Floor plans of a building being assessed by a structural engineer. What is a Structural Engineer? Explained by SAM Conveyancing
Need an assessment from a structural surveyor?
If you suspect subsidence, or you are planning works which require the removal of a chimney breast or load bearing wall, our experts can help.

All our structural engineers carry professional indemnity insurance.

"...Structural engineer turned up and walked my wife through all the issues that had been raised on a valuation report. We subsequently got a report which spelled out clearly all the issues with relevant photos. The survey was quick to organise and report clear and well presented.
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What is a Structural Surveyor?

(Last Updated: 08/05/2024)
7 min read
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Key Takeaways
  • Structural surveyors are also known as structural engineers or civil engineers
  • They are required to investigate suspected structural defects and for making plans for new works or renovations which affect the structural integrity of a building
  • Depending on the size and complexity of the build you may need a structural engineer, an architect, or both.
  • SAM Conveyancing's structural surveyors specialise in subsidence and the removal of load bearing walls and chimney breasts.
  • Always check that your structural surveyor has professional indemnity insurance. (All of SAM's surveyors do).
  • Costs vary according to project but expect to pay around £100 per hour

A structural engineer or structural surveyor specialises in the structural integrity of buildings, construction methods and building materials. Their knowledge is indispensable if you want to alter your property's structure.

They can determine a building's strength, durability and safety, using specialist measurements. They can identify and investigate problems like structural movement, and tell you what's required to fix it. They can calculate if, and how, you can carry out a home improvement project, like building an extension or removing a chimney breast, where the integral strength of the property will be altered.

This knowledge can include the recommendation to use particular building materials and safety is always foremost in their calculations. They should all carry professional indemnity insurance to practise, but as this is (strangely) not a legal requirement, you should always check this before using one.

Ever wondered if you should buy a house with gable straps?

What's the difference between a structural engineer and an architect?

Structural surveyors or engineers work to ensure a proposed structure is safe and supported correctly, taking into account matters such as the materials to be used in the build, the location of the site and the weight of the build.

Architects design and sometimes oversee projects, carrying out work which is very similar or the same as that of engineers but they are perhaps more generally known for their role in building design.

The difference is a subtle one and there is considerable crossover in work. Sometimes the two work in unison and you can also get architectural engineers(!).

There is, however, evidence to suggest that for a given residential structural improvement task which requires calculations and drawings, structural engineers are less expensive to hire than architects.

This article looks at the following:

Structural Engineer Survey Quote from SAM Conveyancing

Thinking of a home improvement project?

If you're looking to build an extension, take out a chimney breast or remove a load bearing wall, you should hire one of our experienced structural engineers to help you.

They produce calculations and drawings for your building contractors to follow to safely get the job done efficiently.

NB All our structural surveyors carry professional indemnity insurance.

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    When do I need a structural engineer?
There are a number of renovation projects for which you would hire one. These include:

You might also hire a structural surveyor services for the following:
  • Structural inspections
If there is a problem with the structure of your property – from signs of subsidence such as movement or cracking walls or sagging ceilings or roofline – you may need an inspection.

When you hire a RICS chartered building surveyor to carry out a home buyers survey on a property you're looking to buy, they might identify structural issues and advise you to have a more detailed investigation of the issue from a structural engineer. This often occurs when your surveyor has highlighted suspicions of subsidence.

You might also want to hire one directly if you notice cracks or other causes of concern in your property and you want an expert to assess the damage, identifying possible causes and treatment.
  • Expert Witness services
Should you find yourself in a disagreement with another party over a structural matter related to your home, a structural engineer can provide an unbiased view, in the form of an independent report and advice on your options. If necessary they can follow this right through to a court appearance. Ending up in court, however, is far from ideal, particularly because of the potential expenses involved, but an expert witness' input earlier on can often prevent this outcome.

Our structural surveyors can provide structural engineer surveys (including for subsidence) and expert witness services.

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    What professional bodies regulate them?
The main two professional organisations are:
Someone practising as a structural engineer does not have to be a member of either body in order to practise; they may be a member of another related professional body or not be a member of any.

    What does a structural engineer do?
Depending on the job you have in mind, they will ask for an initial brief regarding your project and for you to provide any necessary background information. This might include, for example, sending them the home buyers survey which flagged up suspicions of subsidence.

They will then carry out a site visit and inspection. In the case of checking for subsidence, this differs from a home buyers survey inspection in that it is intrusive; floorboards may be lifted for example.

For a home improvement project such as a loft conversion, the engineer takes a series of measurements which they will use in their calculations and accurate drawings.

If your project involves building work, ultimately you end up with a good set of drawings, schedules and specifications which building contractors can then use to realise your project accurately, using appropriate materials and according to prevailing building control standards. They may also be able to suggest an appropriate contractor for the job if required.


    Structural engineer costs

This is highly variable as it depends on the type and scale of project and your location in the UK. However, you can expect a structural engineer to charge perhaps £600 - £1000 (incl. VAT) for any project which involves a site visit, the production of calculations, plans and drawings and for these to be compliant with building regulations.

Naturally the full cost actually realising a project like a rear extension is likely to be several times more than this when you include contractor costs (material and labour).

However you can rest assured that hiring an experienced structural engineer is likely to result in better execution of the project, much better value for money overall (mistakes after all are costly and possibly very dangerous) and legal compliance (which is advantageous not only from a safety perspective but also in removing the possibility of being fined further down the line by your local authority).

Frequently Asked Questions
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Written by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.
Caragh Bailey, Digital Marketing Manager
Reviewed by:

Caragh is an excellent writer in her own right as well as an accomplished copy editor for both fiction and non-fiction books, news articles and editorials. She has written extensively for SAM for a variety of conveyancing, survey and mortgage related articles.

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