Posted on January 07, 2021 in Structural Engineering

Do I Really Need to Hire a Structural Engineer?

We all know the concept of instant and delayed gratification.

  • Instant: Eat a pint of ice cream and pay for it later with a stomachache.
  • Delayed: Run two miles a day, eventually enjoy it, live a longer, healthier life.

Starting a new construction project and hiring a structural engineer can sometimes fall into similar categories.

  • Instant: Get swept up in exciting architectural designs, hire a contractor or handyman that’s affordable and seems pretty good, have them run with the designs.
  • Delayed: Pay an experienced structural engineer to assess your plans at the very beginning in return for a sound structure that won’t require expensive repair later.

While structural engineers aren't necessary for every project, when they're needed, hiring one is absolutely essential. Read on for more on what structural engineers do, when to hire one, and what they cost.

Side note: HH Consulting offers free site visits which will save you several hundred dollars at the outset (more on that later).

What does a structural engineer do?

Structural engineers analyze the physical integrity of buildings and structures. Using complex calculus, they can measure the stability and strength of any given structure and make the call whether it’s built to resist loads and forces including wind, thermal, and seismic.

Without hiring a structural engineer, structures may not get approved for necessary building permits.

When do I need to hire a structural engineer?

It’s common for customers not to know they need a structural engineer until an inspector or contractor recommends one. It’s also common for people to think engineers are “nice to have” but not a requirement, only to find out later that’s not the case.

When in doubt, have an engineer come out. Knocking out a wall that’s load bearing spells trouble. Spending money on architectural designs only to discover they’re not structurally feasible is wasted time and money.

When to hire a structural engineer

Here are examples of when to hire a structural engineer.

  1. New construction including a house, a home addition, a balcony, or patio
  2. Settlement issues in an existing structure such as cracking or sloping
  3. Renovations like knocking out a wall to make a room more open
  4. Property damage including fires or flooding
  5. New installations such as solar panels, a hot tub, or anything that’s weight-bearing

Can I use an inspector (or contractor) instead of a structural engineer?

On the surface, it looks like inspectors and structural engineers do the same type of thing—assess buildings and make sure they’re up to code. So why pay extra to hire a structural engineer?

It all comes down to the level of expertise.

Home inspectors know a little about a whole lot. They're skilled at spotting issues when it comes to HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and more. And while they know the basics of, say, foundation security, they won’t know how to repair the foundation or what makes something structurally secure.

The same goes for using your contractor to do the work of a structural engineer. Both contractors and inspectors are skilled at spotting potential problems, but only engineers can analyze the severity of the issue, identify the underlying cause, and know how to solve the problem.

What does a structural engineer cost?

Depending where you are, the hourly rates vary but on average, structural engineers charge between $100-$200 an hour and roughly $200-$500 for a site visit. Requests such as drafting building plans, consultations, and home inspections are more often a flat rate and that fee, of course, depends on the scope of work.

If you’re not sure where to start, give us a call and we’ll point you in the right direction. As mentioned before, HH Consulting offers free site visits at the start of any project. So, whether you go with us or not, the complimentary visit will keep a few hundred dollars in your pocket.

Give us a call or fill out the short contact form below and we’ll get right back.