Home Improvements that Require a Structural Engineer

A structural engineer assesses whether structures are strong enough to bear the load they're intended to carry. Several home renovation projects, outlined below, require the input of one of these experts. Read on to discover more.

Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are often built to hold back soil on one side. For example, if your yard is sloping, it can be carved into tiers with a wall restraining the earth at each level. A structural engineer can work out the soil weight each barrier will hold and advise how to build it and what materials to use. A material, such as Besser blocks, reinforced with steel rods and mortar, is more robust than some timber options or a natural boulder wall. 

Also, retaining walls use different techniques to hold back the soil. Some use an L-shaped structure buried in the earth for leverage. Others rely on their natural weight and mass. Which is appropriate will depend on the wall height and how much load it needs to bear. A structural engineer will also be concerned about the barrier's drainage, as rain-soaked soil is heavier than dry earth. Walls of a specific height will require an engineer's services by law. Check with your local council for the rules in your region.


Another reason you'll require one of these experts is if you're planning an underpinning project. This process involves reinforcing your home's foundations. A structural engineer will assess the cause of the house sinking and the best solution. For example, a building may become unsteady due to unstable soil caused by recent floods. After consulting with a soil expert, the engineer might recommend injecting the earth with resin to make it more solid. 

But a house can have foundation problems for a range of other reasons as well. The building weight may be too great for the current concrete slab if you've added an extension. In this case, the engineer may recommend excavating and pouring extra concrete around and underneath the foundation.

Open-Plan Living Project

Another reason you'll need one of these experts is if you're planning to pull down some walls inside your house and transform it into an open-plan layout. Some walls in a building are load-bearing, and they play a crucial role in holding up the roof and supporting the entire structure. A structural engineer can advise on the best course of action for these walls. Other walls aren't load-bearing, and they'll also assess and report on these situations.

Reach out to a structural engineer if you need help with any of these.