The Structural Inspection Explained

At Kemp Home Inspections, we conduct various types of structural engineering inspections (often referred to as structural assessments). Typical structural inspections include inspections of the foundation, foundation cracks, termite damage, sloping floors, interior wall cracks, the roof structure, and decks. Most of our structural inspections are for people buying houses (their home inspector identified a structural concern) or for existing homeowners who have concerns related to interior wall cracks, foundation cracks, or floor slope. Many people wonder what exactly does a structural inspection entail.

Before we begin the inspection, we want to hear what the specific concern is, or see any home inspection reports that identified the issue. Next, we visually inspect that area to inform us about the nature of the concern. But we also look at related structural areas to determine the extent of the issues. For example, if the concern was the appearance of new cracks in drywall, we would look at adjacent areas, especially conditions on upper and lower floor to see if there are related symptoms. Also, we typically measure floors with a laser-level because one of the biggest indicators of structural movement is unlevelness of floors. Although most of our inspections are targeted to a specific issue, we also offer full house structural assessments where we look at all the structural components.

Our inspections normally take 30 to 90 minutes. We offer two options: a structural inspection with no written report (just a verbal opinion with any recommendations), or the inspection with a written report. The latter costs a bit more. With any structural inspection, you get a structural opinion about the severity of the issue, whether repairs are needed, and if repairs are needed, we suggest the type of repairs that are required. For example, if there is termite damage to floor joists, we may conclude that the condition is minor with no repairs needed, or that the damage is sufficient to require reinforcement (and we would recommend sistering of joists). Another example might be related to a foundation crack: we may determine that no repairs are needed, and the condition can be safely monitored, or we may recommend structural underpinning (a substantial structural repair). It is important to understand that with any initial structural inspection, this service does not include a detailed design of repairs or structural drawings for repairs. The reason for this is simple: our inspections are at a fixed fee without us knowing the extent of the issue or if repairs are warranted. Therefore, the cost of this initial inspection is limited to determining if there is an issue and how to proceed from there. Think of it like this: if you go to the doctor for a routine physical, they may find some health concerns and would advise you as such, but the cost of this routine physical would not include everything necessary to deal with a severe issue identified during that physical, such as a heart condition. A structural assessment is like a routine physical; the purpose is to orient you on the “structural health” of your house. If you’d like to understand what happens after this initial inspection, please refer to our blog post “The Structural Repair Process” for more information.

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