How much does it cost to hire a structural engineer?
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Structural Engineer Cost Guide
Updated: November 24, 2022
If you plan to buy, sell, or remodel a home, you may want to consider hiring a structural engineer to help you through the process. They are specialized civil engineers who calculate load and determine how your home’s walls, foundation, roof, and structure will handle their weight. Structural engineers take on a wide range of projects, from simple inspections to helping build enormous structures. This leads to a wide range of associated costs for this service. The average homeowner starting a house renovation would likely hire one to assess the situation and determine if additional work is necessary.
The national average cost to hire a structural engineer is between $500 and $2,000. Most people pay around $1,200 to hire a structural engineer to complete a detailed assessment and inspection of a home before a renovation. At the low end of the spectrum, you can expect to pay around $300 for a structural engineer to inspect a load-bearing wall and plan for removal. At the high end, you can pay up to $20,000 to hire a structural engineer to consult on constructing a new home and drafting all plans with elevations for foundations, walls, and roof.
Structural Engineer Price
|Structural Engineer Cost|
|National average cost||$1,200|
What Do Structural Engineers Do?
Structural engineers focus on the structural integrity and design of structures such as buildings, bridges, and tunnels. They ensure that the construction project, addition, or renovation maintains structural integrity and can handle the loads they encounter. Structural engineers visit the site to create drawings, conduct reports and highlight any weak points or adjustment recommendations. A structural engineer makes sure that everything is up to date and that building codes are met. Completing these types of jobs without a professional engineer can result in fines and dangerous issues.
Structural engineers assist in small renovations, such as the removal of a load-bearing wall. They assess damage to a home after a storm, check for issues with foundations, help determine the cause, and propose a plan of action for correcting the problem. They also find the cause of issues like settling, shifting, or warping of walls and floors. They decide if your existing roof can handle heavier roofing materials or the weight of solar panels or wind turbines. Additionally, structural engineers evaluate projects such as water and termite damage, sloping floors, foundation, wall, and ceiling cracks, and much more.
Structural Engineer Cost by Billing Method
Many factors determine the average cost of hiring a structural engineer, including their preferred billing method. Many structural engineers charge per hour, although per square foot or a percentage of total fees may also be used depending on the scope of the project. Small projects that do not require drawings or only a few drawings cost significantly less than major projects. Another factor is how much time the engineer needs to spend on it. For example, an inspection may take less time than working on new construction so that the rate may be billed differently. Therefore, you can get varying pricing for the same job when you contact different engineers. The average costs for a structural engineer by billing method are outlined in the table below.
|Per Sq.Ft.||$0.50 - $2|
|Per Hour||$100 - $500|
|Percentage of Total Fees||1% - 20%|
Structural Engineering Cost per Square Foot
The average cost for a structural engineer ranges between $0.50 to $2 per sq.ft. When calculated by the sq.ft., the labor costs tend to be the total cost. This is because the engineer is not using materials and labor per sq.ft. the way a contractor or installer may. Instead, the entire square footage of the project is used to calculate a base rate. This is done mostly for new construction and some larger additions.Structural Engineering Cost per Square Foot.
Structural Engineer Cost per Hour
Some structural engineers charge by the hour, ranging from $100 to $500 an hour. The amount you pay depends on the level of expertise by the engineer, the scope of the project, and the area. This rate can change depending on whether you hire a firm or contact an engineer directly. This is usually done for projects involving many drawings and time spent on the project site. They may offer a three-part payment plan that requires you to pay 25% upfront. The second payment ranges from anywhere between 25 and 50%. The final payment is the remainder of the balance.
Structural Engineering Fees Percentage Construction
Structural engineering fees are a percentage of the total construction cost calculated by the square footage. You will spend between 1% and 20% of your total project on the engineer fees. The amount you pay is highly dependent on the scope of work, whether it's a remodel or new construction. For new construction, expect to pay 1% to 4% of the total project when hiring a structural engineer. For commercial property, you can expect to pay between 0.5% and 1.5% on an engineer and 8% to 20% on home remodels.
Structural Engineer Fees by Project
A structural engineer takes on various projects, which differ in price ranging between $100 to $20,000. You can expect to pay less for a report or inspection than for project management. Each of these different projects contributes to the overall scope of the project. The table below highlights the different projects with their respective costs, followed by subsections explaining each.
|Reports||$100 - $200|
|Drawings||$150 - $1,500|
|Drafting Building Plans||$300 - $500|
|Project Management||$10,000 - $20,000|
Structural Engineer Report
You can expect to pay between $100 to $200 for a written report from a structural engineer. A report can be written after an inspection and is most often requested when a homeowner is buying or selling a home. The report includes all details from the inspection, including any alterations, additions, or renovations required for a structurally sound building. In their report, your structural engineer should confirm the cause of damage and whether the issue is cosmetic or a substantial repair job.
