your home’s original structure. They also ensure that your foundation is solid enough to bear the additional load.
In short, renovations that require making significant changes to your home’s overall layout needs to be assessed by a structural engineer before implementation.
- Building a House from Scratch
This is a no-brainer, right? Just like you need the architect to come up with the plan, or plumber to deal with the plumbing works, or electrician to handle the wiring, you need a structural engineer to determine the soundness of your plans.
Before the foundations are even laid, you need a structural engineer to determine if the building plans are good. Moreover, they assess the building site for size suitability, integration with current features, and its environmental impact. The guidance they provide is indispensable.
- Prefabricated Structures
During their production process, prefabricated structures are built to be solid. Therefore, you may not need a structural engineer to make load-bearing calculations before installing it. However, if you plan to install materials beyond what’s contained in the prefabricated structure plan – like hardwoods, granite countertops, or an aquarium that wasn’t in the original plan – you need a structural engineer to determine its feasibility.
Before you install any prefabricated structure, you need a structural engineer to determine the foundation plan. Factors like the layout, structural details, soils, and climate are used to determine what will work best in terms of the foundation.
- Installation of Solar Panels or Wind Turbines
With the ever-increasing emphasis on the importance of going green, many people are now integrating renewable energy as a means to lead sustainable lives. If you get super excited and want to install solar panels, you want to make sure that your roof can support its weight. The last thing you want is to have your roof collapse a few years down the line.
A structural engineer analyses the panel layout, and its weight to determine if your roofing materials can support it. For wind turbine installations, a structural engineer performs a wind feasibility study to determine the ideal equipment to use.
- Real Estate Transactions
Having a routine home inspection carried out before buying a home is prudent.
In this process, the homeowner hires a home inspection firm to identify and evaluate the maintenance issues, as well as structural weaknesses (if they exist). Important areas like the foundation and roof, as well as the electrical and plumbing features, are thoroughly inspected.
By knowing what needs to be repaired, it gives the homebuyer a better negotiation power. And if the inspection reveals a severe structural problem like abnormally large cracks, uneven floors, or cracked foundations, the homeowner will be saved from signing a bad deal.
Finally, a lender may require an engineer’s inspection before your mortgage is approved.
- Damages of an Old Home
It’s only natural that a home’s strength deteriorates with time. If you notice damages like crackings in the foundation walls, bowing walls, sticking doors, cracked windows, and more, it might mean it’s high time for a renovation.
But before you carry out such renovations, it’s important to involve a structural engineer. They will help you assess the nature of the damages and what kind of renovation would be best suited to restore the structural integrity of your building.
- Structural Damages from Accidents or Natural Disasters.
Unfortunately, terrible events sometimes happen; whether it is an accidental fire that escalates or a severe storm, hurricane, or flooding. These events can diminish the structural integrity of a building.
That’s why a structural engineer is needed to determine the extent of the damage and recommend the structural works that need to be done for restoration.
Furthermore, they help to determine if the heightened damage was caused by an underlying structural fault present before the unfortunate event. This information is helpful if you’re seeking to claim for home damage from a claims adjuster.
The importance of a structural engineer cannot be emphasized. They help ensure that the structural integrity of your building is preserved at all times. Before making any major structural change to your building, make sure you involve a structural engineer.
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