10 Common Misconceptions About Structural Engineer Inspection

Structural engineer inspections are incredibly important whenever buying, selling, or modifying a property or during construction. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about them.

In this post, we take a look at ten structural engineer inspection myths and the truth behind them.

1. Structural Engineer Inspections Only Concern The Whole Structure

While many structural engineer inspections cater to the entire structure, they don’t have to. Engineers, for instance, can also inspect aspects of a structure, such as balconies, wall cracking and balustrades.

The reason for this is simple: the task of a structural engineer is to determine whether the building is safe. So any potentially dangerous elements (such as wall cracking) are equally as worthy of their attention.

2. Structural Engineer Inspections Only Occur At The End Of Projects

Another common misconception is that structural engineers only do their work at project completion. Again, though, this isn’t strictly true. While many structural engineers offer their expertise at the end of the works, they can also provide ongoing inspections during the project itself. This process allows them to warn builders of any emerging issues, allowing them to fix them while doing so is still inexpensive.

Structural engineers also play a role in preventing hazards from developing in the future. They use their expertise to determine whether any load-bearing aspects of the construction are likely to cause problems as the project progresses.

3. Structural Engineers Only Identify Problems

There’s a general perception out there that structural engineers only identify problems; they don’t solve them. But that’s not correct either. It turns out that structural engineers are often the first people to offer advice to contractors, showing them how they can continue with their projects safely.

Structural engineers also take pains to ensure that their findings are easy to understand. Most include both technical descriptions plus photos that help easily reference any issue.

4. Structural Engineer Inspections Are Unaffordable

How much you pay for a structural engineer report depends primarily on the provider. However, compared to the cost of most projects, fees are small. Even for large buildings, detailed inspections usually cost less than $1,000.

For much larger projects, such as shopping malls or office buildings, prices rise to around $4,500 for inspections, or more. However, these projects typically cost millions of dollars, so the relative price is low.

5. Structural Engineer Inspections Only Deal With Structural Defects

While structural engineer inspections are helpful for identifying potential hazards and defects, their usefulness actually goes far beyond that. For instance, you can use structural engineers when converting a loft, adding a second story to a building, installing solar panels, removing internal walls, changing your footing design or adding reinforced concrete columns.

Given this, structural engineer inspections are also consultative in nature. You can use them to find out whether a project is viable before you even begin, and what measures you will need to take before it gets underway.

6. Structural Engineers Don’t Need Valid Insurance

Because structural engineers make critical decisions about building design, they need valid insurance; both public liability and professional indemnity. They must also be registered on the National Professional Engineers Register (NPER). If they are not, they cannot give you advice or reports.

Choosing a structural engineer with both insurance and professional certification keeps you safe. It shows that you applied due diligence on your project if you encounter structural problems in the future.

Structural engineers can often feel as though they have the weight of the world on their shoulders. Because they are responsible for the design of a building, they are often the first people in the firing line if a disaster leads to damage. Auditors always ask whether they did their job correctly, finding any defects that they might have missed.

For that reason, structural engineers always conduct thorough inspections. These record any structural defects ahead of time, giving all parties involved critical information they can use to ensure the safety and viability of the project, all backed up by professional qualifications.

7. Structural Engineer Inspections Are The Same As Home Inspections

The idea that structural engineer inspections are the same as home inspections is another common misconception. Regular home inspectors provide a general inspection of the foundations, plumbing, HVAC, roof, floors, windows, doors and attic. However, structural engineer inspections cover settlement, wall cracks, and bowing of the foundations. They can also offer their expertise on things like removing a wall, adding solar panels or building a second story.

Because of this, home inspectors will often refer building owners to structural engineers. Structural engineers have more in-depth expertise.

8. You Only Need To Get A Structural Engineer Inspection When Selling

While many people choose to get structural engineering inspections when selling their homes, they also come in handy in many other situations. For instance, commercial building contractors use them on an ongoing basis to ensure the viability of their projects. They are also essential for anyone planning structural change to a building, such as adding solar panels to the roof or knocking through an interior wall.

People buying property can also greatly benefit from structural engineering inspections. Thorough examination of a building provides them with expert-level knowledge on the severity of any defects and whether they can fix them later.

9. Structural Engineer Inspections Are Only Required After Storm Damage

It is true that many people get structural engineer inspections following storm damage. However, as we discussed, there are many other situations when they come in handy. For instance, drainage issues can wreak havoc on a building’s foundations. Structural engineers have expertise to correct these problems and pinpoint the source of the issue.

10. Structural Engineer Inspection Reports Are Difficult To Understand

While structural engineers are high-educated professionals, most take the time to ensure that regular contractors and customers can understand their reports.

Full written reports usually include easy-to-understand information such as:

  • Whether the building is structurally sound
  • What repairs need to be made, if any
  • Step-by-step instructions for what needs to happen next

Most reports include both technical and non-technical instructions. Many structural engineers will also include photos and diagrams in their reports that you can use to aid you.

“SLN Consulting Pty Ltd carry out numerous structural solutions for our swimming pool customers Australia-wide. Their technical knowledge and practical experience exceeded our design requirements time and time again. I would highly recommend using SLN Consulting to everyone.”

(Nigel Butcher, Shipping Container Pools)