Inspecting to repair existing buildings is in high demand. Structural engineers, like us at Astral Engineering, are here to ensure the safety and durability of these structures. We follow strict guidelines from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) to make sure we follow a scientific method and at the same time comply with the Florida Building Code. I will explain the essential steps to find cost-effective solutions.
Step 1: Preliminary Assessment – Visual Inspection
The first thing we do is a Preliminary Assessment. Think of it as a first look. During this visit, we:
- Check existing plans and records: We make sure that the building matches the original plans and gather important information. Sometimes, we need to measure and sketch things to get a better idea because there are no plans.
- Identify structural members and materials: We figure out what the building is made of and how it can handle gravity loads and wind pressures.
- Talk to the owner and staff to learn more about the history of the place, like any past changes or permits. Ask about possible issues and commments that will have to be addressed with building department.
- Use special tests like sound tests to check if the building’s parts are strong without causing any damage.
- Take a lot of pictures.
Step 2: Detailed Assessment
Once we finish the Preliminary Assessment, we decide if we need to do a Detailed Assessment. This is a more detailed look that might involve some digging or cutting. It could be destructive or non-destructive. We do things like:
- Lab tests: Some materials, like concrete, need to be tested in a lab to see how strong they are. We also use special tests to figure out what kind of wood or metal is used.
- Modern tools: We use cool gadgets like drones, thermal cameras, lasers, and concrete scanners to explore places we can’t easily reach. These tools help us find hidden problems.
Sometimes, experienced engineers like us can find faster and cheaper solutions without doing expensive tests. We suggest moving from the inspection directly to a plan for what needs fixing, along with all the calculations. This plan is what you’ll need to get a building permit.
Most of the time we can gather all we need with one visit. But it depends on the level of difficulty accessing roofs, attics and crawl space, the size of the project and materials which the house was built with, and level of existing damage.
For residential properties owned by one person and worth less than US$500,000, we often recommend skipping extra technical and expensive reports. While these reports can be helpful, they’re not always needed, and you can save time and money without them.
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