B&S Steel

Do you need a structural engineer and how can you find one?

  • 16 Jan 2020

Stuart Harris is MD of B&S Steel, a London-based supplier of structural steel for any size project, from small home improvement jobs to multi-million pound projects, whose products include steel beams, columns, rebar, mesh and more. Here, he talks about the need for structural engineers and how one can be found.

“A structural engineer is a person who is a specialist in building structures. They work closely with architects. It’s a structural engineer’s job to ensure that the architect’s design is built safely.

The structure needs to able to withstand certain weather conditions. It also needs to conform with fire regulations and health and safety rules.

A structural engineer also deals with older buildings. It is their job to make sure that any renovations meet with regulations.

They also assess damaged buildings. For example, they will confirm whether a house damaged by fire can be repaired or should be destroyed.

They also deal with subsidence, cracks in walls and roofing problems.

You don’t always need a structural engineer if you are doing minor repairs. If they don’t involve structural alterations then it is unlikely you’ll need their services. These include:

 – Rendering
 – Re-pointing
 – Minor roof repairs
 – Small amounts of brickwork
 – Plastering

But, check with your local authority building department before carrying out any alterations to your home. You might also need planning permission or a surveyor, depending on your project.

Any work involving structural alterations will need a structural engineer. For example, if you’re going to:

 – Build an extension
 – Expand a basement
 – Underpin a floor
 – Create a room in the loft
 – Demolish a chimney breast
 – Install Solar Panels
 – Take down a wall or walls
 – Garage conversion if the foundations need altering
 – Changing windows and doors

A good example of a common interior design project is knocking down a wall to create a larger space. This type of project doesn’t need planning permission. But you might need to apply for a building regulations certificate.

There are two important things you need to be aware of before you make your plans. Firstly, confirm you are not altering a party wall. This is because you will need to talk to your neighbour about your building plans.

You will normally have to give your neighbour between one month and two months’ notice of any impending works. This is called a party wall notice and you can get a template of this and other letters from the GOV.UK site.

If your neighbour agrees then all is well. But, if they don’t agree then an independent surveyor will need appointing. This is at your expense to carry out an award study.

Your neighbour can agree to share the surveyor which will  cheaper. Or they can appoint their own but you still have to bear the cost. If the surveyor agrees with you then the work can go ahead.

There is another important matter. You must determine whether the wall you want to knock down is a load-bearing wall. It is possible to knock down load-bearing walls. But you must replace the support the wall gave with something else.

This is where a structural engineer will help you. He or she will visit your property and look at:

 – The floors
 – The roof
 – External walls
 – Upstairs walls

They can then tell you whether you have a load-bearing wall or not. If you have then your structural engineer can talk you through your support options. The most common support is an RSJ slotted into the ceiling above.

Your engineer will tell you what size and weight you need. The easiest option is to buy online.

A structural engineer can also help you with your build design and choice of materials.

How to find a structural engineer

You can find a local structural engineer online. You can either search for structural engineer plus your location. Or you can use websites like Trust A Trader.

You can also browse the Institute for Structural Engineers website. This has a member’s directory. Your local authority Building Control office may also keep a list.

Get two or three quotes and make sure that they include visits to your home and any paperwork that needs doing. Also contact your home insurance company before you start the work. This ensures you will have cover if something goes wrong.

Visit the website

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 0208 842 4855

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