When people have a structural concern with a house, whether it stems from a home inspection during a real estate transaction, or a homeowner who notices a concerning condition like new wall cracks or floor slope, the first step is to get a structural opinion from a qualified engineer. This opinion is intended to determine if there is in fact a structural issue, and to offer recommendations on how to proceed. We discuss the structural inspection in our blog post “The Structural Inspection Explained”. If this initial opinion indicates structural repairs are needed, and they are straightforward, then the report from this first inspection may be sufficient for a contractor to make the repairs. Sometimes, however, correcting the structural issue may require a more involved investigation where the engineer will collect detailed measurements, conduct structural analyses, and develop a detailed repair plan. The structural repair process is summarized below:
- Initial Structural Inspection/Assessment: Determines if there is a structural issue. Provides general recommendations for action. If simple repairs are needed, then you can usually go straight to a contractor for quotes. But if repairs are not so simple, the engineer will need to design the repair.
- Design of Repair: Engineer collects detailed measurements, conducts structural analyses and calculations, and designs a repair. During this process, sometimes drywall will need to be removed or soil excavated to determine the full extent of the issue. The final repair plan will include all the specifications necessary to conduct a proper repair. For example, if the basement walls are bowing inward, the engineer will determine the placement and size of structural bracing to stabilize the walls. Or, in the case where floor joists were damaged, then the engineer will determine the best way to reinforce the compromised structural components.
- Interview Contractors: With the design-of-repairs in hand, you solicit bids from qualified contractors.
- Start Work! The selected contractor will begin construction. During construction, there may be several engineering inspections (typically at an additional fee) to determine that the work is done correctly. It is essential that work be inspected before it is “closed-in”. I.e., before foundation footings are backfilled, before drywall goes up.
- Obtain certification from engineer the work is completed correctly.
In most jurisdictions, permits are required for structural repairs; therefore, prior to any repairs you should contact the local building department to ensure compliance.