The basic home inspector is a generalist that looks for signs of problems. When inspectors find these signs, they suggest you get a specialist to check out the problem. While it is good to have an opinion from a structural engineer that the seller has had evaluate the property, you should have a structural engineer that represents you evaluate the property.
Most home inspectors follow a set of published standards of practice and code of ethics when performing pre-purchase home inspections. Perhaps the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) publishes the most well-known standards.
These standards explain what duties the inspector owes to the buyer. It states what is covered by the inspection and what is not. Basically, it is a subjective visual survey of the conditions of the major components which define a home: the foundation, the building structure, the interior, the exterior, the electrical system, the plumbing system, the mechanical heating and cooling system as well as insulation and ventilation issues. When you think about it, it’s a cursory review because it’s typically accomplished in a period of two to three hours.
However, on the other hand, Structural Engineers are highly knowledgeable about structural systems, damage forensics, home foundation repair and residential foundation inspections. Their extensive training typically includes:
Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering (4-5 years of college).
Five-year internship under the guidance of a professional engineer prior to receiving licensing.
This education coupled with a technical background make licensed structural engineers the most qualified professionals for foundation evaluation.
Buying/Selling of A Home:
In many instances, a structural engineer is called to evaluate a potential problem un-covered after a home inspector’s inspection. In this scenario, the homeowner is usually selling their home. After a general home inspection is complete, sometimes a structural engineering inspection is also warranted. If this is the case, the home inspector will include this recommendation in his or her final home inspection report. Home inspectors are not qualified to assess and diagnose structural problems. Only a licensed, structural engineer can provide accurate assessments and solutions for a home buyer or seller.
Other residential home issues that can require a licensed, structural engineer:
In the event of a natural disaster which caused damage to your home
Foundation wall cracks, settlement or movement
Interior cracking and framing movement
Sagging or bowing floors or walls
Termite, carpenter ant or rot damage
Undersized and damaged framing members
Sink holes and soil concerns
Flood, fire, water or high wind damage
A structural inspection by an engineer focus is on the structural condition of the home: the foundation, the floor structure, the walls, the ceiling and the roof. The purpose of a structural inspection is to define probable load-paths from the roof to the ground and to make sure these load-paths and the age of time have not caused any form of post-construction building distortion. This can only be determined by mapping out the interior floor plans at each level and performing floor level surveys; mapping out the roof and ceiling framing; mapping out the foundation and floor framing and documenting the locations of physical damage such as drywall, plaster and brick veneer cracking. Once the engineer or inspector collects this information during the inspection, he takes it back to the office to generate scaled drawings and plans for the engineer to study and draw conclusions regarding the performance of the home and the causes of any post construction building distortion. The results of the evaluation are presented in a type written report complete with photographs and CAD drawings and other pertinent information. A structural inspection is paramount if you’re buying a large home or have discovered building issues, which need to be properly evaluated to determine their severity.