Hot Topics: Architect vs. Structural Engineer - Which Do You Need?

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You’ve got a reno coming up, and you want to do it right. Is that a loadbearing wall? Do you need new headers or beams? Will your new layout work with the bones of your house? You need a pro. But what kind of pro do you need? A structural engineer or an architect? Before you ask them, ask the Forum.

Original Post: Architect vs. Structural engineer?

QARocket Member

My wife and I just bought a cool split-level home, and are planning on re-arranging some internal walls to open the interior up a bit. My understanding is that we don't need an architect if we already have a good idea of what we want to do, since the structural engineer is the one who will draw the plans for permits. Is this true?

Highlights from the Thread

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

Basically you are seeking blessings to do certain modifications. A structural engineer would be the one to give those. Now, with that said, certain locations require formal prints of changes being made, which would require a different discipline.

QARocket Member

A structural engineer wouldn't be able to provide the formal prints?

chandler Forum Topic Moderator

It is possible. Good "up front" question to ask him/her.

QARocket Member

Awesome, thanks for the advice!

Furd Member

ALL architects have training for the simpler structural engineering problems in construction but for more complex problems they turn to structural engineers. In your case I think either discipline would have the answers you need.

Pilot Dane Group Moderator

An architect might be appropriate for a major job or where you are seeking their design ideas/abilities. If you already have your design I would probably go right to a structural engineer to hand structural issues.

BridgeMan45 Member

You need to shop around a bit, and ask questions. First call should go to your AHD, which will issue the building permit(s) required and should be able to summarize their permit requirements. They might even have an on-call list of qualified technical firms, all of which would be familiar with specific building requirements in your area. In most states I've lived and worked in, architects are not allowed to practice structural engineering.

Since both architects and engineers usually charge by the hour, you don't want to use one who's participating in his/her first rodeo - time is money when plans/calculations have to be submitted multiple times for final approval. Then a few calls to potential candidates should help you sort through the pack, asking them all the same questions as you make up a pros/cons summary for each.

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