Structural Engineer Rates & Engineering Service Firm Costs

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Starting a new construction project? Planning a home addition or thinking about buying/selling a home? You may need to hire a structural engineer. Structural engineers ensure that buildings are safe and can handle the pressure that the walls, foundation, roof, (etc.), will have to endure. Common projects structural engineers take on are

  • home inspections
  • removals of load-bearing walls
  • assessing damage to a home
  • finding the cause of issues like settling or shifting
  • and developing a plan to correct the problems they encounter 

While an architect is concerned with the layout and looks of a building, a structural engineer works to maintain structural integrity. The pair work closely together and are often consultants to one another.

Breakdown of Structural Engineering Costs:

The national average cost to hire a structural engineer is $475. However, several other factors could significantly lower or increase this price, such as the location and scale of the project.

National average cost$450
Average cost range$450-$600
Low-end cost range$300-$400
The high-end cost range$750-$4,500

Structural engineers are specialized civil engineers who determine how an edifice will handle the load. Typically, there are two types of loads: a live load and a dead load. A live load is always temporary and has varying weight on a structure due to variables such as increased furniture and the capacity of people it will take. A dead load is a fixed, permanent weight on a building, including its walls and floors.

For any given project, structural engineers perform calculations, create architectural drawings, write reports, assess, and evaluate. The process is called an analyze-design process. Structural engineers must analyze the forces and dynamics that will act upon a specific structure element and design a solution to resist these forces. Once hired to start a new construction project, they should decide the best structural system to fit the architecture.

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Key Tips When Hiring a Structural Engineer

It may be intimidating to start a home improvement project when you are new to the process. Especially when you need to have structural damages assessed, solar panels installed, or any project that requires a structural engineer. Provided below are a few fundamental tips to keep in mind throughout the process:

Inquire About All Services Offered

You will come across associated fees when hiring the right people for your project, and to save money, you may have to limit the number of workers. A structural engineer may offer a wide variety of services that may be of use to you for your project. Therefore, make sure to inquire about their range of services, as it’ll be easier and more economical to have all of the benefits come from one source. Some may even offer discounts for using multiple services.

Qualifications

Ensure the structural engineer you hire is qualified and experienced, as this is vital for your project. They ought to have a license with a postgraduate degree in structural or civil engineering (or any related field.) It is a good idea to ensure the structural engineer you hire has relevant experience to your plan or has handled comparable projects in the past. With a well-defined scope of work, they will be much more equipped at overcoming any unexpected obstacles they may have experienced prior. But keep in mind that the more experienced an engineer can be, the higher their rates may be.

Additionally, ensure the structural engineer comprehends the building codes for architectural design services. A large part of what structural engineers do is ensuring structures meet local building codes, and a lack of understanding of these codes is a huge red flag.

Necessity

Ask yourself if it is necessary to hire a structural engineer or not. On some occasions, you may call a home inspector to keep you aware of any property damage. Home inspectors examine the structure for issues on the surface and may refer you to a structural engineer when they spot a sign of a structural problem.

Therefore, if you are unsure whether you need a structural engineer, it may be good to hire a home inspector first, which is less of an expense. However, if you decide to take on a new construction project, building permits and occupancy permits will not be issued until a structural engineer has signed for their approval.

Go in with a Rough Estimate

Research before discussing prices with multiple structural engineers. Generally, the costs of their services should be no more than 20% of the construction project unless they are managing it entirely. Refer to the information in this article to get a good idea of what the cost should be, so you will know whether the prices offered by the engineer are reasonable or not. Be wary of prices that seem too good to be true, as they often are! Undercharging could be a sign of a scam or an inexperienced engineer.

Read the Reviews

This one is self-explanatory but still important to mention. You may want to dig in and find the most recent reviews for the service you are considering. While an engineer can be all talk, sometimes you have no idea if they can manage what they promise without proof. Reading reviews can give you a better idea of what it is like to work with them and whether or not they will meet your expectations.

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Rate Types and Average Costs

There are many different metrics by which a structural engineer can charge you on, and often it’s a combination of several methods. Here are some basic ways an engineer may charge based on the average costs:

Per Square Foot$0.25- $2
Per Hour$100- $200
Percent of Total Construction Cost1% – 10%

It is most common for residential services to charge hourly or by a percentage of total construction costs (and sometimes a combination of the two.) For specific project types, such as home inspections or creating engineering plans, there is usually a flat fee and then an hourly charge. For commercial purposes, 0.5%-1.5% of total construction costs go to the structural engineer.

