What does structural design entail?

Structural design— a specialty within the field of civil engineering — focuses on the framework of structures, and on designing those structures to withstand the stresses and pressures of their environment and remain safe, stable and secure throughout their use.

Professional Engineers design non-significant structures (occupancy of 300 or fewer individuals) that must endure stresses and pressures inflicted through human use and environmental conditions. They configure structures, choose appropriate building material, inspect the construction work and ensure the structural soundness of buildings and structures.

When Do You Need a Structural Engineer?

Understanding when to hire a structural engineer versus a professional engineer can save you time and money. As a licensed Professional Engineer (PE), I can offer comprehensive structural design services for all non-significant structures (occupancy of 300 or fewer), including residential and commercial new constructions, remodels and additions, warehouses and industrial facilities, small to medium multifamily and commercial complexes, and specialized projects like retaining walls, foundations, assessments and inspections. A Structural Engineer would be required for significant structures such as large public assembly buildings, schools, hospitals, emergency response buildings, high-rise, or special hazard structures. By choosing a Professional Engineer, you can be confident that your project is in capable hands, with a focus on delivering practical, cost-effective solutions tailored to your specific needs.

Do I need an engineer to remove a wall?

If the wall you want to remove is load-bearing, you’ll need a reinforced steel joist (RSJ) to support the upper floor when the wall’s removed. A professional engineer will calculate the correct load needed and create drawings for contractors or permit purposes.

Structural Tips and Tricks

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Cracking in plaster/drywall is common and is typically not a structural concern

How to tell if a previous Addition was done properly?

There are a few key points to look at when inspecting if prior addition to a home was done properly. First and foremost, make sure there is not wood in contact with the ground. Most importantly, make sure that existing additions have proper foundation systems. Many Utah localities such as Ogden, Magna, and West Valley commonly have non-compliant additions that require expensive foundation work to bring to code or it must be removed. If you have any concerns, call us for a professional inspection. We can not only tell you if it was done properly or not, we can also guide you through any necessary improvements to bring it to code.

Can I remove a wall?

The first thing to be know before removing a wall is determining if it is a structural wall. Just because the joists are running parallel to hte wall does not verify that it is NOT a structural wall. Call for a professional inspection first before removing a wall.

Typicall bearing walls stack between upper and lower floors and the floor/ceiling joists run perpendicular to the bearing walls. When in doubt, call us. It is always easier to find out is a load bearing wall before you tear it out!

How to add an opening to a structural or exterior wall?

Adding openings in exterior walls is not always possible. Call us for a consultation. It should be noted that it is easier to modify existing openings to fit new openings (such as changing windows to doors) rather than adding new openings; similarly, it is easier and cheaper to make windows taller than it is to make windows wider.

Structural Tips and Tricks

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Never add additional square footage without making sure there are proper footings to support it!!

Should I get a foundation inspection?

A foundation inspection is always a good idea, even for a newer home. It is normal for concrete to crack. Cracks do not immediately indicate structural issues.
Call a professional if you see:

  • Diagonal cracks
  • Out-of-plane offsets between faying surfaces (cracks where the wall is not aligned on each side of the crack)
  • Horizontal cracks – this can be a MAJOR renovation

Hiring a professional foundation inspector upfront can end up saving you thousands in repairs over the long run. It can also help you decide whether to negotiate for a lower price on the home or walk away altogether.

How much does a foundation inspection cost?

A foundation inspection by a professional engineer costs between $450-$1,000. It’s a big expense, but inspections deliver long-term value. These pros can spot issues early that might need costly repairs later.

What do foundation inspectors look for?

During the external evaluation, your foundation inspector will look at:

  • Water drainage, landscaping, and irrigation.
  • Significant or irregular cacks and fissures on exterior walls.
  • Crumbling concrete or degraded building materials.
  • Buckling walls, exterior bulges, or irregular slopes.
Is a dug-out basement structurally safe?

When looking at a pre-existing dug-out basement, look out for undermined footings (undercut or footings without soil underneath them). If you suspect structural damage as a result of a dug-out basement, schedule a professional structural inspection asap.

Can I dig out my basement crawl space?

We wouldn’t recommend digging out basements in homes older than 1950 and never in old brick homes (unreinforced masonry).

Can I finish a dug-out basement?

You must build a concrete retaining wall prior to finishing the space. NEVER build wood walls in front of sloughing soil. 

Are brick buildings structurally sound?

Unreinforced masonry (URM) means that there is no rebar or reinforcement in structures that are made entirely from brick (clay, cinderblock, or adobe). This does not refer to wood homes with brick exterior. They are typical of homes built prior to 1960 (not all homes, but many). Utah is notorious for unreinforced masonry structures. 

Are brick buildings more at risk in earthquakes?

Unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings are a particularly at-risk struturing type during an earthquake. These can be very dangerous buildings. Earthquake insurance on URM structures is not offered under most insurance carriers, and VERY expensive for those that do offer it. 

What concerns to look out for in brick homes?

Major Concerns:

  • Adding a second story or livable attic space (possible, but very expensive)
  • Settling foundations
  • Tall chimneys

General Concerns:

  • Moving walls, even interior wood walls.
  • Cracks that run through the bricks (not just the mortar joint).
  • Dug-out basements
How do you inspect a house after an earthquake?

Check to see if doors and windows are harder to open, and if doors do not shut properly. Check to see if the roof is leaking. Look for water damage to the ceiling. Check to see if the furnace has shifted in any way, and if ducts and exhaust pipes are connected and undamaged.

Look in the crawl spaces, stairwells, basements, attics and other exposed areas for signs of damage such as exposed or cracked beams, roof leaks, and foundation cracks. Check basement floors and exterior walls for cracks and bulges that may indicate more serious problems.

If there are any concerns, schedule a certified Professional Engineer to conduct a seismic inspection.

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SLC, UT

Serving Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, and Weber Counties.
Other areas served upon request.

strength in design. integrity in build.