Why do I need a Civil Engineer?

Why can't I just hire a licensed contractor instead? When is it really necessary to consult an engineer before performing work on my home? A Professional Engineer is an individual who has special knowledge of the mathematical and physical sciences, and the methods of analysis and design used to prepare plans and specifications for engineering works, building systems, septic systems, utilities, roadways, etc. No disrespect is intended or implied, but whereas a contractor certainly has the experience and knowledge with construction materials, practices and codes, he or she does not have the education, credentials, or licensure to design, and is not required or expected by law to protect your best interests.  A design professional (Professional Engineer) must.  Professional Engineers have an ethical and legal obligation to uphold individual and societal safety.

Take for example a project involving a new deck a homeowner might be considering. Through no fault of their own, it is typical for one to assume that all they need to do is call their contractor buddy, and he will “design” all of the requisite calculations (beams, posts, footings, ledger attachments, etc.), prepare the necessary plans, details, and specifications, and obtain the construction permit. (And how many times have folks “forgotten” about that last one?). Generally they can do this based on years of experience, which is all well and good, but I have seen many contractor “plans” that fall woefully short of current design codes & practices, only to have the homeowner pull the permit. In effect, the contractor is now absolved of any design responsibility because they didn’t sign the permit, the homeowner did. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Houses rarely fall down. But decks, particularly concerning the method of attachment to the structure, can and do experience failure quite commonly. Sometimes catastrophically.

The reality is that making changes to the structural elements of your house can result in expensive damages and litigation if incorrectly performed. It deserves to be said, the resultant misery will ultimately be much more expensive than hiring an engineer for a consultation in the first place.

Blue Line Stone Home & Engineering can assist you with all of this and more. Reach out today.

Richard Vollmar, PE, PP, CME
Professional Engineer, Professional Planner, Certified Municipal Engineer

(973) 997.8444
Email rick@bluelinestonehome.com