Structural Engineering: stuck in the attic

Post date: Nov 07, 2013 9:52:16 PM

Residential work currently makes up a small but significant portion of Outlier's business.  The main reason I like it is that it's really interesting. Every project is different.  I always try to make it simple and cheap for the homeowner (who doesn't like cheap?).  The main way I do that is by taking a 2 step approach.  

Step 1:

For an hourly fee, I go out to your house and look at the problem.  Sometimes, it's easy.  Either the crack is shrinkage and temperature related or that framing is clearly insufficient and needs to be re-done.  Sometimes, it's a little harder and I have to research building code, or write a letter.  This is all done under the hourly fee structure.  Sometimes, there is only a 1 step procedure.  Once you pay the invoice, we are done with Step 1.  However, about half the time, you are right, that retaining wall is deflecting, that wall is loadbearing, etc. 

Step 2:

A second step usually involves a proposal.  This means that it's a larger project.  Maybe we suspected it might be this way from the beginning, but hoped otherwise.  A proposal clearly lays out what I will do.  What kind of design and what the finished product will be.  Together with my terms and conditions, this serves as a contract between us.  But a proposal is just a proposal, if you don't want to do it, that's your choice.  Isn't it nice to be in charge?

The reason I like this two step approach is that it's very clean.  Sure, I came out and spent an hour talking with you about construction options.  I crawled in your attic (see picture below).  I lay in the dirt to look underneath your house.  But, since you paid at the end of Step 1, there are no hard feelings if you choose not to go further.  Maybe you didn't realize that replacing a column would be so expensive and now you don't want the porch THAT bad.  That's fine.  You can think about it for a while, because you have a proposal.  

The following are pictures from a few residential projects.  Interesting, eh?