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Structural Engineering Support for the Renovation of Existing Residential Structures, Field Investigation Not Included

  • 1.  Structural Engineering Support for the Renovation of Existing Residential Structures, Field Investigation Not Included

    Posted 05-13-2024 10:09 AM

    Engineers appear willing to provide services for new design, but apparently in this state the engineers do not investigate existing structures.

    I have a family member renovating a small residential structure which will include an addition; consider the renovation extensive. Although unable to perform the design services myself due to distance, I provided a recommended scope of work; which I typically provide for an existing residential structure. [See sample crawlspace assessment recommendation below]. My family member is being told [by the architect] that this is not typical nor standard for structural engineering companies. I referred them to ASCE Standard SEI/ASCE 11.

    There was also a statement that they rely on the home inspector's report to identify structural deficiencies. To bottom line my response, ".... two different levels of expertise and comprehension."

    I would love to get your feedback.



    Destructive & Non-destructive Visual Inspection and Condition Assessment of Visible Structural Components, Measurements & Dimensions of Structural Elements (Coordinate w/Architectural Group to identify areas where destructive inspection (i.e., removal of drywall, etc.) is feasible for the following areas: 


    Site Investigation:  Measure and Develop Structural Layouts (Plan, Elevations, and Section Views) of Primary Foundation (Beams, Floor Joists,  Interior Piers, and Exterior Perimeter Wall)

    Identify and Measure Foundation Beam Members: Depth, Width, Spacing and Material

    Identify Floor Sheathing Thickness & Materials

    Identify and Measure components of Foundation.

    -CMU Masonry Wall and Pier Assembly Pier Width, Height and Pier Spacing

                    -Sill plate depth and width (material if visible)

                    -Anchor spacing

                    (Recommend a review of the code for structural assemblies and connections applicable at time of construction)

                    Limited Foundation Footing Excavations and Sampling to Determine Depth and Dimensions

                                    -(Call Before You Dig)

    -  Foundation Wall (iwo proposed wall additions coordinate with Arch)

                                    -  Interior Piers (One (1) pier)

                                    - Front & Rear Porch 

    CONDITIONAL ASSESSMENT to identify members to be removed or repaired during selective/partial demo.

    Included:  general and typical framing examples.

    James Williams P.E.
    POA&M Structural Engineering, PLC
    Yorktown, VA

  • 2.  RE: Structural Engineering Support for the Renovation of Existing Residential Structures, Field Investigation Not Included

    Posted 05-15-2024 11:46 AM

    The challenge with design of residential construction is more of a business model than engineering processes.

    How you present design results for commercial or institutional work is usually not well received for residential design. This is why successful commercial contractors often are nor successful in residential construction.  The same is true in structural design.  That is why residential designs are often small or single practitioner firms.  Experience is valued and often the structural engineers design more by concept than analysis. 

    As far as renovations to an existing house I suggest the best way of handling the renovations is by start by considering a load on the roof and find the path the load must travel to get to the footing.  Make sure the path is strong enough to carry all the loads.  Sounds simple enough but how many engineers do this.  While check lists help following the load paths has worked for me.  As well know your materials. 

    Doing this type of work can be enjoyable and challenging.      

    David Thompson P.E., M.ASCE
    KTA Structural Engineers Ltd.
    Calgary AB