How to Properly Inspect a New Home Before Purchasing

The Difference Between a Home Inspector and a Structural Engineer

Have you been wondering when to use a home inspector or a structural engineer? It is important for homeowners to understand the difference between utilizing the two professionals, as the stability of their home may depend on it. When looking to buy a new home, a home inspector is the person hired to do an overall assessment of your potential real estate purchase. They determine how well things like plumbing, electrical and HVAC work. They often inspect attics, chimneys, basements, foundations and more, but only for the obvious defects. A good home inspector will catch most observable issues like dry-rot and mold growth, but they are not experts in structural defects.

For proper feedback and advice on the foundation of your current or potential home, it is essential to contact a licensed structural engineer. Assessments are completed by structural engineers to help ensure that your home is structurally sound. During the inspection a licensed structural engineer will examine the foundation, infrastructure, exterior wall, insulation and building envelope of a home. They may examine the integrity of load-bearing walls, joists, beams, roofing and foundations. Through careful inspection they can ensure the building either meets code requirements or advise on the necessary corrections. After the assessment, reports are then generated to include a structural condition assessment based on the visual observations during the inspection or itemizing which improvements need to be made. These reports will come with further recommendations on the work that should be done.

Onsite Engineering Assessment

A structural engineer has expertise and training in areas concerning the structural soundness of a home. Most of the work that structural engineers perform for residential homeowners begins with an onsite engineering assessment. Their job is to visit the site or property, visually observe the possible areas of concern, and assess the severity of any potential structural problems.

After a site investigation is conducted, a structural engineering report will be prepared outlining any onsite findings, identifying the probable cause of structural issues and providing recommendations for fixing any structural defects.

When should you hire a structural engineer for your new home purchase?

  1. Buying or Selling a home: A licensed structural engineer will evaluate potential problems uncovered after a home inspection. They will provide their assessments and recommended solutions for the residence to the home buyer or seller.
  2. Proposed renovation projects of new home: As a home buyer, if you are planning to renovate a newly purchased home then consider hiring a structural engineer. They can properly consult on structural implications of the addition of living space or removal of load-bearing walls, all of which will need to be properly permitted and constructed by a licensed professional. Older homes or complicated structures can require a structural engineer in order to ensure the site meets the up-to-date standards of code. Design and engineering plans from a licensed professional will be required by the local building department. Licensed engineers are the best professionals to hire to assess the possibility of any home renovation project.
  3. Other home issues requiring an engineer: There are several other issues that can arise during the inspection and purchasing of a home. Some key reasons to hire a licensed structural engineer for assessment prior to purchasing a home relate to

o Foundation cracks, settlement or movement that could prove costly to fix or unsafe to live in.
o Bowing or sagging floors or wall movements often found in older homes.
o Damaged or undersized framing members or potential roof failure from improper installation.
o Sink holes and soil concerns from lack of surface drainage.

Hiring a Licensed Structural Engineer

Prior to purchasing your new home, consider it a general rule-of-thumb that it would be a good idea to at least consult with a structural engineer. While your inspector is capable of handling the initial visual inspection, evaluating the overall safety of your building should be left to a licensed engineer. Remember that any changes that affect the integrity of your home will require the input and plans from a professional structural engineer. This simple consultation could save you money and from potential construction troubles down the road.

One of our associates here at Design Everest can help with hiring or further researching your needs for a licensed structural engineer. Contact us today at (877) 582-8089.

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