How to Conduct Structural Inspection

Regular structural inspection is a recommendable exercise for homeowners to ensure the safety of their homes, as a homeowner or real estate investor the structure of your home isn’t something you should overlook. When you or the home’s inspector suspect that something is wrong, you should hire a structural engineer with expertise in structural engineering to investigate the issue and give a detailed report, with photographs of the findings, as well as an outline of the work contractors can utilize to complete the work of repair or correction if needed.

What is structural Inspection?

The structural inspection of a building structure is usually an inspection that is performed visually by an engineer with expertise in structural engineering to confirm and ascertain the structural integrity of the building structure or home’s structural components that support weight like foundations, framing beams, and columns posts or trusses.

It is usually carried out when a property owner is concerned about the structural integrity of the structure or building. It may also involve an analysis of the entire structure or the examination of some specific parts of the building.

When to Call for Structural Inspection

There are a variety of situations in which you might want to conduct an inspection of your structure carried out to make sure that the foundations of your home are sturdy:

  • When buying a home: When you purchase a house, you may need to conduct a general home inspection to get an accurate picture of the property’s condition. If the inspector detects issues with one of the load-bearing parts it is recommended to conduct an inspection of the structure for additional examination. Other issues that require the services of a structural engineer include foundation cracks both vertical, step, and horizontal cracks, temporary columns within the basement flooring that slope or walls that bow, as well as issues with the settlement. If there are any serious issues you may decide to withdraw from the purchase or negotiate the cost to make repairs.
  • Structural Movement and Wall Cracks: A well-constructed home shouldn’t exhibit any settlement other than tiny cracks. However, older homes could have floors that slope and settlement cracks in the wall or ceiling simply because the structural elements weren’t designed to deflect like they are today. If there’s a concern there is a need to find answers earlier than later.
  • If the structural movement is a concern: If you reside in a new home and are experiencing issues with a differential settlement, a property that is older than 10 years and that has recently shown signs of settlement, or a recent remodeling project that involved additional structural loads to the building and you’re noticing the appearance of settlement, you will need to engage the services of a structural engineer.
  • Foundations, bowing Walls Cracks, Upheaval, or Sinking: Cracks that are small are usually not a concern in the context of foundations. Suppose you’re seeing vertical, horizontal, or step cracks that are 1/4 ” or greater in length or bowing foundation walls or any movement of any kind. In that case, it is best to conduct a structural inspection to determine the state of the foundation.
  • In the event of storm damage: if you think that you are suffering from storm damage, you may want to seek an assessment by an engineer in structural engineering. The report of a competent structural inspector declaring that there is storm damage will tell you if the structural integrity has been damaged.
  • Drainage issues: The effects of drainage issues can create destruction to the foundation of a house and cause costly damage to the exterior and interior and can cause ponding of water, which can cause cold conditions. A structural inspection can aid in determining where the issue started and also what you can do to mitigate the issue to protect the integrity of your home.
  • Heat Loss Issues Resulting in Ice Dams: Heat loss can lead to a myriad of problems in your home like ice dams, and high energy costs. A structural inspection is a good way to pinpoint the location where heat loss is taking place and the most effective way to fix the issue permanently.

Structural Inspection Checklist

A checklist for structural inspections assists property owners and inspectors in assessing the condition of a building. This section provides the most important components of the checklist as follows:

The Strutural Identity

The Structural inspection checklist begins with the identification of the structure. This feature assists supervisors and managers to identify the structure within their scope of the inspection. It is typically comprised of the following components:

  • Structure ID Number (if there is one)
  • The structure Site/Unit
  • Location of the structure
  • Name of the inspector
  • Date of inspection

Design Codes and Standards

Any structural inspection checklist should include design codes and standards. It must be consistent with various structural codes and regulations. Some of these regulations can vary from one country or the other. Some places may have national, state, or international structural design codes and standards that must be followed. These are just a few examples of such standards:

The structural Components

During structural inspections, inspectors and property owners must inspect every aspect of the entire building structure. A digital checklist simplifies the process and ensures that they don’t miss any component of the structure. Here is a list of all the structural components that you should be included on a structural inspection checklist:

  • Substructure (foundation footings, basement floors, and walls)
  • Superstructure ( columns, beams, slabs, walls, and staircases)
  • Roof structure (roof beams, roof rafters, pollens, roof facials, roof gutters, and sheets)
  • The surrounding environment (fencing, driveways, drainage systems, car parking, and paths)

Utility Services

It is crucial that any structural inspection of a structure includes a review of the utility services within the building. A well-functioning building structure will not function without electricity, water, and ventilation. These vital areas are often addressed by inspectors. This element of structural inspection is made up of the following:

  • Electric systems
  • Mechanical systems (appliances, HVAC systems, etc.)
  • Plumbing systems (drainages, piping, sewage systems, and wastewater disposal)
  • Protection mechanisms, fire safety, and prevention.
  • Mechanisms for controlling pests

Structural Inspection Report and Sign-offs

After the structural inspection is completed, the structural engineers who are the inspectors must provide a well-detailed inspection report of the findings and dully sign the report including their full names. It identifies who the inspector is, and verifies that the process has been completed.

This can also include the inspector’s opinion about the building as well as recommendations for repair, replacement, maintenance, or complete demolition/removal.

Structural Inspection Cost

Home managers who want to sell, buy, or renovate/remodel a home, may consider hiring a structural engineer to help through the process of structural inspection. The structural engineers are specialized civil engineers who can inspect, calculate the structural load and determine how your home’s foundation, walls, roof, and other structural elements will handle self loads and other imposed or live loads. Structural engineers oversee a wide range of projects, from simple structural inspections to building more complex structures. This also could involve other related costs for their services. An average homeowner starting a house remodeling or renovation would likely have to hire a structural engineer to assess the situation and determine if additional work will be necessary.

The average national cost to hire a structural engineer is between $500 and $2,000. Most people pay a likely sum of $1,200 to hire a structural engineer to carry out a detailed assessment and inspection of a home before remodeling or renovation. The lowest end cost you can expect to pay is around $300 for a structural engineer to inspect a load-bearing wall and plan for the removal. The highest you can pay will be up to $20,000 depending on the magnitude and scope of the project, for large and complex projects you should expect more.

What is considered major structural damage?

Structural damage is any actual defect on a load-bearing portion of a building structure that affects its load-bearing capacity which may directly or indirectly affect the functionality and the use of the building.
Damages such as foundation cracks, and large cracks on walls, columns, slabs, and beams can be considered major structural damage.

How do you know if a house has structural problems?

Suppose you’re seeing vertical, horizontal, or step cracks that are 1/4 ” or greater in length or bowing foundation walls or any movement of any kind. In that case, the house may like have serious structural problems.
It is, therefore, best to conduct a structural inspection to determine the state of the building.

what is a structural integrity check?

A structural integrity check is a visual inspection of a building structure by a structural engineer with expertise in structural engineering to confirm and ascertain the structural integrity of the building structure or home’s structural components that support weight like foundations, framing beams, and columns posts or trusses.

Is a leaky roof considered a structural defect?

Most homeowners mistakenly think a leaky roof is a structural problem, even though it is not but it has the potential to pose great safety and health risks. persistent water intrusion will eventually get down from the attic area to the very foundation of the house, which can cause great damage to the entire building structure.


An inspector conducting a structural inspection
An inspector conducting a structural inspection