What Is A Structural Inspection?

A structural inspection is first and foremost the opinion of an engineer as to the structural integrity and condition of a building. The two main reasons for a structural inspection are to determine:

1. Whether the structural elements of the building such as the foundation, framing, etc. were designed and built to support the anticipated loads to be placed on them?;

2. Whether these elements are continuing to perform their intended function.

In most states, by law, only a registered Professional Engineer is permitted to render an opinion fundamental to this definition. It is important to note that an engineer’s opinion does not constitute a guarantee as to the continued integrity of a building but only an opinion as to the current condition and potential condition for the future.

With buildings, there are always various factors that cannot be predicted such as soil movement, imperfect materials such as wood that is subject to rot, swelling or shrinkage, and weather conditions such as snow and wind, among others. During an inspection, many structural components cannot be seen without disassembly.

The value of a structural inspection will be largely dependent on the qualifications and experience of the engineer who performs it. Registered Professional Engineers have completed a minimum four year accredited college program, passed a sixteen-hour exam, and worked under the direction of other engineering professionals for at least four years. A professional code of ethics requires them to only practice in areas in which they are competent and to be accountable for the work they perform.

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The attending Structural Engineer will submit a report of the findings that will include a description of the conditions, limitations of inspection, potential risks, the approximate scope of repairs, etc., as well as any significant safety hazards noted during the inspection. Other areas related specifically to the building’s structure will also be inspected and evaluated such as porches, decks, garages, and other attached structures.