A structural inspection is performed by a structural engineer to assess the condition of a building. The structural engineer visually inspects the foundation, roof, walls, and all other components of the building which is available readily for him/her to inspect. After the inspection, the structural engineer provides a report about the condition of the building and the need for repair in particular areas.
During a structural inspection, the engineer might not be able to enter the crawlspace due to the safety regulations. They might even charge an extra fee to conduct inspections of these areas like the crawlspace. The homeowner should negotiate with the structural engineer before the inspection starts to ensure that he/she receives the complete value for their money.
A structural engineer through his/her inspection validates the structural reliability of a home or building’s weight-bearing capabilities. The beams, columns, foundation, frames, posts, or trusses are thoroughly checked to ensure that the building is suitable for habitation.
Structural analysis can be done for the whole structure or one particular component of the building depending on the condition of the home, garage, office building, etc.
Ideally, a good structural engineer after completing the inspection will provide a comprehensive report along with pictures of the areas which need repair. You can further discuss about the prospects of the repairs suggested by the engineer and the cost involved in the same.
Normally the company which sent the structural engineer will be able to take up the repairs job too. That will save some money for you as the second company would have again required to do the structural inspection.
When do we need a structural inspection to determine the integrity of a house? Causes of structural problems
Structural inspection is performed when a property owner is not sure about the structural integrity of the building. The following situations are the most common ones when a homeowner decides to make use of the services of a structural engineer.
Buying a home-
If you are planning to buy a new home, hire a reliable structural engineer who can give you a proper assessment of the condition of the home. The previous owner might have got it inspected and might show reports about the same. However, to ensure that there was no manipulation done by the existing owner, it is better to spend some money and get your own assessment done.
If there are cracks in the foundation, or the temporary columns in the basement need repairs, the structural engineer will point it out. Water seepage, sloping floors, weak and bowing walls, and settlement concerns too can be identified during a thorough structural inspection. If you still choose to buy such a home that needs repairs, you can ask the existing owner to reduce the price of the property and include provisions for the repairs.
The appearance of the cracks in ceilings or walls-
If you live in your ancestral home which is very old, it may have sloping floors. That is caused due to the foundation sinking in and the walls not moving along with the foundation. There might be some ceiling or wall settlement cracks too in such old buildings.
Some of those buildings are perfectly habitable and safe. However, you should get it inspected by a structural engineer to make sure that you are not living in a potentially unsafe building.
Every homeowner should be aware of the condition of his/her home and get the repairs done accordingly. Even if the home is not in use, if the smaller damages are fixed in time, then it will save a lot of money and effort later.
If you are changing your lender for your home or vacation villa, some financial institutions might require you to submit a report from a certified structural engineer. It will be a good opportunity for you to check the needs for any repairs and you might even go for an extension in your mortgage to include the cost of the same.
Storm or hurricane damage
If your area was impacted by a storm or hurricane and there was water-clogging for a few days, it is better to get your home inspected by a structural engineer. It will ensure that there is no major damage done to your foundation due to the still and stagnant water. If there is any need for a repair, you may opt for it early.
If there was stagnant water in the roof as your rain gutters were not functioning properly, this inspection is imperative. It will ensure that your roof is intact or whether it needs repairs. When rainwater pools accumulate in clogged gutters, they will start to collect at the bottom of the roof.
If there is wooden reinforcement in the roofing structure, it will start rotting. There will be the growth of mold and structural damage. The water might even start seeping in through the leaks and cracks and damage your building structure.
Flashing can cover some issues and inspectors have to check behind this to make sure that there are no problems.
If there are constant issues of water-clogging in different parts of the home, it is better to get your entire drainage system checked and cleaned. It also causes major damage to your home’s foundation.
If you live in extremely cold areas, the clogged water can turn into ice and burst the pipes internally. Structural inspection by a good engineer will help you to mitigate losses in the early stages and safeguard your building’s integrity. A plumber can also perform a water pressure test to see if your drains leak. This can lead to problems with your foundation and expensive repairs.
Plumbers can test the drains by adding water and pressure to them. This allows them to check the cleanout and other parts of the plumbing system to detect potential leaks and clogs.
This can take up quite a lot of time as the plumber has to check several parts of the drains. If a problem is detected, they might have to dig under the foundation to address it.
What is the difference between a structural inspection and a home inspection?
From the above-mentioned pointers, you know what a structural engineer does during his/her inspection. Now let’s understand what a regular home inspector does–
- Inspects the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) system.
- Inspects the interior plumbing to ensure all the pipes are solid and there is no rot or crack which might cause further damages later.
- Checks the electrical system for safety measures to ensure there is no fear of short-circuiting and no internal wires need to be replaced.
- Checks the roofing and attic for any cracks and needs for waterproofing.
- Checks the floor, windows, and doors for any cracks and need for replacement or repair.
The job of a home inspector is mainly to check the components of a home that keep a home functional. And the job of a structural engineer is to check the load-bearing capacity of each component in the building structure.
Having your home comes with its own privileges and responsibilities. On one hand, we enjoy the privileges every day of living in a comfortable and secured space. As the building ages, we need to invest in a periodic structural inspection by a certified engineer. This will ensure that our building is safe and if we put it in the market, it will fetch a good value.