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When to hire a residential structural engineer during your home renovation project

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residential structural engineer

If you want to build a new house or planning to renovate an existing house, then you need the help of building professionals to ensure that your house will be worth the money you are investing in it. A residential structural engineer is one such professional, and this article will tell you more about what structural engineers do. More importantly, we will discuss when you should hire an engineer to ensure that your house stands the test of time. 

residential structural engineer

What does a residential structural engineer do?

The main responsibility of a structural engineer is to analyse and design the structural support system of a building, a bridge, a house, a tunnel, and other structures. They are licensed professionals tasked with engineering the design configurations that create the final form of structures.

One of the most crucial roles of a structural engineer is assessing the factors that exert force upon a building, such as gravity, and determining if the structure is strong enough to withstand such forces. Structural engineers are trained to assess the strength, rigidity, and stability of a structure. In simple terms, a residential structural engineer is responsible for ensuring that your house will not collapse due to gravity or its occupants' weight and belongings. You can say that a structural engineer is there to ensure your family's safety and ensure that your house will still be standing years after its construction.

couple buying a home

When should you hire a residential structural engineer?

Buying a house

If you are buying a house, hiring a residential structural engineer can help you protect your investment, especially if you are purchasing a pre-owned house. Houses deteriorate over time, and the house you are planning to buy might not be as strong as when it was built. A structural engineer can assess the house you plan to buy and determine if its foundation is still structurally sound. Often, homeowners repaint or repair houses before putting them on the market and these cosmetic renovations can hide damages from buyers like cracks in the walls and the foundation. Buyers might get fooled by a newly painted home and fail to recognise warning signs, but a structural engineer can easily detect them. 

If you are buying a newly constructed house, do you still need the services of a structural engineer? Yes. Just because a home is newly built doesn't mean that it is perfect, and a structural engineer can help ensure that the house you are buying was built properly. You should also give critical information to the structural engineer on what you plan to do with your house. For example, you need to tell your engineer if you plan to convert an upstairs bedroom into a home gym or a game room and what equipment you want to install. They can advise you if your plans are feasible and won't damage your home.

residential structural engineer

Building a new house

Building a new house is the most common and practical reason for hiring a residential structural engineer. If you're building a house from scratch, a structural engineer can assess if your plans for your new home will work. 

A structural engineer will look at the construction site and see if it is suitable for the house you want to build. This is to ensure that the ground can support the size of your house since some house plans may be too big for a lot and needs to get scaled-down. The engineer will also check the ground itself to see if it can support the weight of your planned house or if the planned foundations can keep your house stable. 

residential structural engineer

During renovations

The need for a structural engineer for house renovations will depend on the type of renovations you want to conduct. If you're planning to remodel your kitchen or bathroom, you don't need to hire one. However, if you're planning major renovations like adding a deck, a room, or a garage, you need a structural engineer. You also need to hire one if you want to add an enclosed pool or if you want to add another floor to your house. 

The rule of thumb is you need an engineer if the renovations you are planning will affect the foundations of your house or will add significant weight to your home. The role of the structural engineer is to determine if your house can support the additional weight of your planned additions. If it is determined that the foundations of your house cannot support your additions, then the engineer will advise you on what to do to strengthen your foundations so you can proceed with your plans.

It will also be better to check with your local council about regulations surrounding renovations because some renovations may require building permits, and you might need a structural engineer for those. 

installing solar panels

Installing solar panels

Solar panels are getting more popular as more homeowners explore green energy sources, but you need to consult a structural engineer before you start installing solar panels. You'll see solar panels on roofs most of the time because that's the optimum location to absorb and store sunlight. 

Depending on the number of solar cells it contains, a solar panel can weigh around 25 kilograms, with some solar panels weighing up to 100 kilograms. The structural engineer will inspect your roof to ensure that it can support the weight of your solar panels. Although using solar energy can make your home sustainable and help reduce your electric bills, you don't want your roof caving in due to the weight of your solar panels. 

If your roof cannot support your solar panels, the engineer might suggest renovations to strengthen your roof or suggest other locations where you can mount your solar panel. Some homeowners mount their solar panels to their walls, but you still need a structural engineer to inspect them because it will still add weight to your house.

house destroyed by natural disaster

After natural disasters

No matter how much we take care of our homes, some things are out of our control, including natural disasters like cyclones, earthquakes, floods, and fires. If your house just experienced a major natural disaster, you need to hire a structural engineer to inspect the house. Yes, even if your house looks great, there's no telling if the natural disaster damaged your house's foundations or weakened it. It is even more urgent to have your house inspected if you see any cracks or notice signs of a weakened foundation like your house listing to one side. 

The residential structural engineer can assess the damage your house sustained and recommend what to do to fix the damage. It is also important to hire the services of a residential structural engineer if you want to know if the damage is purely because of a natural disaster or as a result of an underlying structural issue before the disaster. This is crucial because if the culprit for the damages is an unresolved issue prior to the natural disaster, you can submit a report to your insurance provider to file for damages.

residential engineer

What do I look for in a residential structural engineer?

Now that you know when you need the services of a residential structural engineer's services, here are some guidelines you can use to ensure you are hiring the right person for the job.

A structural engineer needs to have a bachelors' degree in civil engineering or a master's in engineering. Some engineers continue their studies to obtain an honours degree focusing on structural engineering. 

Structural engineers who want to work in a particular state need to register with the professional engineer register of that state. This registration scheme ensures that the engineer you hire has the right credentials and passes state-mandated certifications. Each state and territory has a different register, so check if the engineer you are hiring is registered in your state. 

Like with any other professional contractor, it won't hurt to speak to several candidates before you hire an engineer. You can do so with the help of Superdraft. Superdraft features a wide range of residential engineers and can provide you with free detailed quotes to give you an idea of how much your project will cost or how much is the rate of the engineer.

Sign up for Superdraft now and we will match you with the ideal residential structural engineer that best suits your project brief.

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