The role of a structural engineer is not generally well known amongst the general public and this FAQ guide is intended to advise you on what we do and when you may require our services.
What does a structural engineer do?
A Structural Engineer can perform a range of services to assist you in the assessment of your home or to assist with the design of your home projects. Whereas an Architect may design the appearance and layout of a property, a Structural Engineer can perform design checks using various structural products and materials to ensure the proposed works are structurally safe and buildable. All of our design work is carried out in accordance with relevant Building Regulations and British Standard Codes of Practice and we can provide any necessary calculations or drawings.
What is a structural survey?
Structural surveys or inspections are carried out for a variety of reasons including the assessment of structural defects, general condition surveys and pre-purchase surveys, looking at the feasibility of proposed alterations and extensions and for insurance purposes following a fire, flood or collapse. Structural Engineers can also advise on works required to comply with the requirement of the Building Regulations.
The type of inspection or survey would depend on your particular requirements and may range from a non-intrusive visual inspection through to a more intrusive structural survey. A non-intrusive inspection is where a trained engineer will visually assess your property both inside and out to look for evidence of structural problems e.g. structural movement or decay. An intrusive survey is more disruptive and would involve the use of a builder to carry out some opening-up works to remove internal finishes and dig trial holes to determine the existing foundation construction. In the first instance we would usually recommend a non-intrusive visual inspection as this would be sufficient in the majority of cases. We would normally only recommend an intrusive survey where there is evidence of structural problems and we are not able to determine the cause of these without further investigation.
Note that we are Structural Engineers and our inspections and surveys are normally limited to structural elements only i.e. we will not comment on electrics, plumbing, fixtures and fittings, or finishes. We would also refer you to the services of our fellow professionals where the required inspections are required to go beyond our own area of expertise e.g. it would be necessary to appoint a timber specialist where a timber and damp survey is required.
Do I need a structural survey?
If you are concerned about the structural integrity of your property or have been advised by a third party to obtain a structural report e.g. by a mortgage lender, then we suggest you contact us to discuss the matter further with one of our engineers. If we think a survey is required, we will guide you through the process and advise the type of survey we think is most appropriate to you. If we think that your problem would be better dealt with by another construction professional e.g. an architect, we would be happy to point you in the right direction.
Where it is proposed to carry out structural alterations to a property we would normally recommend an inspection is carried out in advance of any works being designed. The inspection allows us to record the arrangement of existing walls, floor, roof, beams and lintels so that we can accurately design the proposed works. The starting point of any works to an existing property should be a thorough understanding of the existing structural form and behaviour of the property.
Should I arrange a structural survey if I am buying or selling a property?
If you are proposing to buy or sell a property and are concerned there may be structural problems, then it would be advisable to appoint the services of a Structural Engineer. A structural inspection report will give you peace of mind that there is nothing significantly wrong with the property or make you aware of any structural problems that are likely to cost money to put right in the short or long term.
Should I arrange a structural survey if I am applying for a mortgage?
In the first instance your mortgage provider should carry out a HomeBuyer Survey of the property before agreeing to lend you any money against the property. If the HomeBuyer Survey identifies any structural concerns they will advise you to obtain the services of a structural engineer. It is at this stage that we would become involved.
Do I need a structural engineer for my home project?
If you are proposing to make changes to your property e.g. internal alterations or an extension, the services of a Structural Engineer will likely be required. Usually we become involved once you have chosen an Architect and he has developed plans for the changes. If you have architectural plans for the proposed works or you think that an architect is not required and would like to speak to us about your proposals then one of our engineers would be happy to discuss your project further with you.
How much does it cost to involve a structural engineer?
The cost of providing structural engineering services very much depend on the complexity of the project and how much time we need to spend preparing drawings, calculations, reports and visiting the property. Fee levels for all of our projects are calculated on a time basis and in the majority of cases we will be able to advise you in advance of the full cost of our involvement. As a guide we have prepared the following budget costs for your information:
Simple beam calculations for the removal of internal walls £100-250+VAT
Structural inspection and report for a terraced property £300-£450+VAT
Structural inspection and report for a detached property £750-£1000+VAT
Structural calculations and drawings for a proposed extension £500-£3000+VAT
How long will it take to get my report, drawings or calculations?
The time taken to turn around your particular project will be dependent on our existing work commitments. As a guide we would normally aim to issue structural reports within 5 working days following our inspection, and for home projects we would normally aim to issue drawings and calculations within 10-15 days following your instruction and receipt of your architectural drawings.
Will your design work be covered by insurance?
Yes. As long as the works are carried out in accordance with our drawings and specifications, all of our design work is covered by our Professional Indemnity Insurance. Note however that we will not be responsible for ensuring that your builder carries out the work in accordance with our drawings.
Do you check your designs are safe and comply with health and safety rules?
Yes. All of our engineers are experienced in the design of structural works and we take our health and safety responsibilities very seriously. We advise all of our Clients on health and safety matters at the time of providing a fee proposal.
Do you share any information regarding your customers or their property with any third parties?
No. All of our work is carried out confidentially on behalf of our Client. Where reports are carried out these are intended solely for our Client unless we receive your instruction to distribute them to third parties.
I already have a Structural Engineer but I would like to use a new engineer, what can I do?
Where a Structural Engineer is already involved in a project there are specific rules that we must follow if we are to be involved in the same project. The existing engineer’s works must have been completed and he must have been paid in full. We cannot be appointed to carry out any works for which another engineer already has an instruction and we cannot be appointed to check the work of another engineer without first informing them that we have been asked to do so.