A builder often calls on a number of experts throughout the renovation and addition process. From architects and building designers to engineers and surveyors, there are multiple helping hands that ensure your home is built to the highest standard.

In Queensland, it is a structural engineer that provides the engineering for new home additions and renovations. Their involvement in your build depends on several factors, so we sat down with Matt Cornell of Cornell Engineers, who reveals just how engineers can help you in the process.

  1. Do your research

Before buying a home that needs alterations and renovations consider engaging the services of a builder and/or building and pest inspector. A building and pest inspector is really good at finding problems with a house that could cost a lot of money to rectify. An inspection by a builder before buying will also help you determine the site constraints for your project.

If they happen to find any major structural defects, these should be referred to a registered structural engineer for advice. Depending on the work involved with your renovations and the trades that might eventually be on site, some issues like slight timber rot or subsiding footings can be rectified at construction stage.

  1. Start the process

Once you own the home that you intend on renovating you’re ready to speak to your builder about preparing plans. Your builder will have a list of local, experienced building designers and architects that you can choose from. Choose someone with experience in your type of project and that you like the idea of working with. Your plans should be comprehensive enough to ensure your builder knows exactly what needs to be demolished, altered, raised, adjusted and extended.

  1. Examine your soil

You’re nearly ready for the assistance of a structural engineer, but first it’s time to get the soil conditions on your site investigated. For easy, flat sites, the soil investigation can be undertaken by a soil tester. For steep sites or sites that have been made flat with the creation of retaining walls on the boundaries, a geotechnical engineer is a better choice. Again, your builder will be able to help you choose the best company to investigate your site’s soil conditions.

The report that comes from the soil tester/geotechnical engineer is very important so make sure you pass it on to your builder and structural engineer. Issues like soft soil, poor drainage, overland stormwater flows, large trees and deep fill all need to be identified to the engineer.

  1. Choose your engineer

The role of the structural engineer is to prepare engineering drawings that your builder will use to build the structure – things like footings, slabs, wall frames, floor frames, roof frames and the connections that hold the whole building together. The structural engineer will need a copy of your building designer/architect’s plans and a copy of your soil test. If you missed the soil test step, don’t worry – most engineers can arrange a soil test on your behalf.

A structural engineer’s drawings should be thorough enough that your builder can order and erect the structure easily and efficiently. Spending a little more on an engineer that understands your builder’s preferences and work methods is a great investment that can speed up the builder’s time on site. This makes it quicker for you and easier for the builder.

  1. Work begins

The structural engineer’s involvement in your project pauses now for a little while until the builder starts on site. Then, depending on what your project involves, your structural engineer may have to attend several times to visually inspect those major elements that are shown on the engineering drawings – things like the footings, the slab, the wall frame, floor frame and roof frame.

  1. The final product

Finally, upon completion of the work, your structural engineer will send your builder a form stating what elements they inspected during construction. Your builder will send this form onto the private certifier to show that they have complied with the engineer’s drawings. That form is your assurance that the builder has done a good job of constructing the structural elements of your building.

Still have some questions? Ask the team at McGowan Homes about your next home renovation project.

At McGowan Homes we take pride in staying ahead of the market with the latest trends, techniques and materials. To help you with your building journey we’ve put together the 10 essential must-knows before building. Download today or sign up to our newsletter.


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