Inspection Costs

One of the most common services provided by structural engineers is inspections. These inspections include general home, foundation, load-bearing wall, roof, and chimney inspections, and each has a similar but slightly varying cost.

Average Cost on Type of Inspection:

Full Home Inspection$300 – $750+
Foundation$300 – $600
Load Bearing Walls $200 – $600
Roof$200 – $600
Chimney$200 – $500 

Full Home Inspections

Complete home inspection costs are between $300 and $750. These inspections often consist of checking for structural issues like dry rot, infestation, shifting foundations, subflooring, storm or water damage, erosion, and more. The structural engineer may examine the integrity of load-bearing walls, joists, beams, roofing, and foundations. This inspection is helpful if you’re considering selling a home and want a better idea of what kind of improvements are necessary.

Foundation Inspections

Foundation inspections cost between $300 and $600. Foundation inspections often consist of checking the foundation/basement walls for signs of structural movement. Foundation inspections will tell you if a building is safe to occupy, if existing cracks threaten the structural integrity, if your foundation has shifted and how that affects the rest of the structure, and a general idea of what will need to be done to repair any damages found.

Load Bearing Wall Inspections

Load-bearing wall inspections (for removal purposes) cost between $200 – $600. It is good to hire a structural engineer to assess the situation to decide on a support system that will replace the wall. The two options are either a horizontal structural beam or a beam and post, a horizontal beam with one or more intermediate positions between the two end bearing points. It is a good idea to hire a professional to give their opinion on anything that can affect the structural integrity of your home. 

Roof Inspections

Roof inspections cost between $200 – $600. These inspections are often conducted to check whether a roof can withstand snow and other loads that may be placed upon it. These inspections are also necessary if you are thinking about installing solar panels. The structural engineer checks for dry rot, leaks, and areas of weakness that must be fixed before the solar installation begins. Solar panels are heavy, and installation requires several people working on the roof. Installing the solar panels without first checking the roof’s structural integrity can be dangerous and lead to leaks.

Chimney Inspections

Chimney inspections cost between $200 – $600. Chimney inspections can reveal the buildup of creosote, the presence of pests, and structural damage. It is recommended to get a chimney inspection once a year or after you suspect structural damage has occurred due to weather or other factors. The exact pricing for these inspections depends on your chimney size, the number of flues, and how often you use them. If the damage to your chimney is severe, an inspection can run as high as $5,000 if walls have to be torn to get to the damaged portion of the chimney.

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Cost by Project

Project Management

Project management is a comprehensive service, and cost can vary significantly based on the project’s complexity. The average cost for this service is around $20,000.

Drafting Engineering Plans/Drawings

A set of basic engineering plans will cost around $500 but can range from $300 to $2,500 per drawing or sheet for residential projects. Commercial engineering plans cost $1,000 to $16,000 or more per sheet. As engineering drawings can vary significantly in complexity and time commitment, there is usually a basic fee and an hourly rate.

Additional Factors

There are a few factors at play regarding the total cost of hiring a structural engineer. One to consider is home age. Naturally, old homes are more prone to structural issues, and the costs for inspections and repairs will inevitably be more than a newly constructed home. 

Reports are often needed to buy or sell a home and can be written out after an inspection has taken place. You can expect to pay roughly $150 for a report taken by a structural engineer.

Similarly, the type of foundation and structural supports can also be a factor, as different structural systems will be prone to various problems, some being more costly than others. Another factor to consider is the local climate. Heavy snow or frequent earthquakes could mean that a more complex structural system must be built and more thorough inspections when assessing weather damages. 

Additionally, location has a significant factor when it comes to the cost of hiring a structural engineer. For example, expensive cities, such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, may have higher hourly rates than rural areas. 

Finally, the time frame in which you need the project completed can affect the total cost. Engineering plans can take between a day and several months, and structural engineers often have hectic schedules. If you have any objectives within a shorter time frame than a standard offering, you will most likely have to pay more.

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How Cad Crowd Can Help

There are many pricing factors to consider when hiring a structural engineer, such as typical hourly rates in your local area, project type, and local weather. The process may look overwhelming, but there is no need to search alone! 

Cad Crowd holds a database of thousands of vetted and experienced structural engineers who can provide you with high-quality structural CAD design services. We offer individual and corporate clients benefits for residential and commercial projects, including large-scale and small-scale projects. 

Some services include structural steel detailing, rebar detailing, drafting, fabrication drawing, structural analysis, construction documentation, and 3D Modeling. Take the guesswork from sorting through engineers and let us help you find an expert with exceptional skills and expertise for your project. Get a free quote now.