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A structural engineer has expertise and training in areas concerning the structural soundness of your home. You would hire one to both advise and plan a home or addition. A structural engineer is also the professional to call when your existing home has issues like foundation problems, sagging roofs or sliding chimneys. They help figure out ways to reconstruct those areas safely.
When should I hire a structural engineer?
If your building has no load-bearing beams or columns but just timber joists and rafters, an architect or architectural technician should be able to get by. However if load-bearing walls, chimney breasts or other structural elements are being tampered with, it is crucial than you employ one.
Complicated structures or refurbishment projects may also require early input from a structural engineer. If you are extending your home, a structural engineer will be employed to produce the necessary building approval documentation. They will make a site visit and prepare some calculations. Sometimes they will also obtain the drawings from your architect and produce their own structural drawings from them.
Is it required I use a structural engineer for my project?
Many times your inspector or contractor will be able to handle some of this responsibility, but make sure that you ask the question as to whether or not it would be a good idea to consult one. While this might be an extra cost you didn't initially anticipate, the safety of your structure is paramount. This simple exercise can save you money and legal hassles down the road.
What can I expect when a structural engineer visits my site?
During a site visit, the structural engineer inspects the foundation, infrastructure, curtain wall, insulation, and building envelope. Through careful inspection and comparison to the approved building plans, the engineer will ensure the actual building meets the drawings provided or advise corrections. The engineer is called in to inspect at specific stages of project completion, and official approval is often required before the next stage of development can begin.
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How do I hire a licensed structural engineer?
Contact your local city or county building officials and/or county surveyor's office to make sure the structural engineers you are talking with are actually licensed. Unregistered or unlicensed persons are allowed to perform engineering or land surveying services for you only if they are working under the responsible charge and direct supervision of a registered professional engineer or licensed professional land surveyor. Select two or more engineering firms and ask for references from previous jobs similar to yours. Verify their expertise in your type of project and their ability to complete projects on time and on budget. Request an engineer visits the project site to submit a written proposal, including the objectives, anticipated time schedule and engineer's compensation. While some engineers do not charge for a preliminary visit, many do.
A structural engineer may charge by the hour or by the project, but most will be able to give you a firm bid on the cost of your project before you begin. Make sure to ask for this in writing and to discuss how the cost might change if there are unforeseen issues or problems that arise when the project is underway. The largest single factor that affects a change in costs is the discovery of structural problems invisible during an initial viewing.
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