Structural Engineer Drawings
Simple drawings may cost $150 to $200, while a complex set of drawings may cost $1,500. Most plans require drawings of some kind, whether you are building an addition, moving a load-bearing wall, or installing solar panels. The drawings help you, the engineer, and the builder better understand what needs to be done. Structural drawings are legit when stamped, prepared, and signed by a licensed professional engineer.
Structural Engineer Plans
Drafting makes up a large part of what a structural engineer does, averaging between $300 and $500. While this type of project may cost a flat fee, depending on the company or professional, they may also charge by the hour. Following an inspection, the next step is to create a plan or drawing. The engineer combines analysis with knowledge and experience to create a design/drawing that meets the building codes and project requirements. The plan gives you an idea of the layout, dimensions, and any other notes for the project.
Structural Engineer Project Manager
Project management is usually based on the scope of the total project. The average cost for this service is $10,000 to $20,000. A project manager can be very helpful if you are building an addition, changing your home’s layout, wanting to see structural damage, or needing management from someone who is not completing the project. They are typically hired for larger projects. The tasks involved include preparing project budgets, estimates, specifications, schedules, and invoices. Structural engineering project managers use their knowledge to design and plan projects. They also lead, guide, and assist with the design when needed. Hiring a project manager gives you peace of mind that the project will be completed successfully.
Structural Engineer Inspection Cost
One of the important jobs of a structural engineer is to inspect different areas of the home to evaluate structural integrity and safety. Structural engineers may be called into new building sites to look at housing developments or custom builds in progress. They may inspect existing homes for structural damage or repair/renovation requirements. You may need a structural engineer to look at your roof, load-bearing wall, chimney, foundation, or entire house. Structural engineer inspection costs range from $100 to $2,000, depending on the type of inspection.
|Type of Inspections||Costs|
|Chimney||$100 - $500|
|Roof||$100 - $600|
|Load-Bearing Wall||$150 - $300|
|Foundation||$300 - $600|
|Home||$500 - $2,000|
Structural Engineer Chimney Inspection
The national average for a chimney inspection is $100 to $500, with most homeowners paying around $450 for a level 2 inspection with cleaning for two flues. Your chimney inspection price depends on which level of inspection you choose. This project can be carried out by a chimney inspector or a structural engineer because they are skilled in structure inspection. During the inspection process, the engineer inspects the chimney for any cracks, buildup, or signs of wear and damage. This is done using a flashlight, camera, or by eye. Having your chimney inspected by an engineer helps ensure that your chimney is in good working order and safe for use.
Structural Engineer Roof Inspection
The average roof inspection costs $100 to $600. The overall cost you pay varies depending on the size of the roof, roof material, pitch, and roof condition. A roof inspection should be conducted every few years to help you recognize any problems before they become large or expensive. An inspector identifies potential problems, determines the lifespan and condition of the roof, offers solutions on what needs to be fixed, and helps you keep it in good condition. A structural engineer can also carry out a roof inspection.
Structural Engineer Load Bearing Walls Inspection
Hiring a structural engineer to inspect a load-bearing wall costs between $150 and $300. Some homeowners report paying higher prices in urban locations such as New York and California due to a higher cost of living and more building regulations. Hiring a licensed, professional engineer is important if you are making any changes to load-bearing walls. If you plan to move a load-bearing wall on your property or remove one, they can help determine a plan of action and ensure the structural integrity of your home is stable. During the inspection, they thoroughly check the wall to confirm how much load it bears and then evaluate the potential impact of moving or removing a load-bearing wall. The engineer will provide a final decision on whether the changes would benefit or harm the building structure.
Structural Engineer Foundation Inspection
Foundation inspections by a structural engineer run between $300 and $600. The pricing varies depending on the type, size of the home, hourly rate, and regional pricing. While every process is different, most include a few basic steps. The engineer starts by looking at the foundation and basement walls to check for signs of structural movement such as wall or ceiling cracks, uneven floors, and mildew, moisture, or water in the basement. For block or slab foundations, the outside of the home will be examined for cracks or fascia board conditions. If you have a crawl space, the engineer might enter to make notes on the internal climate and whether it is damp or musty. The joists and beams will also be examined. Finally, if cracks are found, the engineer measures and takes photos of all findings. The inspection provides some useful information, including whether the structure is safe to occupy, if cracks are a threat to the structure, and if the structure's foundation has shifted. This information can ease your mind knowing that your foundation is safe and can be useful for tracking any future structural changes.
Structural Engineer House Inspection
Home inspections cost between $500 and $2,000. You can expect to pay a flat fee as the project is outlined, and the engineer can determine how long it will take. Some engineers charge a flat rate for inspections and an hourly rate after that. A home inspection takes on many facets, including checking for dry rot, reviewing the foundation for stability, looking at erosion, stability, subflooring, storm or water damage, and other issues that may impact the safety of the home. Once the inspection is complete, you will have a good idea of what improvements are necessary for your home. A structural engineer home inspection usually occurs at the buyer’s request on the recommendation of a home inspector.
How to Hire a Residential Structural Engineer?
