Should you get a Structural Inspection?
“The body is wise and always speaks, the important thing is to learn to listen to it.”
Upon close examination of the human body, we discover an extraordinarily intricate and well-coordinated machine with a remarkable capability to alert us when something is wrong. Likewise, structures are composed of various components that operate in harmony to create a coherent and effective entity. Though they may appear solid and stable, they are not immune to breakdowns and concealed defects. Nonetheless, there is reason to be optimistic: much like our bodies, STRUCTURES ALSO SPEAK! When it comes to buildings, bridges, and other important structures, structural health is crucial to ensuring long-term safety and durability. Despite being challenging to spot with unaided eyes, even minor cracks or structural damage can signal potential problems. Therefore, it is crucial to listen to these warning signs carefully. This article delves into the significance of structural inspections in identifying concealed structural defects that may jeopardize people’s safety and shorten the lifespan of the structure.
What is a Structural Inspection?
“First things first.” Let’s begin by clarifying the concept. So, what exactly is a Structural Inspection?
A Structural Inspection is a comprehensive evaluation of a property’s structural system, including its foundation, walls, floors, and roof. This assessment is conducted by a Structural Engineer who specializes in identifying structural deficiencies and interpreting the signals that only they can recognize. They possess a detailed understanding of applicable design codes, structural analysis techniques, and the impact of corrosion on the strength of materials and structures. Through this inspection, the engineer can determine the structural soundness of the elements that support a house or building and identify any structural issues that require attention.
What to Expect During a Structural Inspection
During a structural inspection, the engineer will typically examine the building’s foundation, including the footings, walls, and piers, to check for any signs of cracking, settling, or other damage that could compromise the building’s structural integrity. They will also inspect the building’s walls, roof, and other structural components to ensure that they are properly anchored, braced, and supported. The structural engineer may also use specialized equipment to detect any hidden structural issues or damage.
Here are some of the key elements that you can expect during a structural inspection:
- Site visit: The inspection typically begins with a site visit to assess the building’s surroundings, location, and any external factors that may impact its structural integrity. This includes reviewing the site plan, topography, drainage patterns, soil conditions, and seismic activity in the area.
- Visual examination: The structural engineer will perform a visual examination of the building’s exterior and interior, looking for signs of damage, deterioration, or distress. This includes inspecting the load-bearing elements of the structure for cracks, gaps, settlement, bowing, or other visible issues.
- Documentation and analysis: The engineer will document their findings and analyze the data to identify any structural deficiencies or safety hazards. This includes reviewing architectural plans, structural drawings, and building codes to ensure compliance and identify any areas of concern.
Moreover, upon completion of the inspection process, the engineer typically furnishes a comprehensive report detailing all identified issues or distresses, along with recommended repairs or corrective measures deemed essential to ensure the building’s structural integrity and safety.
Key Considerations in Structural Inspections
To effectively identify possible defects and failures, several key considerations must be taken into account. In the following sections, we will highlight three of these considerations:
Climate and Weather Considerations
Factors such as weather patterns can impact both the materials of a structure and the structure itself. For instance, in a low-temperature environment, water can penetrate the pores of concrete and freeze, creating an expansion that puts additional pressure on the structure. If this pressure surpasses the inherent tensile strength of the reinforced concrete, it can result in cracking. On other hand, elevated temperatures can also have a significant impact on the performance of concrete, as they can exacerbate the likelihood of chloride corrosion. In essence, hotter temperatures and increased moisture levels can amplify the potential for corrosion within the reinforcements of the concrete, thereby compromising the overall durability and strength of the structure. When steel reinforcement succumbs to corrosion, the entire concrete structure is at risk of experiencing adverse effects on its properties.
This highlights the crucial role that climate and meteorology play in structural inspections, emphasizing the need for buildings to be designed and constructed to withstand the effects of adverse weather conditions specific to their geographic location. In Florida, for example, there are specific laws governing how buildings should be designed to withstand hurricanes, while in California, engineers must design for earthquakes, and in Utah, for snow loads.It is also important to consider the effects of designing structures near the coast. All of these factors must be carefully examined in a structural inspection to ensure that the building is in good condition.
Construction Standards and Building Codes
Norms and building codes are essential in ensuring the safety and integrity of structures, and they are crucial considerations during structural inspections. Building norms establish the minimum requirements for designing, constructing, and inspecting buildings and structures, whereas building codes are legal requirements that builders and building owners must adhere to. Both norms and codes play a critical role in guiding construction practices and ensuring compliance with safety standards.
