I Have a Structural Problem – Where Do I Start?

Posted by in Buying/Maintaining a Home | August 12, 2019

Home owners sometimes email or call us about how to find help for a particular framing issue that we have discussed in one of our articles.  These questions have come in from Washington to Florida and California to Maine, and sometimes even from Canada. 

Since we are not registered as Professional Engineers in any state (or country) outside of Ohio, we cannot offer structural engineering services outside of Ohio.  As I told one gentleman who inquired about our services from Washington, “When I am in Washington I am what your state officials would call a ‘tourist.’”  (BTW – I have enjoyed being a tourist in Washington- a great state to spend some vacation time.) 

However, we are able to discuss general principles of a structural issue to provide a better understanding of how a structure responds to various loads, aging, wear and tear, maintenance, etc. and then recommend they find a local structural engineer to examine the conditions, perform an evaluation, and provide them with recommendations. 

If you need assistance with an issue with your structure and you haven’t had any social or business contact with contractors, engineers, or city building department officials in your area, the following may help:

  1. Has anyone you know had work performed for the same or a similar issue?  Ask friends, neighbors, business associates, or family members for a referral to a contractor or structural engineer. 
  2. Another source of help is your local building department.  You can contact the local building department (or inspectors) in your jurisdiction and ask for a list of contractors licensed in your city for the type of work you want to have performed, such as, replacement or reinforcement of roof framing.  A good qualified contractor experienced with repair, reinforcement, or replacement of existing structures may be able to identify the cause of the problem and then perform the necessary work.  However, your city may have regulations that will require an engineer to provide sketches or drawings before any work is performed.  The requirements for your particular city can be discussed with the local building department or an experienced contractor or an engineer in your area may know.  I have found that whenever I have called a city building department official for information they have always been helpful.  They appreciate working with people who want to do things the right way. 
  3. The building department may also be able to provide a list of engineers who have provided services for single-family dwellings in your city.  Also, if you have a structural issue, you need a structural engineer, not mechanical or electrical, etc. 
  4. I have found that Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, or other similar service may be a source to check out a contractor or an engineer. 

In Ohio, if we can’t provide help, we refer home owners to the webpage for our state organization the Structural Engineers Association of Ohio (www.seaoo.org) where there is a listing of structural engineers that provide services for single-family dwellings. 

If you have other sources of help, please email us so that we can add them to this list.