Modifying/Reviewing Stock Internet Architectural Drawings

jim8153August 19, 2014

Hello Everyone,
I am currently building a new home in a suburb of Boston and am in the process of having the architectural drawings finalized. As background, I picked a stock drawing from an Internet shop ( and had an online draftsman modify them per my changed floor-plans. I know it was risky but several people on-line had good experiences with these stock plans and the total cost was about 3k as opposed to architects in the Boston area who wanted 20-30k.

Unfortunately after buying the plans I found out that the original plans do not have separate structural/foundation plans or framing plans but combined the structural info (foundation, beams, joists etc,) with each floor plan in summary form. (See attached basement plan below). Moreover I also discovered that the plans have a date of Oct 2000 on the front page, a copyright from 1988 and a signed date from the designer of 1986; which is an issue as I'm sure codes have changed over the last 25 years. So I guess you do get what you pay for but I think I'm still better off than going with a local architect.

My question is, who would be the best professional to hire to get these plans in buildable order.

I'm thinking the following would be required as a minimum.

1) review plans to make sure that everything is up to code and the structural integrity is still intact.
2) Modify the foundation to fit on a sloping site and incorporate a walkout basement.
3) Develop more detailed and separate structural plans
4) Develop more detailed and separate framing plans
5) Develop material takeoffs

How much should I expect to pay for this type of work?
Also what are your your thoughts on using a lumber yard's engineering staff. I noticed that National Lumber offers engineering services/engineering plans as well as material takeoffs. Is it safe to go with a lumber yard or am I better off spending the extra money for an independent engineer.

Thanks so much in advance for any help/advice you can provide


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I live a half mile from the National Lumber in Newton and can assure you they have no engineers working for them.

In Massachusetts an engineer is not required to design typical dimensioned lumber framing that is shown in the building code. But any structural element that is not shown in the code (LVL's, PSL's, structural steel, trusses, etc.) must be designed and stamped by a MA engineer. When the framing is complete, most towns require the engineer to submit an affidavit certifying those elements were built according to the original approved design.

What National Lumber can do for you is ask the company that makes one of the structural elements mentioned above, to send them a design with a MA engineer's stamp on it. Most of these companies have an engineer registered in all states. But you will need drawings complete enough that the engineer can understand the loads and other conditions involved.

The lumberyard will do a materials takeoff for you so they can give you a price. Are you ordering lumber and building the house yourself?

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:58AM
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I would think that the company you bought them from would be perfectly happy to adapt the foundation to your specific site.

Regardless of the dates I would expect a plan that was code compliant.

These days structural material suppliers often provide sizing services but it is hard to say if they are using technicians or actual structural engineers (unless the drawing is stamped by one)

You should consult a few builders to see what (if anything) else they would need.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 12:22PM
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It is very difficult to design a modern open plan house without the use of structural members that the MA code will require to be designed by an engineer. And an architect's stamp will not suffice.

Using an engineer at some material supper's headquarters far away has never been acceptable to me. How would that engineer be able to submit an affidavit of compliance? The local engineer I use once insisted on a steel beam being uncovered for inspection and found the bottom flange had been notched for a pipe. Apparently the GC knew about it and was trying to hide it.

From the errors and misinterpretations of structural drawings I have seen from seemingly capable carpenters and building officials, I would want an engineer overseeing all structural work.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 8:11AM
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Thanks for the input. Any recommendations on P.Es who can develop the detailed structural design/calcs near Newton MA?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 12:32PM
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