Structural Engineers Reports
For residential property (houses, apartments, flats), normally.
When appointing a Structural Engineer, you are appointing a specialist whose concern is the strength and stability of a property. We are not concerned with more minor defects normally associated with buildings and are not concerned with any non-structural issues, which are the domain of the Chartered Surveyor. We recommend you appoint a Surveyor to undertake a full ‘Building Survey’ if you have not done so already.
A useful analogy is your GP doctor (your Surveyor) and your specialist (The Structural Engineer) e.g. back or heart specialist. Our inspection (visual) is analogous to you having an initial consultation/ by your specialist but without any testing or internal examinations.
The skeleton structure is frequently concealed by plaster/ render/decorations/ coverings and we have to interpret the condition of cracks and distortions of the building together with the age of decorations to undertake our work. We also use our knowledge of the area (often first hand but also geological maps), proximity of trees and drains and general topography.
WHAT WE DO
For a localised defect in the structure our Structural Engineers Reports are more specifically called Structural Engineers Defect Inspection Reports in order to communicate their very partial nature.
We will visit the property and inspect the reported defect only. We will not inspect the remainder of the structure, or report on any other defects that may be present. This is an important aspect and should not be confused with the more thorough Structural Engineers report which we call a ‘Structural Engineers ‘General Movement Report’ which we can offer which looks at all the loadbearing walls where appropriate. If you have any doubt about this, please contact us and discuss it with us before our visit. There may or may not be other defects evident and therefore you should appreciate the risks in limiting our inspection to local areas only. Fees are marginally cheaper for the defect inspection report compared with a general movement report but the latter is better value for money.
Our visual inspection is carried out by an experienced Engineer, normally a Chartered Structural and or Civil Engineer. Our time at the property varies considerably depending on the number of defects and their complexity. Typical timescales at the property would be 1-2 hours. Total time including initial briefing, travel, collecting keys, reporting and liaising is typically 6-8 hours and fees (normally lump sums paid in advance) are based on this, together with the level of experience and expertise required.
The report is commonly available a few days after our inspection in normal circumstances.
DEFINITIONS AND LIMITATIONS
This guidance note together with our verbal discussions form the basis of our agreement / brief, NOT phraseology used in Surveyors or lenders reports which we may or may not have seen in part or totality.
Most reports are urgent and are carried out very promptly to avoid delays to sale chains so written instructions/ confirmation are rarely practical. NB. Surveyor’s and lenders recommendations for Engineers’ reports sometimes include inappropriate requests; most commonly that our advice should ensure the future stability of properties, which is clearly not possible without wholesale underpinning etc. Often we do not get to see the Surveyor’s report. Often clients do not want us to look at all issues raised in their Surveyors report.
No exploratory work is carried out during our inspection. This is rarely practical; particularly during ‘point of sale’ inspections and clients do not wish to pay for something that might not be required. We do not disturb fittings or move furniture, floor or wall coverings or lift manhole covers or test drains. Foundations obviously remain hidden.
Most reports are for purchasers so it is not possible to disrupt property not owner by our instructing client.
Our report is based on a single visual inspection only. We do not include any form of local Authority search, speaking to neighbours etc, to check for any history of underpinning or structural works unless specifically requested and agreed.
Our inspection by one person is limited by health and safety at work provisions and excludes standing on flat roofs, accessing confined spaces or standing on fragile building elements or high unattended ladders.
We strive to provide a prompt decisive opinion in view of the sale transaction. I.e. Circumstances do not allow the benefit of on-going investigations, monitoring, trial pits, soil testing etc. Just occasionally it is simply not possible to tell what the problem is (like when going to see the Doctor/ Consultant) and we say so or recommend further investigations.
Our opinion is based on a ‘snap shot’ in time and you will appreciate that the property may experience movement at a latter date due to weather/climate/trees/drains etc.
You should appreciate that a property may not comply with the current Building Regulations (including structural), and ‘compliance’ is not part of our ‘defect inspection report’ brief. There may have been structural alteration (eg walls or chimney breasts removed) and identification of these is not part of our remit.
Our appointment is in accordance with the Association for Consultancy And Engineering agreement 2 second Edition for use where the Consulting Engineer is engaged to provide a report and advisory services.
Our professional institution does not have its own terms of reference for carrying our structural engineers reports and this guidance note together with the limitations in our report, form our own terms and conditions based on 30 years of experience carrying out such reports to the satisfaction of clients, lenders.
In the case of a house, we are normally allowed full access inside and out ie into each room as required to investigate the particular defect. In the case of apartments/flats, access is often limited, both inside and out. When inspecting for a point of sale report on a leasehold flat, we have assumed access will not be possible to adjacent flats. General comments can be made externally and from common parts if easily accessible.
Our report strives to explain matters in day-to-day language but some technical jargon is sometimes unavoidable. We aim to be as specific as possible but occasionally, the cause of an apparent defect is simply not clear.
Further and more intrusive investigations are sometimes necessary. Sometimes the cost of further investigation might be more than the cost of simple repairs which MAY rectify the matter. If defects re-appear then clearly further investigations may be required.
We indicate the relative severity if apparent of any problems and the sort of measures that might be involved in repair or further investigation, as appropriate. We do not attempt to estimate the cost of any remedial work but can, as an additional duty, prepare a schedule of work for a contractor to price. Our additional fee for this service would be advised after the inspection, and will depend on the size and nature of remedials. Our reports do not include specifications, drawings, or calculations, as the requirement for these are unknown at the time of appointment/ agreement of fees; we are pleased to prepare such further advice by later agreement, if our initial report makes recommendation for remedial work or more detailed investigation.
We are pleased to assist further if exploratory works, calculations, specifications or drawings are required. If you plan to extend, alter or refurbish the house, we can assist with structural advice and are always happy to recommend appropriate builders, Architects and Surveyors etc