In Florida, structures must meet specific resistance requirements for hurricane-force winds for example.These requirements are established by the International Building Code (IBC), which serves as the basis for the state building code, in this case, The Florida Building Code (FBC). The IBC sets standards for construction materials and systems, construction techniques, and structural inspections. Ensuring compliance with these codes and standards is crucial for maintaining the safety and integrity of structures in the state. As a result, structural inspection is a meticulous and comprehensive process that involves assessing the physical condition of a building, identifying potential defects and failures, and verifying compliance with applicable building codes and standards.
Age of Properties
When looking at potential properties, it’s important to take into account the age of the building. Older structures are often more prone to structural issues due to the natural wear and tear that occurs over time. Factors such as poor design, construction defects, extreme weather events, and changes in weight distribution can all contribute to unexpected failures in the building’s structure. As building codes and construction practices have evolved, modern structures are built with more advanced techniques and materials to better withstand deflection. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for older homes to have sloping floors and cracks in the walls and ceilings due to a lack of proper support for the weight of the building.
When to Get a Structural Inspection in Miami
Obtaining a structural inspection in Miami is highly recommended in many scenarios to ensure the safety and stability of buildings. In fact, there are specifically two types of structural inspections that are required in Miami. The first one is the 25 Year Milestone inspection, which is mandatory for buildings that are three stories or higher and located within three miles of the coastline, built on or after 1998. The second type of inspection is the 30 Year Inland Building Recertification, which is mandatory for interior buildings, except for single-family homes, duplexes, and buildings with 10 occupants or less and 2,000 square feet or less.
It’s important to note that when a building undergoes a 25 Year Recertification or a 30 Year Recertification, the same inspection will be performed every 10 years. This means that the 10 Year Recertification applies to those buildings that have passed any of the previous inspections once a decade. Additionally, a Structural Integrity Reserve Study is conducted every 10 years for Condo/Cooperative buildings that are 3 stories or higher to determine the remaining useful life of various common building components for budgeting replacement.
**Please note that the structural inspection is only one part of the recertification process. An electrical inspection and other steps may be required for this process to be completed in the state of Florida.**
Don’t Overlook These Crucial Details!
Even if we do not fall into any of the previous categories, it is advisable to remain vigilant for typical indications that could signify underlying structural issues.
First of all, check your windows and doors! In buildings, damage to the foundation often reveals itself through issues with the areas surrounding windows and doors, rather than other parts of the walls. If you encounter difficulty when opening or closing doors or windows, it is likely due to instability in the building’s foundation. This problem can be identified by irregular gaps around doors, doors that remain slightly ajar, and windows and doors that do not move smoothly or accurately. In severe cases, it may even become apparent that doors and windows are separating from the wall structure or failing to close properly.
On the other hand, the foundation of a house can present issues where the walls meet the ground. It’s crucial to be aware of particular signs, including cracks near the base of the walls, soil erosion around the foundation, and inadequate drainage. While minor cracks are typically harmless, the detection of vertical, horizontal, or stepped cracks of ¼” or more requires an immediate structural inspection to ensure the safety and stability of the building.
Your floors can also be affected by the displacement of the foundation. As the movement increases, the likelihood of your floors exhibiting structural failure signs also increases. Houses can be constructed on either a slab or an elevated foundation that includes wooden floor joists. If the wooden floor is spongy, it could indicate a structural issue. It is also important to keep an eye on the tiles placed over the slab since cracking can be an indicator of ground movement. Additionally, removing the carpet may reveal valuable information about the underlying structure of the house.
It is advisable to consult a qualified professional if you harbor any reservations regarding the structural condition of your residence. Signs of structural deterioration may be present, but only a trained expert can accurately assess the true condition of the structure in question.
Choosing the Right Engineering Firm for Structural Inspections
If you are facing any of the aforementioned situations or contemplating hiring a structural engineer, the next step is to choose one that meets your requirements. Eastern Engineering Group provides an effective solution to ensure your project adheres to safety standards and regulatory compliance. With a team of specialists who have worked on a range of projects, from historical buildings to aviation structures, we can guarantee that your project will be in safe hands. Our track record of working with government agencies such as the City of Miami, Village of Pinecrest, and Miami International Airport underscores our commitment to excellence on every project. Are you in need of a dependable and experienced structural inspection company? Look no further! Contact us today for a quote and let us make your project a success!
**Kindly take note that there may be additional circumstances where a structural inspection may become necessary. It is important to acknowledge that Eastern Engineering Group cannot be held accountable for any misinterpretation or omission of information in this article. We have made a conscientious effort to articulate the rationale behind the necessity of structural inspections, but we cannot assume responsibility for any potential gaps in our coverage of the topic.**
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