Building inspectors generally will look at most properties that are being bought or sold to give the buyer peace of mind and the seller some freedom from liability if there are problems discovered with the home soon after the sale. But building inspector’s reports read like Chinese menus—there are often 50 or more subheadings, covering a dizzying array of home components, like plumbing, electrical, appliances, roof, etc. 

If the building inspection discovers a structural issue, he may want to delegate a more focused investigation to a structural engineer. Likewise, the seller’s liability and the buyer’s risk are possibly hundreds of times greater with a structural failure, as opposed to, e.g., a broken washing machine or one faulty electrical wire. 

Here at Arete Engineers, we often inspect commercial buildings worth $1-10 million during their due diligence period. The discovery of a structural problem through an inspection by a structural engineer can unveil something which may allow a buyer to negotiate a price hundreds of thousands lower, in order to cover the possible costs of repair. It can prevent drawn-out and costly litigation after the sale if a “pre-existing condition” is discovered before the sale goes through. It can help buyers make key cost-benefit analysis decisions with much more data at their disposal. 

Likewise, if the buyer or the seller notices that there are a few cracks in a CMU block foundation wall, the peace of mind they get from a report saying that the cracks are just caused by differential shrinkage and swelling of the surface stucco as opposed to the underlying block failing or settling can be priceless in terms of the elimination of anxiety and doubt, not to mention liability.  

End Controversy with Structural Engineer Building Inspection

When Arete Engineers inspected a 25-unit apartment complex, there had been a series of litigations or accusations leveled by previous owners at what they saw as agents of damage to the building. The DOT had been blamed for construction on a road that fronted one of the structures. Crack gauges had been attached to many of the cracks and gaps in the brick walls and foundations, engineers had been hired, and litigations had been prepared. A minor earthquake in the area had also been blamed for some of the problems. But the crawlspaces revealed more straightforward issues: all of the structures had water and soil pressure built up behind at least one major foundation wall. The original builder had set the central girders on piers that had settled and tipped, wooden joists in the foundation were continually exposed to water seeping in from the uphill side because of poorly maintained gutters and runoff structures, causing decay and failure of some of the floors. All of the crawlspaces were below the surrounding grade, and stayed full of ponding water, making all the foundations less stable. 

Most of the problems we encounter doing home and residential structural assessments are “$50 maintenance issues” which if left undone, can cause $50,000 problems. Pointing out these simple problems cannot necessarily fix the damage, but it can make repairs straightforward and clarify negotiations between buyers and sellers so that no one is unjustly blamed or charged for problems they inherited. In all these and many other ways, the relatively inexpensive structural assessment, done in a timely manner, can multiply savings dozens or hundreds of times greater than its costs. 

Arete provides Structural Engineering Building Inspection Services

Do you have questions about home or building inspection? Arete Engineering does structural inspections of homes and commercial buildings, plans for wall removals, decks, and other renovations, and structural designs for new homes and buildings.  Arete Structures also designs and builds Fiberglass-Reinforced Polymer pedestrian bridges. Arete Infrastructure division designs and inspects major and minor bridges throughout the Southeast. Come visit us at Home – Arete Engineers