The national average cost to hire a residential structural engineer is $600. Structural engineering project costs are lower for a home inspection—which often ranges between $200-$400—or a consultation which can have an hourly rate of $100-$150, or more, depending on your zip code.
A structural engineer can create new construction or home remodel plans that ensure the structural integrity of your building. Structural engineers can also inspect existing plans or buildings to determine structural integrity. Structural integrity means load-bearing walls won't collapse, retaining walls won't crumble, and your home won't suffer from structural issues in the face of extreme weather and is better able to withstand natural disasters. In short, it’s a smart investment to make when it comes to home safety.
What's in This Cost Guide?
- Why Hire a Structural Engineer?
- How Do Structural Engineers Charge for Their Services?
- How Much Does Hiring a Structural Engineer Cost?
- Structural safety
- How to Hire a Structural Engineer
- How Much Money Do Structural Engineers Earn?
Why Hire a Structural Engineer?
The most common reason for hiring a structural engineer is if you are starting a home improvement project and need an expert to tell you (or your contractor) whether your planned removal or addition of walls and structural features is safe and meets local building code requirements. Homebuyers or sellers may call in a structural engineer to look at plans or conduct a physical inspection to verify structural soundness and rule out potential problems.
A home inspection is for identifying problems and may include looking at structural areas of a home, including the foundation, roof, ceilings and walls, porches or other structures attached to the main building, and anything else that might raise concerns about the building's materials and structural integrity. Additional reasons to hire a structural engineer to offer guidance, draw up plans, complete an inspection or even offer project management services include:
- You’re building an addition to your home or office
- You’re significantly changing the layout of the home
- You can see structural damage to the building
- You need independent project management from someone who is not completing the work
- You are buying or selling real estate in which any of the above has taken place
How Do Structural Engineers Charge for Their Services?
Total project hours, scope of work requested, type of structural engineering services needed, and your zip code all impact how a structural engineer charges you.
- Project management for new construction projects is charged on a percentage of total construction costs and is usually reserved for larger projects
- Drafting building plans may have a flat fee once scope of work is determined, but may be charged on an hourly rate, depending on the pro
- Home inspections may have a flat fee, as the scope of work is clearly outlined and an engineer can safely account for how long their services will be needed. Other engineers charge a flat rate site visit for their home inspections then an hourly rate after that
- Engineering consultations are charged by the hour. This hourly rate will vary by engineer. There is no right or wrong pricing model, just be sure you understand how they charge and what their rates are before signing on their services
- Zip Code. Where you live will impact your structural engineering costs. As an example, professional engineers in expensive cities such as San Francisco, California or New York, New York typically have higher hourly rates than those in rural parts of the country—such as smaller towns in Kansas or Ohio. The reason being the increased cost to do business (including higher taxes, insurance, and business overhead like rent) in those pricier cities. When it costs more for a structural engineer to run their business, they have to pass those expenses down to their clients to successfully stay afloat.
How Much Does Hiring a Structural Engineer Cost?
Hourly rates for a structural engineer can range from $100 to $150 on average, or higher, depending on your location. When it comes to home inspections, Dave Johnson, owner of Full Moon Engineering in Westminster, Colorado, charges $200 to visit a client’s site and inspect the building for structural soundness. If the client needs more than an hour or so of his time, he charges $125 per hour after that.
If you are remodeling a part of your home and need an engineer to draft plans indicating the type and number of beams, columns or other structural supports that must be installed, for example, you should budget $350-$600. Johnson of Full Moon Engineering says he recently visited a client’s home to inspect a wall they were planning to remove and drew up plans for the client’s contractor indicating how to reinforce the structure after removing about 10 feet of load-bearing wall. After the $200 site visit fee, Johnson says the plans for that project cost an additional $400.
If your home has an attached structure that is in disrepair, such as a porch, deck, staircase or other structure that is 4 or more feet off the ground, it may be a good idea to have a structural engineer take a look before having a contractor or builder reinforce or rebuild the structure. If it’s simple, you may not need the engineer to draw up plans, but paying $200 or more for an inspection can prevent worries about safety later on. If you need to obtain a building permit for the project to meet building code, you may be required to have a structural engineer sign off on the work and/or inspect the project.
How to Hire a Structural Engineer
When hiring a structural engineer, look for personal references and read online reviews. In some cases, your general contractor can refer you to a local structural engineer or will be able to call someone they regularly work with who can inspect the structure, make recommendations, and even draw up plans for necessary alterations or reinforcement. Filter your search for pros who have experience with projects similar to your own. Communicate clearly about project scope and how the structural engineer charges for their services. Request a written contract outlining price, scope of work, and relevant details such as timeline. Due to the public safety nature of this work, all 50 states require professional engineers to have state-issued licenses to provide this type of service. As an example, California’s License of Consumer Affairs has an online license lookup to protect consumers. Be sure to research your pro before hiring. See our tips on smart hiring here.
How Much Money Do Structural Engineers Earn?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, structural engineers (under the umbrella of civil engineering) on average earn $84,770 per year and $40.75 per hour. Salaries will vary based on experience, zip code, and if the professional engineer works independently or if they are on staff at a civil engineering, private engineering firm, or architecture firm.