Tips for engaging a structural engineer

Tips for owner builders on engaging structural engineers:

1. Know what you want to build and what type of materials you want to make it out of. If you have a particular peculiar material in mind and there’s a certain manufacturer of it that you wish to use, then know their name and preferably have a link to their website that you can tell the engineer so he can become familiar with it.

2. Have drawings or neat sketches showing what you intend to build. Especially when dealing with people over the internet, it is essential to first have a drawing or neat sketch showing what you intend to build. This drawing should contain all relevant sections (sizes of members etc) and dimensions (eg. length and width of your building) on it. That way we can quickly and accurately assess what needs to be done, and often it will save us having to do new drawings which will lower the cost involved.

3. Know what the Council or regulating body is requesting be certified. Often the council will only require certain elements to be checked and certified by an Engineer. Knowing what needs to be done and what does not will save time and money for yourself.

4. Know the soil class if you want to put down a slab greater than around 5m in width, or if you want to use masonry walls.

If your building has footings and/or a slab which will need to be designed, knowing the soil class of the site will be required for the footing and slab design to be finalised. It is preferable that you contract a geotechnics company to conduct a site inspection before engaging a Structural Engineer to do the design work. If you do not know the soil class, you will need to inform the Structural Engineer so that they can arrange the inspection. This is also true for buildings which often do not have a typical footing, such as limestone retaining walls.

5. Have some free time to give the engineer a call or go to their office. Although Engineering Online Australia provides service primary over phone and email, most engineers will require a visit in person. It’s good to set aside at least 30 mins for the meeting, and if you’re going to visit them at an office, I’d leave at least an hour for the commute.

Do you have any other questions about what information you’ll need to provide an engineer? Ask them below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

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  • I like how you said to have drawings or sketches of what you want to build when talking to a structural engineer. My father has been wanting to build a new building for his business. It may be beneficial for him to hire a structural engineer to build it.

    • Tegan Nejad says:

      Hi Dean,

      Yes it’s always best to come prepared, that way the engineer will have a clear idea of what you’re after. This saves time for everyone involved.

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