In the United Kingdom, the rules on building regulations may seem tough and frustrating at times but these rules and regulations are in place for a good reason, namely to keep people safe!
A common question which is asked by homeowners and business owners alike is “do I need a structural engineer” when carrying out building work or alterations on their property.
The answer to this question varies and depends on the work you intend to undertake. For example, if you were replacing a window, like for like, you would clearly not need a structural engineer. However, if you were considering alterations to your property, such as creating an open-plan floor area of your living room and kitchen, you may need to seek the assistance of a structural engineer.
In almost every building there will be what’s known as “load-bearing” walls. These walls are important, in so much as they provide structural support for the property and will be taking the weight of the building materials above, including the floor, ceiling and roof structure.
If you remove a load-bearing wall without providing adequate support, the chances are the building will be unsupported and can potentially be very dangerous.
As in the image above, you can see how critical the RSJ (Rolled Steel Joist) is and how it plays an important part in providing the building with support. Without the RSJ in place, the brickwork and roof structure above will collapse.
Some builders may convince you that their experience is all that is needed to work out the dimensions and material for a structural beam, yet this can be dodgy ground.
Has the builder carried out a full assessment of the existing structure above and taken into account the weight, has he done the calculations that tell him exactly what specification the beam should be, or has he just guessed based on the fact he’s done many similar jobs prior?
Needless to say, a builder guessing the specification for a structural load-bearing beam is neither the correct practice nor will it comply with the regulations set out by Building Control.
If the correct procedure is not followed, you could end up in a sticky mess, especially when it comes to selling the property and the potential purchaser has the required searches carried out.
When they realise no Building Control Certificate is in place for the works carried out it is unlikely their lender will provide the funds until the issue is resolved whereby you can provide a satisfactory report from an engineer stating the build process was followed correctly.
More often than not, this may require a structural engineer to visit and assess the work to determine if the correct specification of the beam was installed and that it meets building regulations.
The worst time to deal with this would be during the process of selling, so it makes sense to eliminate the possibility during the construction phase.
Are Structural Engineering Calculations & Design expensive?
When you consider the cost of safety and peace of mind for you and your family then the answer is a resounding, no.
Cutting corners and having building work carried out on a budget more often than not is a false economy and not recommended. One should never consider savings over safety!
On average, the cost of a survey to assess creating an opening in a load-bearing wall is priced between £300 – 600 plus VAT depending on the complexity of the project.
In addition, the beam calculations would cost approx £200 – £600 per beam. When you weigh up the cost of this process compared to the cost of the construction works, it’s a small fraction of the cost but an essential one.
Structural Engineering calculations and design provide essential information to builders and construction experts to ensure that the build process is carried out correctly and that the required regulations and rules are adhered to.
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