by Planner, Pat Cotter
It’s construction season, and we frequently get calls from homeowners wondering if they need an engineer for their project. Sometimes it’s something simple like a new deck, while others are more complex like an addition or new construction.
Here are some general guidelines for determining if you should talk to an engineer.
If there is significant deflection in structural elements of your home – bowing of studs, beams, or columns – you should probably have a licensed Structural Engineer take a look. Likewise, any ponding on your roof is another situation that’s worth a call. It could simply be the age of your structure, but having a professional evaluate it will give you peace of mind.
For major remodels that include removing or cutting load-bearing walls or walls with plywood (shear walls) you should probably have a structural engineer evaluate your plan. While your open concept floor plan might look great on paper, you don’t want the second floor collapsing.
Building a new deck yourself generally isn’t a big deal, but it would only take a couple hours for a structural engineer to review your plans and let you know if there are any concerns. If you’ve hired a contractor to build the deck you’re probably all set. They know the local environment and code requirements, and will build the structure accordingly.
If you’re having your heating/cooling system replaced or updated by a mechanical contractor, they should have the licensure that covers everything. Likewise, an electrician has your electrical system covered if they’re doing the work.
The bottom line is that any work performed by a contractor doesn’t generally require an engineer – the contractor will typically contact an engineer if the need arises. If you’re doing work yourself, particularly anything to the structure of your house, having an engineer review your plans provides peace of mind.