Structural engineer $6000?

watersaApril 21, 2014

My husband and I recently purchased a modified plan from Donald Gardner. With the cost of the plan and modifications it cost about $4000. Since they (DG) are based out of state, we were told that we'd need a structural engineer to stamp our plan to build in CT. We aren't planning to use trusses.

Our first quote was for $6000. This seems quite high since they didn't draw anything - just need to review and stamp.

The engineer said that they are usually 10 - 15% of the architects total fee or 10,000 - 20,000 for a million dollar house. (We are NOT building a million dollar house - or even half a million dollar home!)

He stated that architects usually charge 10 - 15% of the total build so $100,000 - $150,000 for a million dollar home. He commented that $4000 for our plan was quite a deal.

Is this the norm? These prices sound extremely high - even for CT. Any advice is appreciated.

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My structural engineer was $650.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Sounds a bit nuts to me. Our architect isn't going to be much more than what you're paying the engineer.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:43PM
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Sounds high, we would charge $5-6,000 for a full set of structural plans for aaa 3-4,000sf house. This would include full foundation and floor design along with designing the lateral system.

However, with internet plans, it is never as easy as reviewing and stamping the plans, there are going to be deficiencies that they will need to sketches for.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 9:50PM
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It's less than we paid for our structural engineer. But we are in California, with extra seismic requirements.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:16PM
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Depends entirely on your state and municipality. Bear in mind you're not just paying for a stamp on a piece of paper. At the very least you're asking them to stand behind your structure. Beyond that they may be doing framing/structural drawings on your behalf. Our structural drawings are quite a lot more detailed than our architect's drawings.

It could also be that your town's environment requires more engineering. We are building adjacent an area with mostly flat land, where most homes are built on spread footings or slabs. However our town is hilly and most new construction is pier & grade beam on 16' drilled piers. You can guess the cost difference in both design and implementation. Back in the 1960s it was all spread footings. People had higher tolerances for settlement and cracking back then.

I live in CA where there are many more considerations and expenses. It is not a very friendly place to build compared to "flyover country".

Note that if you're looking at an engineering contract, you should look for verbiage along the lines of "damages limited to the cost of this contract." If you see that, have it removed. I've seen this in a few and what it says is if they screw up, they are only liable for $4000 (in your example) towards the cost of rectifying their mistake. Their insurance should cover them for much more.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2014 at 11:35PM
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First off let me mention that I am an Engineer.

Stamping a set of plans drawn by someone else is very risky. You are certifying that the design is adequate, when in fact you have no idea since you were not involved in the design process. If that house were to collapse or fail for any reason at all, the Engineer would be responsible, not the architect. That Engineer is probably going to check everything, not just put a stamp on a paper (which is unethical).

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:03AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Thhave to do 2x the work than they'd have to do when working with a local architect. The project would develop organically with the architect, with consultations at certain checkpoints. With internet plans, every single thing has to be checked and certified with everything all in place designwise and no other options available that might reduce costs. It's one of the hidden costs of choosing a mill plan instead of a local service that designs for you. If you want to make changes, all bets are off for cost incurred from that.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:32AM
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Licensed professionals, such as architects and engineers, are most often not permitted under state law to "stamp and certify" any drawings that were not prepared by them or under their direct supervision.

Consumers generally don't understand their applicable state law, which appears to be the case with this thread.

For an architect or engineer to "stamp and certify" plans from a plan factory they will have to completely redraw them in full compliance with applicable local codes, ordinances and site conditions, calculate all loads and design the necessary load-bearing/resistant elements and connections.

That will take at least as much time and expense as charged by the plan factory, or more depending on complexity.

This is the challenge for consumers when they use plans prepared by plan factories.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:54AM
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I paid approx. $7000 +/- (don't remember the exact amount). This was for a fairly small two story concrete house (not stick built) with a 12ft+ tall basement in expansive clay (Dallas, where basements are assumed to be not feasible), concrete floors, concrete roof, a cantilevered second floor and concrete balcony.

The engineer designed the foundation, the rebar details for the whole structure, the floors, the roof, the balcony, the cantilever and all structural steel (joists, I-beams).

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:34AM
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I paid $500 for the stamp and review. Granted I had to go back and have some structural edits made (footings sizes, beam sizes, insert posts), but since I was my own architect, this wasn't an added cost (it probably would have been $1k had I been paying someone). That being said, yes, it's a headache for the engineer to review plans drawn by someone else, but I have two engineers in my family (mechanical) who ALWAYS have to review plans drafted by a draftsman. It's not strange and they know what to look for.

That being said, my engineer forgot to resize my main footing after he removed a post in the line...which THANKFULLY was caught by a building inspector friend of mine and correct prior to the pour. So it's hit and miss overall. Still, $6k unless like they say, you're on questionable soil/earthquake zone, seems a little over the top. That or I got a smokin' deal... :P

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 1:55PM
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Is the proposal $4,000 or $6,000? I can see $4,000 if the engineer is starting from scratch and will be required to make site visits and sign an affidavit before the framing inspection or before a certificate of occupancy is issued. Some houses are more complex than others and I know nothing about yours.

I did enjoy the engineer's fantasy that architects charge such large fees for houses. I will try to work it into one of my fantasies and hope I can dream of it tonight.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 6:33PM
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As the responses show, the range of what an engineer may be doing on a given project and location can range enormously, making simple price comparisons meaningless.

As with all other services--from mechanics to dentists--do some comparison pricing.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Ours was 4500 but we are building a substantial home that required steel beams in the roofline.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 8:03PM
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Where in Ct as impact code could mean more stringent review if near the coast?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 8:00PM
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