Think of a civil engineer, with a specialty in understanding the forces and loads in structures. In the residential space, structural engineers specialise in the design of houses and units.
As a homeowner, a structural engineer is extremely important. Residential structures require specialised knowledge and training to determine forces that impact the safety and lifespan of the building.
Elements of your house that a structural engineer will work on include:
Framework for shed, pergola, veranda, involving steel or timber framework.
Earth retaining walls
Roofs in high wind speeds area next to coast or in the bush, footings in clay soils or on soft and sloping sites
Steel floor beams and roof girders
Beam for removal of load bearing wall
Suspended concrete slabs.
If you’re building or renovating a house, find a structural engineer with a residential portfolio. Look for recent experience in your type of project. If you need a site inspection, use Google’s local search function to find a specialist close by.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Even if you’re not familiar with the industry, a good engineer will problem-solve your issues. They’ll guide the conversation. Look for direct access to the engineer, without jumping through admin hoops. This is your greatest investment. You’ll benefit from a boutique service with quick responses and personalised service.
Request copies of their insurance coverage certificates. This will protect you, in case of a design oversight or human error.
Structural engineers either charge by the hour or a pre-agreed, fixed fee. This will depend on the size of your project and your specific needs. Every project is different.
But, this is an FAQ section and you’re expecting specifics. Hourly rates for Australian structural engineers start at $100 plus GST (for graduates), through to $250+ at the most experienced level.
Firms will have their own price structures, so get a feel for the options available to you. Ask about negotiating a fixed fee if you’re more comfortable with that. A basic on-site consultation will cost around $300. Complicated house projects can cost upwards of $10,000. Do your research, shop around, and use your best judgement.
Structural engineers don’t remove walls or ceiling linings, searching for internal damage. Experts can’t see beyond what you can. Instead, they look for signs of movement and damage. Structural engineers can’t find defects and problems, without accessibility.
No, we don’t, unless a structural inspection for a fault is noted in a pre-purchase inspection report. If you’re feeling insecure due to structural defects in property, you are planning to buy, consulting a structural engineer would be a good investment.
No, this isn’t necessary. You can lodge your development application without engineering details. However, engineering plans & reports would be requested during the assessment process. For example, if an easement compromises the development.
We suggest sourcing an engineer as early as possible to ensure the project’s both safe and affordable, before going through the expensive process. Also, if you require amendments to the plans, this will affect the engineering report. Our advice? Do it right the first time.
This is a question for your local council, as they make the rules. If in doubt, yes, involve an engineer.
Supply a copy of your architectural plans and your development application conditions (if planning consent is approved).
Most often, yes. Projects require as assessment of soil and wind classification to existing structures. The builder’s statutory insurance policy is an important document, with requirements that structural engineers must follow. For example, certifying house footings, steel floor beams and retaining walls. Check with your builder designer.
Yes, if you’re doing it to create a larger space. It’s important to conclude if the wall is loadbearing, before you pick up any tools. A builder can complete the inspection, but if it’s loadbearing, a structural engineering will design a new beam to replace the wall’s carrying capacity. Drawings will need to be completed.
No, this isn’t guaranteed. It’s not uncommon for a new house to show cracks within the first six months after the build. Why? There’s plenty of reasons, beyond poor design or construction. If you’re worried about cracks, talk to your builder.
Mainly for peace of mind. Move into your new house knowing that it’s structurally safe and become aware of damage or maintenance needs to action. This report will help you make an informed decision.
Concrete, while strong in compression, is weak in tension. By introducing steel, it’ll improve the concrete’s strength. In a slab-on-ground, reinforcement maximises its weight-handling abilities and controls the width of shrinkage cracks. This is especially true for poor soil conditions.
Once dry, concrete differs in volume. This isn’t isolated to just concrete. As the volume changes, exposure to tensile stresses causes the cracks. Joints in concrete pavements and slabs enable the material to naturally crack, in a neat straight line. Weather conditions also play a part in the cracking process.
It’s a visual report of a building or property that’s been subject to prior works, commencing on an adjoining property. The proposed works might include a new unit and changes to a retaining wall.
Yes, please submit your application to council first. It’s best to use a private building certifier to do this for you, so you dot all your I’s and cross your t’s. The certifier will require engineering plans, which a structural specialist can prepare for you.
Yes. Any structural building work you plan to undertake, you’ll need a building approval. This includes carports, pergolas, verandas, decks, garden sheds and retaining walls (higher than one metre).
Yes, as stated above, if your retaining wall is greater than one metre, it requires a building approval. If the wall is less than 1.5 metres from a building, you’ll also need approval. Your best bet is to contact the council before you start any kind of construction work.
They usually run perpendicular to the joists in the ceiling. All outside walls normally carry a load. Organise a structural engineer to inspect your property and prepare a report.