Engineer Vs. Inspector

The realtor had a structural engineers report and it stated that the cracks where there for a long time and would monitor.

I told the client that the problem was that there is dirt & water coming in and that he should have this further evaluated for repairs.

The grading was terrible, over grown vegetation and most likely blocked foundation drainage.

I am not a structural engineer but it looks like the footer and foundation drainage is the problem. The cracks can be injected and there was no apparent movement.

How do you like the copper connection to the dryer gas line.


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If the SE OK’d it, that’s got the monkey off your back. Advise further evaluation in your report, advise the client to make sure the SE put his PE stamp on his documentation, and enjoy your evening–you’re all done.

Engineering reports vary similar to Home Inspection Reports.

A recent Inspection found a horizontal bow crack (.5 to .75 inch separation) in a foundation wall. At the widest point there was a vertical crack running footing to sill even through the solid areas of the masonry block. Full notation with regard to the deficiency present was made along with the recommendation to obtain further engineering review and repair.

One Engineer (PE Stamped Report) found the wall “True and Plumb” with minor cracking. Monitor…

Another Engineer (PE Stamped Report) found the wall to be Deficient and in need of extensive Repair / Replacement.

Two Engineering Reports on the same foundation wall with grossly different opinions.

I am waiting to receive copies of both PE Reports to archive along with the HI Report.


Around here the engineer’s reports are about 20 pages long, with 19.99 pages being disclaimers. Then, the very last sentence says, “Oh, by the way, there’s a crack in the foundation at the southeast corner.”

Okay. Got that cleared up.

In my past profession, I was licensed mechanical engineer. Give one engineer a proven design and he/she’ll always find something that needs fixing or impoving. It’s the nature of the profession. So, I don’t find it surprising to see two (or more) different opinions.

BTW, I got out of the profession when I turned 50. I found out that the glass ceiling was very thick and the companies could always find someone (or two) to do the work at a cheaper price. It was a sad way to end a 30 year career.

Licensed Engineers are like doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians or home inspectors. Some are good, a lot are really bad and so full of themselves they think they’re good, and a FEW are really good (with the emphasis on FEW).

We get called frequently to review 2 engineers reports to determine which is more correct. We do Expert Witness to dispute a PE’s report OR to support it. So far we’ve been blessed - in over 17 times going up against engineers or defending an engineer we haven’t lost.

The main reason in most of those cases was not that we knew more about engineering than the PE - BUT - the fact that there was no engineering involved, and we were better at Home Inspection than the other side.

Almost forgot the other thought. There are over 45 engineering degrees that I’m aware of, and any can use the term PE in most states by having an engineering degree, 5 years design experience in something, and passing the state engineering exams. In some states (like Missouri & Kansas) in years past if you had design experience and passed the exam, you could be designated a PE and yet never have gotten a degree in anything.

In short a great amount of PE’s have no training, knowledge or skills in residential construction, etc. As home inspection has gotten more lucrative and more well known, we see a lot of PE’s enter the field and use their PE designation as a marketing tool without having the ??? to back it up.

Not a slam - just a statement. Out of 22-24 PE’s active in the Kansas City Home Inspection market, I’d count maybe 5-6 as competent if I needed a “Structural Engineer” - yet most Realtors, lenders, the General Public, etc often think anyone with a PE after their name is a Structural Engineer.

I have to agree. There’s a lot of people in the engineering profession who are basically terrible engineers. In the 30 years I was in the profession, there were maybe 5 guys that I worked with that knew what the hell they were doing. The rest couldn’t figure themselves out of a paper bag.

Most of them had no common sense. A lot of book education, but no practical knowledge.

Now, they’ve bastradized the term “engineer”.

While we’re on the subject of Engineers…

In the past, I’ve recommended several of my clients to hire structural Engineers due to excessive cracks or openings in the poured foundation.

I followed up with these clients (days later) and every one of them told me that the Engineer told them to simply monitor the cracks for worsening.

My clients paid an exorbitant fee for a Structural Engineer and was told to simply "Monitor".

Hmmm, I’m in the wrong field.

Unlike HI’s, Engineers CAN work on what they Inspect! Most do.
Need I say more? :wink:

I seldom recommend engineers for that reason. If they do recommend repairs they defer to a foundation contractor, so I usually cut out the middle-man and do the same.

I particularly like the engineers cool striped hats…

My dad and granddad wore them, and I still have some up in the attic.
They are from Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific.

I recommend that they have any cracks repaired by a licensed structural engineer or a qualified foundation professional. I then explain to my Clients that anyone who has “licensed” or “engineer” as a part of their profession will be more expensive than someone who is simply “qualified.” Except for the hillside homes, which have their own problems, everyone always opts for the qualified professionals.

If you like technical reading about these things, here are two very good books (beware–they are written for engineers–not the People and Enquirer-reading public):

Expansive Soils: Problems and Practice in Foundation and Pavement Engineering
John Nelson and Debora Miller
ISBN 0-471-18114-5

Forensic Geotechnical and Foundation Engineering
Robert Day
ISBN 0-07-016444-4

If you read those two books, you’ll probably never look at a crack the same way again.

Here’s two relevant PowerPoint presentations that are in my [Interactive Report System]( for NACHI members.pdf):

About Homes (cracks)

About Homes (foundation)

Except that very few “licensed structural engineers” will do the repairs. They simply point to the area that needs works and the contractor does the actual repair. The SE gets big bucks just for knowing where to point.

I don’t personally see any reason for evaluation by a structural engineer based on what I can see in your photos. If the cracks exceed 3/4" and have some other condition associated with them like differential settling, or buckling, etc. then I recommend an additional inspection by licensed structural engineer and a licensed professional foundation contractor. These cracks appear to be very common, and not structurally significant.
The water intrusion issue is important to address however. Steps need to be taken to identify any sources of adverse drainage from gutters, and exterior slope. An old home may really need a perimeter footing drain installed and water proofing. All things that your client needs direction on.

Well, the licensed structural engineer also designs the repairs if such needs to be done and then provides the repair specifications to the contractor.

Here in earthquake land, many people like the extra level of comfort that a licensed structural engineer provides since they usually are familiar with the various soils, structure construction over the years, current seismic requirements and design specifications, etc.

When I’m asked for my “engineering opinion” I try to qualify my answer. I start by telling them, “if you ask 5 engineers you will get 10 opinions.”

I would refuse to accept or pay for an engineering report that only stated “monitor.” It should state something about the structural integrity of the existing condition and, if required, a repair recommendation.

I believe that a majority of issues between engineers and the general public is the failure to qualify their opinions/evaluations. Structurally acceptable and homeowner acceptable are two very different issues. A basement can fill with water and still be structural sound.

David and others! One of the issues that hits me in the face around here (Rochester NY area) is the mind set that an “Engineering Inspection/Report” is needed for a home inspection. I run into this all the time from certain realtors and sometimes even potential clients.
The sad part is that sometimes these types of inspections do not cover the items that I cover in my Home Inspections.
I recently had a realtor tell me that a normal so called Home Inspection was a “No brainer” chuckle chuckle, compared to an Engineering Inspection/Report.
My point here is this is the type of thinking and understanding that can hurt the Home Inspection business. Jim…