A structural engineer is concerned about the safety and integrity of the actual structure of a building. He or she is an expert on the soundness of the foundation and load-bearing walls of a building, where and how they are placed, and their movement. While a contractor or building inspector may be able to find or fix many problems, here are examples of when you will definitely need to contact a structural engineer.

New Construction

You will probably have an architect draw up the blueprints for your building. However, it is important that you have a structural engineer go over the blueprints and check over the building site to ensure that the plans will provide sufficient stability. If the site has specific requirements, such as added piers for stability, the engineer will add them into the blueprints for the contractor. Only when the engineer has signed off on the blueprints should the construction begin. It is important to note that an addition to your existing building is considered new construction as far as structural soundness is concerned.

Structural Damage in an Existing Building

You may initially hire a building inspector to determine if there is something wrong with a building. If the inspector finds any structural damage, you will be told you need to hire a structural engineer. The engineer will look things over and present you with the repair options you have for making the place structurally sound again. The engineer will help when you have foundation problems or if it appears that the walls in the building are about to collapse.

When Buying a Home

While most mortgage companies will require some type of home inspection before agreeing to the loan, they do not require the inspection be done by a structural engineer. However, for your own peace of mind, you should have an engineer look things over too.

Do not confuse the report from a building inspector with one from a structural engineer. Both documents are important, but only one deals with the structural safety of the building. If you are live in the building or are planning to, you want to be sure that your family is going to be safe in it. Sure, the walls may not fall down overnight with no warning, but if you do not know there is a problem, you may not notice small shifts in the walls or foundation. When a structural engineer is satisfied with the building, you can be sure it is safe to live in.

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