One of my kitchen remodeling projects in Nassau County, Long Island, has a structural issue. An engineer, who I use on occasion, went to my client's home yesterday morning. The client had also called in another engineer, previously, just to evaluate more than one engineer.
Yesterday was my engineer's third visit. The first was to survey some structural issues, at which time he explained which areas he needed access to, so that he could see the structure in the ceiling. We were planning to open a doorway into a family room and there was some funky beam work in the lower height family room, just beyond the kitchen, ending with a column hidden inside a wall. I needed a doorway in that wall widened.
We had part of the ceiling removed so that it was accessible to the engineer, at which time, he returned, and saw what he needed to see. I like this engineer. He's a thoughtful sort of person. He runs ideas out loud, listens to our ideas as well, and the collaboration just works so well. He's also very conservative. He's a stickler for details. All that, and a pleasant person too. He stayed about 2 hours for each visit, going upstairs, downstairs, basement, garage, and outside. I like that.
$250 for each visit so far. I think that's reasonable, considering the length of time he stayed, when one wants the house to remain standing, don't you?
Today he went back again, a third time, as the client had decided to go ahead and have him draw plans for the new ceiling/beam work. He called me after, to tell me he saw one other detail that he did not see before. I'm glad he returned! He will charge $750 to draw the beam details for the contractor to follow. He'll be in touch with the contractor as the work progresses.
What about calling in a contractor? Contractors are good and very knowledgeable, as they deal with structure every day (well, often, anyway). When I'm noodling around with a client's home, however, I go for the professional with the state license, an architect or engineer.
What I think I may do next is, perhaps, get a second opinion on the structural plan, once it is designed. Why not? I'm a cautious kind of person, perhaps to a fault. I take my responsibility seriously, referring an engineer to a homeowner. I will probably pay for this second opinion myself, and also, risk alarming the client just a bit by yet another engineer's visit. But, I'm a bit obsessive that way, when it is not my area of expertise. It's a $220,000 renovation, I think another $250 is not a big deal. Probably totally unnecessary, no doubt, and that's ok. The engineer is licensed and will put the proper seal on the drawings, a critical piece of information to be aware of.
Engineer Or Architect?
You may call on either an engineer or an architect to design small and/or simple structural work in your home, which is what we are speaking about here.
An architect is, by definition, also focused on the design of a home in a larger way, so the point of view may be slightly different. If the work is straight forward, with little design impact, an engineer could suffice. A (fancy) architect may charge more than an engineer, but as in any business, operation costs vary, so I would not assume that. Me, I just like the fact that an engineer is concerned with only one aspect of a residence, structure, so my first call is usually to an engineer, unless there are design issues I'd like to collaborate on, then it's an architect, hands down. These have been real pieces of my thought process connected to a real project that I thought might be interesting to share with you!
Here is some great advice on how to hire an engineer or architect. Coming from California, earthquake territory, it is especially good, and very clear, advice. From earthquakecountry.info. Please take a look! It is the most important part of this post. The website also mentions the Structural Engineers Association. Please, also, be aware of the American Institute of Architects.