An inspection by a structural engineer can be defined as a visual inspection performed to validate the structural soundness of a home or building’s weight-bearing components such as framing, foundation, beams, columns, posts, or trusses.
On the other hand, a home inspector performs a general inspection of the HVAC system, interior plumbing, electrical systems, roof & attic, floors, windows, doors, foundation, basement, and some existing structural components.
After the inspection, the home inspector generates a written report of their findings. It is all-encompassing and done when a home or property owner has doubts about the structural integrity of his building. This could entail an analysis of the whole structure or examining one specific element of the building.
However, if the home inspector were to suspect a potential issue with a foundation, framing component, or another weight-bearing area, they would need to refer the client to a licensed structural engineer.
The structural engineer would then perform an initial inspection of the area in question and typically provide the property owner with a written report of their scientific findings and work scope of any needed repairs.
Are General Home Inspections Worth It?
A home inspection can help you avoid potentially expensive not so pleasant surprises, like structural flaws or hidden damage. Since houses do not have a ‘check engine light’, the basic foundation might face issues that the homeowner or purchaser could be unaware of.
While not required by law, buyers — especially first-time homebuyers — can benefit greatly from having a residential structural engineer give the property a thorough examination before finalizing a purchase.
Purchasing a house is quite a huge investment. A small amount of money pledged toward research now may save a substantial amount of the homeowner’s money in the longer run. Home inspections generally cost between $300 and $450 tops.
An initial home inspection typically takes three or four hours roughly.
It’s a nice idea to schedule an appointment with a home inspector soon after signing a purchase contract. This will ensure you have the report before the termination option period expires.
An ideal home inspection report should cover these areas:
- Heating system
- Air conditioning system
- Electrical system
- Visible insulation
- Basement and structural components
Optional inspection services you might add on include:
Ask for proof of state certification or membership in industry groups such as the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) to be double-sure.
Should You Hire a Structural Engineer?
There are several situations where you may want to have a structural engineer inspection performed to ensure the same solid foundation of your house.
Selling Your Home
Many people think of hiring a structural engineer while purchasing a home. However, while selling it too, no one can match the technical judgements of a professional. Thus, hiring a structural engineer remains the best option in both cases.
For instance, if you are looking to promptly sell your home, you might consider having any areas of concern looked at before putting the house on the market.
If you know ahead of time that your foundation is cracked, being proactive with an engineer’s structural inspection will give your buyer confidence while also expediting the closing process.
You can also determine what issues are worth fixing or not and can evaluate your home’s actual price accordingly.
Buying a Home
If you are buying a home, you may want to have a general home inspection performed. This is not typically required from mortgage lenders but is a good idea to get a complete view of the home’s condition. Remember, a home inspector will give you a general condition report of the whole home.
If the home inspector discovers an anomaly with any of the weight-bearing components, they may throw up a “red flag” and recommend a structural engineer inspection for the further process.
Common problems that require the assessment of a structural engineer:
- Foundation crack
- Temporary basement support
- Sloping floors
Mortgage lenders may sometimes require a structural engineer inspection confirming structural health before releasing funds.
Even if it is not a requirement, it is wise to proceed with the structural engineering inspection to ensure there are no serious structural issues.
If issues are found, you can choose to walk away from the deal or negotiate the price to accommodate repairs.
When To Get A Structural Engineer on board
Structural movement, ceiling or wall cracks – any properly-built home should not exhibit any settlement beyond a few small cracks in the concrete slab foundation.
With that being said, very old homes may have sloping floors and some ceiling or wall settlement cracks simply because structural members were not designed for deflection the way they are today.
To Assess a New House experiencing Settlement
You may have a construction defect case on your hands. Hire a structural engineer to find out exactly what is going on. There may be a warranty on the build, so don’t wait too long!
To Assess an Old House experiencing settlement
New settlement may be attributed to improper interior humidity levels (air exchange), poor water management or ground soils. Either way, your structural engineer can provide you with insight and any necessary repairs.
To Assess Load Bearing Capacity
Anytime you remove load-bearing components (such as a wall) or install additional load within a home (fish tank, island, granite countertops, piano, pool etc.,.), a structural engineer should be consulted.
If You Are Remodeling The House:
Whenever weight bearing components in the home are altered, a structural engineer should be involved.
In Minnesota, most city building departments require a structural engineering inspection in order to obtain a building permit for simple remodels such as removing a wall or installing a new deck.
If you are scheduled to remodel, check your city’s policies so you can plan and budget accordingly.
Accidental Structural Modifications:
if your plumber cuts into a framing member that he shouldn’t have or if trusses in your attic are removed without consulting an engineer, the integrity of your home could be at risk.
Bonus Tip: Always ensure to provide the structural engineer with existing blueprints or plans of the house!
We hope we were able to answer all your queries regarding hiring a structural engineer in addition to home inspection. In case you have any questions, check with the home inspection agency in your area for better understanding and clarity.