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November 29, 2008 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Who should I consult to tell me how to fix my house? Contractor? Structural engineer?

Hello, boypublisher here. I own an old house in Toronto that has a distinct sag towards the back corner, as well as a low-ceilinged basement. I'm looking to find a professional to come in and consult with me about my options to address these issues, as well as discuss the structural impacts of other interior renovations. Is this a Contractor? An Engineer? Perhaps you can recommend a company, service, or professional in Toronto?
posted by girlpublisher to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not in Toronto so I can't recommend someone specific... but what you're looking for is a structural engineer. They'll be able to diagnose the problem and tell you who you need to fix it.
posted by tundro at 11:31 AM on November 29, 2008

Best answer: If your thinking is that you want to improve the basement ceiling height AND the sag problem, you probably need a foundation contractor, with the idea of jacking the house straight, putting in a good foundation with whatever height basement you want, and setting it down on the new foundation. But you also need to know what will happen if they start jacking the house up -- will this cause damage upstairs, and how can that be avoided or minimized. What I would do is start with a structural engineer. Have him draw up plans and specs for whatever needs to be done, and then have contractors bid on those plans. This might cost more up front, but will definitely lower the cost of the job, since the contractor is bidding on a known quantity of work rather than having to guess. Plus, you won't have to deal with resolving different suggestions from different contractors.
posted by beagle at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2008

Best answer: I recently had a crack appear in the brick in our house, and because foundation issues are really a problem in our area, I called a structural engineer.

Here is what they will do:

They will come out and do full measurements of the house, and the grade (if any) of floor displacement. They will check the soil compaction around the foundation. They will bring all kinds of interesting equipment, cameras, recorders and take all sorts of measurements, some of which eluded me.

They will write a final report telling you everything that could possibly be wrong, from a structural standpoint, with your house.

They can, but may not, recommend professionals, if professional services are needed for repairs. They can, and usually do, tell you which stuff you can fix yourself, and which stuff is not financially rational to repair.

Down here, a structural engineer inspection and report was about $350, and in our case was really well spent. Foundation issues can cost $50,000, and it turns out we didn't need foundation repairs at all, it was just settling, a thing to be expected when you build on clay.

So, if you suspect that there is a larger issue, I highly recommend hiring a professional with no vested interest in getting you to perform repairs. Foundation guys are always going to tell you to shore up the foundation, even if it's only prophylactic, rather than necessary to keep your house structurally sound.

(I've also repaired the foundation on another house, and will be glad to help you make sense of that morass if I can and you find yourself in that boat. )

Good luck!
posted by dejah420 at 12:56 PM on November 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone -- this is great!, does anyone know what to look for in a structural engineer?
posted by girlpublisher at 4:55 PM on November 29, 2008

This is a california specific page, in that it references the California licensing board, but there is bound to be be something similar in your area.

The rest of the bullet points are pretty much true regardless of area.

Canada, it is. This should get you where you need to go. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:43 AM on December 1, 2008

Erm...too fast on the Enter button...

Basically the second link has some links to licensing boards for the various areas, even though the page itself is about immigration as an engineer.

The license board is where I would start asking for numbers of local engineers.
posted by dejah420 at 1:46 AM on December 1, 2008

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