This reminds me of a story G. K. Chesterton told of two men having a conversation. The first man said, “It’s raining.” The second replied, “What’s raining?” There ensued a violent conversation ending in a wonderful friendship. 

So the question is, “How much does a structural engineer cost … to do what?” If you try to buy a whole uncooked structural engineer, it might get costly. 

HomeAdvisor does not bother to define how well done — or qualified — the engineer is. Instead, they boldly suggest that “A structural engineer costs” (typical range) $343 to $724. As my wife’s aunt used to say, “Are you talking about buying or renting?”  

Asking the Right Structural Engineering Questions

The better question to ask would be: “How much does a structural engineer cost per hour?” The answer to that is generally between $100 and $200, perhaps a bit more in a large city with outrageous taxes and property values, a very expensive foreign country like Dubai, or California. Here at Areté Engineers, our hourly rates vary between $130 for a project engineer and $215 for a senior project manager. 

But practically speaking, most people are interested not in hiring a structural engineer hourly to do things like jumping out of a birthday cake and dancing on the table, but rather to do a particular service, like an overall structural assessment of a property or the entire engineering design for a new home being built. 

Here in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, Areté Engineers’ structural assessments of homes start at about $850, and go up to about $2000, depending on the size, complexity, age, and distance of the property from Blowing Rock. 

How Structural Engineers Charge for Their Services

To hire a structural engineer to design all the structural elements of your home can cost from $100 to $200 per hour, on average, if you are billed hourly. Some engineers may charge per square foot, and others may charge a percentage of the total construction costs. 

Here at Areté Engineering, we charge 2% of the total construction costs for residential plans, and 3% of the total for commercial. This is generally much less than what either the contractor or the architect will charge. Although all these services are vital, it is the engineer who is most likely to prevent your home from falling down, or from having springy floors or a leaking roof.

The kinds of things the engineers do are calculating the highest possible wind the home could experience, then design the major elements of the faces that would encounter that wind, so that major columns and beams bend less than about ½” inward in the worst storm history can imagine. That way your sliding glass doors will not suddenly shatter, and your deck will not be “gone with the wind.” 

I read a blog post the other day about a homeowner who had been told by a contractor that it would be fine to put a hot tub on his deck without a drop-beam that a structural engineer recommended supporting the center of the weight. The homeowner was bothered by the fact that the drop beam would impede him storing his boat under the deck. A few months later, the hot tub, the deck, and all its contents came crashing down right on top of his boat. The hassle, expense, and potential inconvenience of hiring a structural engineer and following his plans are very small compared to the costs of the alternatives!

Areté Structural Engineers

Areté provides structural engineering services to the building community. 

Do you have questions about structural engineering? Areté Engineering does structural engineering design of homes and commercial buildings; plans for wall removals, decks, and other renovations; and structural assessments on existing homes and buildings. 

Areté Structures designs and builds fiberglass-reinforced polymer pedestrian bridges. Areté Infrastructure division designs and inspects major and minor bridges throughout the Southeast. 

Learn more at: Home – Areté Engineers