If you’re purchasing or remodeling a home or commercial building, one thing you don’t want to overlook is the structural integrity of the building. It may have a layout designed in heaven. It might have the best flooring in the neighborhood. But if your foundation isn’t solid, you are probably in for some trouble down the road. 

There’s no reason to be nervous… as long as you have a qualified structural engineer inspect your building. So how much does a structural engineer inspection cost? What do they do exactly? Is it worth it? 

What Is a Structural Engineer Inspection? 

The goal of a structural engineer inspection is to ensure that the building is structurally stable. They will take into account the framing and materials of the building, the foundation style, quality, and condition, the soil condition beneath and around the building, the drainage patterns and gutters and downspouts, and any other variables that may affect the building’s ability to withstand loads like high winds, snow and rain, heavy furniture and appliances, extreme weather, or excessive erosion. 

What is a structural engineer inspection exactly? It begins with a site visit in which the engineer will inspect the home or building from the shingles down to the footings, as well as evaluate the foundation, drainage, gutters, slope and soil stability the structure was built on, etc. They may take note of the type of materials and measurements used to construct the building, as well as the condition they’re in. After the inspection, they will write an official inspection report detailing their findings. This will likely include some photos, observations, discussion of the observed issues in relation to engineering practice, and then some recommendations about what to do about any problems encountered. 

What you DON’T want to do is ask a structural engineer if they can “just take a quick peek” at your building. Even if you believe you are getting a better deal, you may be wasting your money. Without a complete understanding of how a problem like a sagging corner of the foundation is working out its effects on the whole foundation, and without a legal and written record of the conclusions and recommendations, you are not receiving anything very useful. Determining the stability of a building involves far more than a glance. 

Keep in mind that a structural engineer inspection is not the same as a home inspection. A home inspection will review many parts of the house like the roof shingles, electrical system, plumbing, and HVAC — different from the things a structural engineer is responsible for. Many home inspectors will refer homeowners or buyers to a structural engineer if they see problems which are beyond their capacity to thoroughly evaluate. 

Exactly How Much Is a Structural Engineer Inspection? 

Our firm, Areté Engineers, is based in Blowing Rock, in the Appalachian region of North Carolina. We charge anywhere between about $850 and $2,000. The final cost depends on several factors including the size and complexity of the structure, how old it is, and how far away the site is from our offices. 

Our fee pays for a site inspection, review of the building plans (if new construction), and a printed report of our findings, which is sealed by a professional engineer (PE) in the office. 

Across the United States, the fees for a structural engineer inspection can vary (like just about all products and services). However, the general range still applies. You might expect to pay a little less in parts of the country and a little more in others, but be prepared to pay something in the $1,000 ballpark for a single-family home between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. 

Is Paying for a Structural Engineer Inspection Worth It?

In a word, yes. If you are buying or selling your home, and need either peace of mind or a sound explanation of complex problems; If you are trying to build an addition, but are not sure the foundation is solid that you are tapping in to; If you are negotiating with a contractor or a buyer/seller and need some “backup” of your feelings about some aspect of the property, then paying for a structural engineer inspection is worth it. 

It is especially worth it if you live or work in an area with unstable soil, earthquakes, extreme weather, or other potential dangers to the structure of a building. If for no other reason, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind knowing that your house was built on the rock. As Jesus said: 

“As for anyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built” (Luke 6:47-48).

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. Visit us at Home – Areté Engineers

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