The selection of a residential structural engineer plays a huge role in the operational efficiency of the project. Not all engineers are equal. Some may have more qualifications than others that influence how successful they are on the project. A structural engineer should have the qualifications but also be able to apply knowledge on site. Before selecting the right one for the job, there are a few crucial factors to consider. A few tips include always looking at their qualifications, looking for a well-defined scope of work, prioritizing technical competency, focusing on project specific experience, ensuring knowledge of building codes, and looking for innovative thinking. A reliable residential structural engineer should encompass all of these qualities.
Structural Engineer vs Other Engineers
There are three main types of engineers: civil, mechanical, and structural. While all engineers use math, science, and critical thinking to design and analyze different systems, building engineers are in especially high demand for construction projects of all scopes and sizes. A comparison of a structural engineer vs other engineers is based on the key responsibilities and average costs. Civil engineers handle various construction tasks, usually for public roadways or facilities, compared to structural engineers, who focus more on weight-bearing systems. Then there are mechanical engineers, who focus on tools, machines, and parts working together to complete a project, unlike structural engineers, who look at building design and structure. The below table highlights the differences in hourly rates based on the type of engineer.
|Type of Engineer||Cost per Hour|
|Civil||$65 - $200|
|Mechanical||$90 - $200|
|Structural||$100 - $500|
Architect vs Structural Engineer
Architects and structural engineers often work together on building projects; however, their responsibilities are different. Architects have a wide range of roles, from designing, planning, and drawing to overseeing a project from start to finish. Both of these jobs work towards a common goal of ensuring a building is well-structured.
Structural engineers do many different jobs as architects and builders rely on them and employ them as part of their firm. If you are building a new home or addition, an engineer is likely already on the team. The architect is concerned with how the home will look and be laid out. The structural engineer focuses on how the building will be built and what materials will ensure durability and weight support. When architects charge by the hour, you can expect to pay from $90 to $400 depending on the seniority and experience of the architect. The cost per hour for a structural engineer ranges between $100 and $500 per hour.
|Professional||Cost per Hour|
|Structural Engineer||$100 - $500|
|Architect||$150 - $400|
Home Inspector vs Structural Engineer
The average cost of hiring a home inspector is $80 to $150 per hour. A structural engineer ranges between $100 and $500 per hour. Because structural engineers often do home inspections, many people confuse the two roles. A home inspector is a generalist. They look at the entire building and search for problems that are on the surface. In fact, if a home inspector sees an issue with the structure of the home, they may recommend calling an engineer to tell you more. While the home inspector helps you make an informed decision about a new home, an engineer gives you the details about what it may take to fix issues and what may be causing them.
|Professional||Cost per Hour|
|Home Inspector||$80 - $150|
|Structural Engineer||$100 - $500|
Structural Engineer vs Foundation Company
Both structural engineers and foundation companies are similar in their expertise in foundations. The main difference is that a structural engineer specializes in designing and understanding foundations, while a foundation repair company specializes in lifting houses. Engineers calculate the impact of damage on the foundation and recommend a solution for a quick fix. Foundation companies recommend repairs to the foundation, know the exact steps to lift the foundation, and complete the repair themselves. The average cost to hire a structural engineer ranges between $100 and $500 per hour. You can expect to pay from $150 to $300 per hour to hire a foundation company.
|Professional||Cost per Hour|
|Structural Engineer||$100 - $500|
|Foundation Company||$150 - $300|
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
After a foundation inspection, a structural engineer may recommend foundation repairs. Several foundation problems that could occur and many different foundation types. For this reason, there is a very wide range of costs for foundation repair, with a national average of $5,000 to $10,000. Most people pay around $8,000 for mudjacking to lift and reinforce a settling and cracking foundation.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Location. Different locations have varying costs for structural engineering. Expensive cities, such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, may have higher hourly rates than less populated cities.
- Submission. Many structural engineers submit building plans for regulations, along with the cost of their overall fees.
- Plans. Plans can take between a day and several months, depending on how complicated the plans are and how busy the engineer is.
- License. Always make sure that the engineer is licensed. Ask for their license number and check it against the state. Keep in mind that unlicensed engineers may be allowed to perform certain tasks under the supervision of a licensed engineer.
- What is included in a structural inspection?
A structural inspection is carried out by a licensed structural engineer and includes inspecting the foundation, roofing, severe cracking, sloped floors, and walls.
- What qualifications do you need to become a structural engineer?
Most structural engineers have at least a Master’s degree in their field and a base in civil engineering.
- Who pays for a structural engineer’s report?
The person who hires the structural engineer generally pays, but if you contracted through an architect or builder, you are still liable for the fee.
- Do I need a structural engineer to remove a wall?
Only if the wall is load-bearing, in which case the structural engineer helps you determine the best course of action.
- When do you need a structural engineer?
Structural engineers are needed when buying or selling a house or renovating an existing home. Your builder or architect will likely call one in for additions and new construction projects.