If you are looking to buy an old or rundown property, a structural inspection might be essential for uncovering the structural integrity of the building. In this article, we discuss what goes into a structural inspection, and whether you might need one.
What is a Structural Inspection?
A structural inspection is a full detailed report on the condition and method of the structural integrity of a property, which identifies any repairs that you would need to make or severe defects.
Buyers who commission inspections usually receive a detailed inspection up to 20 or 30 pages. They are most common for older properties that are obviously in need of repair, or for significant renovations or extensions to existing properties.
The Difference Between General and Specific Structural Inspections
A structural inspection can be broken down into two categories: a general structural inspection or a specific structural inspection. The former is typically performed by a chartered engineer who is a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers or the Institution of Civil Engineers (IStructE or ICE respectively).
A general structural inspection focuses on the foundations, walls, roof, and other structural aspects of the building, and are useful for prospective purchasers who want to refurbish a home totally.
At Moorswater Lodge, for example, we were employed by the owners to restate a section of the building which was suffering from water damage. As contract administrators, we produced an initial general structural inspection of the property before producing a detailed Schedule of Works and Specification, which was sent to our approved contractors for pricing and tendering.
A specific structural inspection, by contrast, looks at a particular potential structural problem of a home and makes recommendations around those problems. For example, we have sent structural engineers to the Quita Do Lago in The Algarve in order to provide an inspection on a large hole that opened up within the grounds of a villa and provide instruction on how that could be rectified as part of a specific structural inspection.
When do I Need a Structural Inspection?
You will almost certainly benefit from a structural inspection if you plan on any home improvements that would involve changing the structure of your property.
Anything from re-roofing to removing a chimney to demolishing interior walls most likely ought to have a structural inspection. In many cases a structural inspection will be needed to comply with building regulations – a builder or architect will usually let you know in advance if your project will require an inspection.
It is also worth undertaking a structural inspection if there is a specific problem you note with your property’s structure – for example, if you notice any cracks are appearing around a window in a wall, then you might want to book a specific inspection to examine that issue with the property.
Finally, a general structural inspection might be worth considering in case of your property being damaged from flood, fire, or subsidence. Typically, this is part of the service provided by a contract administrator alongside a schedule of works and the general work done as part of a property. The insurer most often appoints the structural engineer.
The Difference Between a Structural Inspection and a Structural Survey
It should be noted that a structural inspection is distinct from a structural survey. A structural survey, most common for buying a house, involves a surveyor examining the whole of the house including the wallpaper, plasterwork, the boiler, plumbing, electricity, the gas service, and more. A structural inspection is distinct because it looks specifically at the structure of a property, and not the quality of what is inside the home.
How Much is a Structural Inspection?
A general structural inspection can vary in price depending on where you live in the UK, but in the South West, you can expect to pay anywhere between £300 and £500. This can be higher depending on the size of the property and whether any specialist expertise is needed when evaluating. For example, a very old property will need a structural engineer who specialises with properties of that era.
Choosing a Structural Engineer
When choosing a structural engineer, it is vital that you choose one that belongs either to the IStructE or ICE. These membership bodies have strict entry rules that require all members to deliver accurate and great quality work on every job. A chartered member, in particular, is one who has demonstrated high quality and experience in their role.
When do I Not Need a Structural Inspection?
A structural inspection is not a complete code compliance inspection – it should not be taken as a complete and final proof of the bill of health for a property.
Such an inspection would be a practical impossibility since it is dependent on many things that cannot be seen, as well as the status of codes that were applicable at the time of the property’s construction. A structural inspection is an expert opinion as to whether the property is structurally sound.
A structural inspection also does not evaluate and inspect hazardous materials or hazardous areas of a property. Unless the hazardous material is obvious, then an engineering inspection is not a comprehensive evaluation and check for dangers of a property and other services would be required.
Finally, as has been briefly covered already, a structural inspection cannot be substituted for a structural survey. A structural inspection looks specifically for any signs of defects and poor construction of walls, roofs, floors, and so on. These reports do not look at issues with regards to boilers, plumbing, electrics, roof finishes, and other non-structural related problems.
There is never an inspection of heating, cooling, plumbing, or electric and gas systems when inspecting the structure of a building, and in these cases, a building surveyor is needed.
As a rule of thumb, if a property is so damaged or dilapidated that you are unsure that the structure of a property is sound, then you want a structural inspection. If you have more general concerns of the property, a surveyor is needed. If you are still unsure whether you need the help of a structural surveyor, get in touch, and we will be happy to assist.
If you need a structural inspection done in the South West, we have structural engineers in Cornwall with a wide range of knowledge and expertise.
We are regularly employed by clients, insurers and loss adjusters to diagnose and correct damage to properties, for advising domestic scale projects, and for producing structural reports and reports on structural defects, especially in barn conversions and other agricultural buildings. Please do not hesitate to get in touch for any assistance you require.