Do You Need a Structural Engineer for a Home Inspection in Houston?
By John Onofrey
Do you need a structural engineer to conduct a home inspection? Well, a little disclaimer here, I’m a professional home inspector. My answer to that question is, maybe, but not necessarily.
Registered structural engineers usually get paid to apply science and math to a problem. Home inspections don’t usually present problems that require science and mathematics, what they require is a competent inspection. A competent home inspection comes from someone who is capable and knowledgeable of all the systems of the home, and capable of observing and reporting on them and writing a very comprehensive report.
Look at it this way, if you have some chest pains, let’s say they’re not really severe chest pains, but you have some chest pains, and you decide to get it checked out. Are you going to your cardiologist right away or are you going to go to your general practitioner, get that checked out and maybe get a referral to a specialist like a cardiologist. Maybe you have heartburn, maybe you’ve got gas, maybe you have some other problems. It would cost you a lot more money just to go to your cardiologist right out of the gate. Common sense would dictate that you go to your general practitioner for that.
It’s really no different with a home inspection. What you normally want to do is use a home inspector, and this is assuming that you don’t have structural problems that you’re already aware of. Under most circumstances the home appears to be in good condition, so you just want to get it checked out by a home inspector. The reason it appears in good condition is the reason why you put an offer on the home and want to buy it.
The inspection helped me greatly with understanding what was going on with the slab, big relief. The moisture readings let me know that the drying was far from complete and more attention was needed. The inspection of the electrical panel let me know that the breakers were in need of replacing, big help. Now that I am further along in the process and dealing with contractors the inspection is an excellent reference for me to consult. Having gone through what happened, I was in a bit of a panic and was hoping to get more of a step by step list of what and when to repair. However, I believe the inspection provided exactly what I needed. – Paul S – November 8, 2017
So, home inspectors are like general practitioners, they know quite a bit of information about a lot of things regarding the home, and they’re capable of evaluating those systems, those home systems, and making a determination of whether they’re deficient and in need of repair or if they’re operating normally. If they’re deficient, then most home inspectors are going to make a recommendation for the professional that you need to go to, to further evaluate that system.
At Top 2 Bottom Real Estate Inspectors, we’ve inspected thousands upon thousands of homes in the Houston area, including Sugarland, Katy, Cypress, Pearland, you name it, all around town. We don’t practice engineering by any stretch of the imagination. We’re professionals at observing and reporting and saving our clients thousands of dollars on items that we write up in our reports that they wouldn’t have noticed had they not hired a professional inspector.
We do some things that an engineer might do, during a home inspection, but it’s not engineering. For instance, we always measure the elevation of the foundation, and we use a professional grade tool known as a Technidea Zip Level and we draw up a sketch, and we put those elevations on that sketch, and they’re all relative to a reference point. This is a great baseline tool that a homeowner can keep. It shows what condition that foundation was in at the time that it was inspected on that date in case sometime in the future you have movement with that foundation, you can have it remeasured and you can compare it to the baseline sketch that we provided with your home inspection.
This is not a standard by the Texas Real Estate Commission. This is something that we do at Top 2 Bottom Real Estate Inspectors that is above and beyond the standards, but we do it on every inspection and we don’t charge any extra for that.
Some people had asked the question, “Is that engineering?” No it’s not, it’s observing and recording in measurements and reporting on those measurements. You might find that a registered structural engineer will use the same tool, take the same measurement and provide those types of drawings to their clients as well. The difference is a registered engineer can take those drawings and can design a foundation repair if those tolerances, those measurements are out of standard.
Another thing that we do at Top 2 Bottom Inspections that is above and beyond the standards for Texas real estate inspections is the use of thermal imaging. We will use a thermal imager.
We usually use the thermal imager if we suspect problems with moisture, problems with heat. A thermal imager is another tool that inspectors use along with moisture meters, a zip level is a tool that we use, voltage detectors are tools that we use, a thermal imager is just another tool that we use to help us see moisture issues in walls, missing insulation in the walls, heat problems at electrical panels and so on.
So a final thought that I will leave you with on whether or not you need a registered structural engineer for a home inspection is that a structural engineer when he is inspecting a home is doing nothing more, sometimes less than what a professional home inspector would do. So if you want to save yourself a little bit of money and get yourself a good competent home inspection, hire a professional, licensed home inspector. Consider hiring Top 2 Bottom Inspections, the company with the proven track record, having completed thousands of Houston home inspections for satisfied clients since 2003.
Call 281-565-4677 to arrange for a home inspection or for more information.