Before deciding what kind of report you need on your property, bear in mind that ‘Full Structural Surveys’ are now officially known as ‘Building Surveys’.
Where you are chiefly concerned about signs of movement, such as cracking or suspected subsidence, it’s normally advisable in the first instance to appoint a structural engineer who can diagnose the cause of the problem.
There are 3 main options:-
1/ A structural inspection focusing on signs of movement, carried out by a Structural Engineer or specialist Building Surveyor.
2/ A Building Survey, which covers the whole building in detail, including the structure (formerly known as ‘Full Structural Surveys’).
3/ A less expensive RICS HomeBuyer survey which also looks at the whole building and the structure, but reports in less detail than a Building Survey.
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What do Structural Engineers actually do?
Structural Engineers specialise in assessing how buildings ‘stand up’ and support loadings. This primarily involves the load-bearing structural components – the walls, foundations and roofs. They can carry out a professional inspection of problems with existing buildings, such as cracking, a badly leaning stack or suspected subsidence.
They can also provide structural design calculations for any alterations you are considering, as well as helping with Building Regulations plans and applications.
Professional Qualifications of Structural Engineers
Structural Engineers are normally members of the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) or the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and will have the following letters are their name: MIStructE, FIStructE, MICE or FICE.
Structural Engineers with these letters after their names are known as Chartered Engineers. It is normally best to commission the services of a Chartered Engineer, although it’s worth bearing in mind that there are some Engineers with considerable experience who are not chartered. Also, some Chartered Building Surveyors specialise in structural inspections.
When might you need a Structural Engineer?
A ‘Specific Structural Inspection’ is appropriate where the problem is confined to one area and you do not require an inspection of the whole building.
If you would like an inspection of the whole building then you will require a Building Survey (or a ‘General Structural Inspection’). If you are considering structural changes to an existing building or if you are planning a new building, it will need to comply with the current Building Regulations. A Structural Engineer will be able to help you through the application process.