Structural engineers are licensed experts trained to engineer design configurations used in the construction of man-made structures. They both create engineering designs and perform structural analyses. The purpose of structural engineering is to identify factors that could exert force on a building and ensure that the structure is designed and built to withstand those forces.
Not every building project requires the help of a structural engineer. That said, there are many circumstances that warrant hiring these highly skilled and specialized professionals. In the context of residential homes, the work performed by structural engineers includes evaluating the forces exerted on foundations, walls, and roofs and their ability to withstand impacts like earthquakes, fires, and heavy winds. Read on to find out about four residential situations that require the help of a structural engineer.
1. Structural Damage Inspections
Both current and prospective future homeowners rely on the experts at AEI Inspections to perform comprehensive building assessments when they notice structural damage to their properties. There’s a reason it’s important to hire a licensed structural engineer to perform the assessment. These specialists can determine how serious the damage is, what caused it, and how it can be properly fixed to ensure compliance with local building codes.
Not sure what to look for when it comes to signs of structural damage? The signs include:
- Cracks in the walls
- Sagging ceilings or rooflines
- Uneven floors
- Cracks around windows
- Movement of the walls
When in doubt about whether signs of damage indicate larger underlying structural problems, it’s always best to schedule a professional inspection. A structural engineer can provide the homeowner or potential buyer with his or her on-site structural observations and an evaluation of what it will take to resolve any problems.
2. Home Renovations
When homeowners decide to undertake remodels that involve altering the stability of their buildings, structural engineers provide integral help. They work with architects or contractors to evaluate design plans, structural drawings, and calculations that will be used to determine the course of the remodel.
Structural engineers are often called in to evaluate the integrity of future building additions, loft conversions, decks, chimneys, and solar panels. They also play a key role in determining the structural forces that could affect modified windows and doors, altered internal walls, underpinning foundations, and retaining walls.
3. New Construction of Custom Homes
Most home builders begin their consultations with structural engineers before even laying a foundation. These experts can assess proposed building sites to ensure that they will be suitable and advise the architect or designer on how to create a plan for a custom home that will maintain its structural integrity, even in the face of inclement weather and other forms of damage.
4. Altering Building Layouts
Homeowners should consult a structural engineer before building out additional space. Whether homeowners are planning to build onto bedrooms or garages, it’s important to consider how new loads from the addition will impact the home’s structural integrity and to confirm that the foundation for the addition will be sufficiently reinforced. Structural engineers can also determine which of the property’s walls are load-bearing, which can be very helpful for homeowners who want to open up parts of their floor plans.
The Bottom Line
A lot of people assume that structural engineers only work on large-scale municipal projects and commercial or industrial buildings. In fact, their services can be just as valuable to homeowners and their architects or builders. When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution and hire a structural engineer before starting new construction or making any alterations to existing homes.