Residential structural engineers specialize in designing structures for homes. You want to find a professional that likes to design homes because many engineers prefer to design only commercial structures. Be certain to ask the engineer whether they truly like to design homes. If not, you are better off finding someone who does.
Structural Engineers are highly knowledgeable about structural systems, damage forensics, home foundation repair and residential foundation inspections.
After a home foundation inspection, structural engineers produce thorough engineering reports that clearly identify damage cause and recommended repair plans if necessary. This document is typically required to close on a home, obtain a loan or settle disputes. It can also be used as a guide for contractors to install a professionally-designed installation plan.
Another benefit of hiring a structural engineer is that they will usually be able to tell you steps you can take in the future to prevent your foundation problems from reappearing. It is also possible that if your foundation is not in a very critical state that the engineer will simply recommend some preventative measures such as keeping the ground around your home properly watered year round. In this case you could end up saving thousands of dollars by not having to hire a foundation repair company.
General Structural Concerns
- Interior and Exterior Cracks
- Signs of Movement
- Floor Concerns
- Structural Restoration
- Damaged Structural Members (force, modification, insect, fungi)
- Real Estate Transactions
- Finished Spaces Not Originally Permitted
- Decks Not Originally Permitted
- Home Inspection Structural Concerns
- New Construction / Additions / Renovations
- Finishing Previously Unfinished Spaces
- Structural Design for Additions and Renovations
- Site Change Orders
- Framing Inspection Concerns
- Retaining Wall Design (under 8')
- Basics of Residential Construction
The conventional American house has been shaped over time by a variety of factors. Foremost, the abundance of wood as a readily available resource has dictated traditional American housing construction, first as log cabins, then as post-and-beam structures, and finally as light-frame buildings. The basic residential construction technique has remained much the same since the introduction of light wood-framed construction in the mid-1800s and is generally referred to as conventional construction.
In post-and-beam framing, structural columns support horizontal members. Post-and-beam framing is typified by the use of large timber members. Traditional balloon framing consists of closely spaced light vertical structural members that extend from the foundation sill to the roof plates. Platform framing is the modern adaptation of balloon framing whereby vertical members extend from the floor to the ceiling of each story. Balloon and platform framings are not simple adaptations of post-and-beam framing but are actually unique forms of wood construction. Platform framing is used today in most wood-framed buildings; however, variations of balloon framing may be used in certain parts of otherwise platform-framed buildings, such as great rooms, stairwells, and gableend walls where continuous wall framing provides greater structural integrity.
Conventional or prescriptive construction practices are based as much on experience as on technical analysis and theory (HEW, 1931). When incorporated into a building code, prescriptive (sometimes called “cook book”) construction requirements can be easily followed by a builder and inspected by a code official without the services of a design professional. It is also common for design professionals, including architects and engineers, to apply conventional practice in typical design conditions but to undertake special design for certain parts of a home that are beyond the scope of a prescriptive residential building code. Over the years, the housing market has operated efficiently with minimal involvement of design professionals. Section 1.5 explores the current role of design professionals in residential construction as well as some more recent trends. While dimensional lumber has remained the predominant material used in twentieth-century house construction, the size of the material has been reduced from the rough-sawn, 2-inch-thick members used at the turn of the century to today’s nominal “dressed” sizes with actual thickness of 1.5 inches for standard framing lumber. The result has been significant improvement in economy and resource utilization, but not without significant structural trade-offs in the interest of optimization. The mid- to late 1900s have seen several significant innovations in wood-framed construction. One example is the development of the metal plateconnected wood truss in the 1950s. Wood truss roof framing is now used in most new homes because it is generally more efficient than older stick-framing methods. Another example is plywood structural sheathing panels that entered the market in the 1950s and quickly replaced board sheathing on walls, floors, and roofs. Another engineered wood product known as oriented strand board (OSB) is now substantially replacing plywood. In addition, it is important to recognize that while the above changes in materials and methods were occurring, significant changes in house design have continued to creep into the residential market in the way of larger homes with more complicated architectural features, long-span floors and roofs, large open interior spaces, and more amenities. Certainly, the collective effect of the above changes on the structural qualities of most homes is notable. The references below are recommended for a more in-depth understanding of conventional housing design, detailing, and construction.