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FAQ's

Q.
Can I build a third floor addition to my house?
A.

Most house “structures” will allow for a 3rd floor addition, but before doing any structural assessment, you need to check if the local zoning by-law will permit the addition. Most municipalities place limits the size of a house, and it is possible that what you want to build may contravene those zoning by-law restrictions.

Assuming that there are no zoning restrictions present, then we can attend the house and carry out calculations to determine if the existing structure can safely support a new 3rd floor addition. Sometimes, a soil engineer is also needed to evaluate the bearing capacity of the soil, to determine if the foundations need to be underpinned and widened, to carry the extra load.

Q.
Can i get permits with the site report?
A.

No, a site report is not a substitute for a permit, nor can a site report be submitted as a substitute for design drawings.

Q.
Can the contractor do the work with just this site report from the engineer?
A.

It is not recommended; even though our site report may identify the size and type of beam that you may need for support once the wall is removed, you still need to get Building Permits.  This is required by Law under the Building Code Act, and you can be fined for doing work without a permit.  A site report can’t be used as a substitute for a building permit and design drawings.  It’s also important to remember that, when you sell your home, the purchaser may want you to verify that you did your renovation work with a Building Permit.

Q.
Could I get permits from a site report?
A.

No, a site report is just a letter which summarizes what we observed on site and often contains recommendations related to a problem or condition that we observed on site. In order to get a permit for a construction project, you need to have plans and specifications prepared which show the work that is to be done by a contractor. Only once plans and specifications have been drawn up can you apply for a building permit.

Q.
Do I need permits?
A.

Yes, any structural change to a house requires a building permit.

Q.
How long will it take for you to provide the engineering design that's needed?
A.

Most of our design projects for small structural renovations take only about 2-3 weeks to prepare. We may need to measure your house, and then prepare design drawings and specifications for the structural work that is needed.

Q.
How long will it take to get the building permits?
A.

For many simple house renovation projects, building permits only take about 10 business days to process. Larger projects, such as additions and new homes, take around 4 weeks to process. This does not include Committee of Adjustment applications, which typically take 4-5 months to complete.

Q.
I want to build a basement walkout to my house
A.

OK, then you should first check that the walkout can be built without having to obtain a minor variance from the zoning by-law. You will need a property survey which shows the location of your house relative to the property lines. Often, the city restricts the distance that a walkout can be placed from a property line. Front yard walkouts are sometimes too close the street and are not permitted due to zoning by-laws.

Basement walkout stairs need to be at least 2’-11” wide, must be properly lit, require a handrail and guard, and need to have a drain in the bottom landing. Also, the basement walkout must be designed to protect the footings of the existing structure from frost damage…since by digging down to the basement level, the insulating properties of the soil around the footings are locally removed and footings can be exposed to frost damage. Proper design for underpinning the foundations or providing equivalent insulation protection for existing footings, are common methods for dealing with this situation.

Q.
I want to make a cathedral ceiling in my bedroom
A.

This is very popular and in many cases, we can provide design details which will allow for this kind of structural modification to the ceiling (and roof) of the house.
Ceiling joists (which support the ceiling of a bedroom) often provide lateral restraint to the top of the exterior walls…they act as a “tie” to keep the lower ends of the sloped roof rafters from pushing the walls out horizontally. Cutting ceiling joists can be very risky and you should obtain the advice of a structural engineer before doing any modifications to the ceiling of your bedroom.

Q.
I want to remove a wall in my house and my contractor says that I need an engineer
A.

Ok, then your contractor has probably identified that the wall is a load-bearing wall and that a beam or some other form of strengthening is needed to facilitate the wall removal. We regularly provide design drawings and obtain permits for clients who want to remove walls and/or strengthen existing structures.

Q.
Interested in purchasing a new home, we need an inspection prior to purchasing?
A.

If you or your home inspector has identified possible structural problems with the house, then we can carry out a site visit to prepare a report on these perceived problems. Usually we attend to report on sagging or sloping floors, cracked foundation walls, slanted stairs, etc. Note that we only report on the structural issues…we are not a substitute for a qualified home inspector.

Q.
My floors are sloping - can you tell us how to fix this?
A.

Yes, we have a great deal of experience with this sort of thing. The first step is to attend the site to determine whether or not this is a foundation support problem, or an interior structural framing problem. Once we narrow down the problem, we can advise you on what can be done to stabilize the structure and/or repair it.

By taking some fairly basic measurements, we are usually able to determine, with a high degree of certainty, why the problem exists and how you would go about solving the problem. We also operate a Construction Company that has undertaken many structural related construction projects where we have fixed sloping floors and stabilized foundations; we are very well equipped to advise you.

A site visit by our staff would be the first step towards fixing this kind of problem.

Q.
My renovation was just finished and my contractor didn't call the municipality for any inspections, can you help?
A.

This can be a difficult situation to resolve.  First, you need to find out what exactly the Building Inspector needs to have reviewed and what reports are required in order for the Inspector to be satisfied and to close the permit.  If important components need to be reviewed, then they must be exposed so that they can be properly examined.  Sometimes, this means cutting open walls, floors, and ceilings.  Failure of a contractor to call for Municipal Building Inspection is a very significant error on the part of the Contractor since in some rare cases, the work may have to be demolished in order to permit the required inspections.  Fees for resolving this sort of thing can be several thousand dollars and take several weeks to complete.

Q.
What if I want design changes made during construction?
A.

Once we complete the design drawings, then our scope of work is finished, so if you then want to make changes to the design afterwards, additional fees would apply to make those changes.  Again, we normally work on a fixed fee arrangement for all work, so before we start on your changes, we would again provide you with a quote for the extra work.

Q.
Will you provide a report after you come for a site visit?
A.

Yes, our policy is to always provide a written report after we carry out a site visit; this is very important so as to ensure that there is a clear written record of our site visit and recommendations. We don’t do site visits without providing a written report, for liability reasons.

Q.
Would I still get charged site visit fees if we decide to do the building permit drawings with your company?
A.

If you ask us to carry out a site visit, but then during our site visit you decide that you don’t need a site report but rather, you want us to prepare design drawings, then we can credit back to you half of the site visit cost once you retain us to do the design drawings. However, this must happen before we prepare the site report…otherwise we can’t offer you this credit.

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