What I learned from a structural engineer.

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Old 10-22-04, 08:22 PM
C
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What I learned from a structural engineer.

I have this 2 car garage, built in 1962, that I wanted to remodel into a shop. First and foremost was the general condition of the building. The ceiling joists span the 24 or so feet with 2x6 lapped dimension lumber. The rafters are the same wood, site built.

The ceiling joists had sagged about 4 inches over the years. This leaves a lot to be desired for installing sheetrock and insulation. Moreover, the ceiling is only 8 feet. Not too desirable for a shop ceiling height.

The walls are concrete block, 6 inches thick. Some cracking along the mortar line in the back of the building.

I wanted to raise the ceiling to 10 feet so that I could have plenty of room vertically, solve the sagged ceiling joist problem, and install insulation so that heat would be feasible.

After having thought about all manner of solutions to the problem, I concluded that a decision was needed as to the suitability of the building itself for conversion or demolition. I thought that I would have to remove the roof structure, raise the walls three more courses of block and install new engineered trusses with roof. I considered that there was also the possiblity that the building was poorly constructed and would be unsuitable for remodeling and might need to be demolished in order to build a proper shop.

I did what anyone would do and hired a structural engineer to evaluate the building in light of its suitability for retention and remodeling. What I learned for $85 an hour was this: the walls could not be raised beyond 9 feet because the 6 inch block does not meet the building code for that height, the roof structure of 2x6s could be straightened and modified to salvage the trusses for re-use, and that the walls could be reinforced in a straightforward manner to allow raising the walls to 10 feet in compliance with the code. The crack in the back needs to be grouted. The specifications and drawings will be ready soon.

Now I know that I can modify the building for its new purpose. I will have drawings and specifications with an engineering seal to resolve questions from the code folks as well as to direct and guide the work.

I will probably save money in the long run by re-using the trusses. I don't know how involved it may be to dismount and install the trusses for the concrete block to be laid, but it seems that it won't be any worse than having new trusses. Overall, it has to beat demolishing the old structure and building a new one from scratch. Next, I can frame out the block walls and install electrical and insulation. If I decide that I really am due a treat, I can install sleepers and have a wooden floor underfoot.

All in all, I felt better about this approach than I would have from calling a string of contractors and trying to sift through all that may have come from them.
 
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Old 10-22-04, 08:56 PM
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Thank you for sharing a positive experience. Many folks post problems that occur after they go ahead with DIY projects without consulting engineers and building inspectors. If structural engineers and building inspectors are not consulted, DIY projects can be a disaster to structural integrity of the home. And, if permits are required, many learn after the investment in the DIY project that it has to be ripped out before the house can be sold because it was not a permitted project and did not meet codes. Again, thank you.

This post was moved to framing for further discussion.
 

Last edited by twelvepole; 10-24-04 at 11:51 PM.
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Old 10-25-04, 09:49 AM
davekaplan
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Thanks for sharing Chris! Does the structural engineer make the drawings?
 
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Old 10-25-04, 09:50 PM
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Yes, he will produce the drawings and specifications and apply his seal as a professional engineer.
 
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Old 10-30-04, 04:35 PM
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Structural engineer

This thread has been moved from Subflfooring to Architecture & Codes Forum for further discussion.
 
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Old 10-30-04, 06:01 PM
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If I might be so nosey,

In what sort of price range was the engineer?

Also, houses are raised all the time for foundation work, would it be feasable to raise just the roof to install the new blocks?
 
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Old 10-30-04, 06:28 PM
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The engineer charged $85 per hour. Two hours time for the evaluation and discussion of modifications and review of codes. Actual plans and specifications will be around $300 additional. There will be stamped with the professional engineering stamp, so they will be solid and reliable. The plans will enable me to avoid having to rely upon the decisions of a contractor as to what goals are to be reached and how to evaluate the work.

As far as raising the roof is concerned, I had wondered about that. I will pursue that as an option, when I start calling contractors. It would make sense that the roof could be lifted, the block and lintels installed, and the roof set back into place. Being a stick built roof, failure of those little nailing plates so common on engineered trusses is not a concern.

I have watched them jack up interstate bridges and built new supports, so a roof should not be impossible.

One thing that I have tried to wrestle with is the timing and coordination of all the work and moving the contents of the building out during renovation.

Since this is not an inhabited structure, there is no building permit required here.

This has been quite an experience. When I consider that I might have spent over $15,000 to build a new structure as well as having to demolish the old one, the cost of the engineer starts to look pretty reasonable.
 
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Old 01-23-05, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by chfite
There will be stamped with the professional engineering stamp, so they will be solid and reliable.
By stamping the plans, not only are you assured (or at least close to it) that the design is fundamentally sound, but the engineer has now assumed legal responsibility for the integrety of the design. If your shop falls down, you now have someone to legally "blame".

I work as a consultant myself (not structurally however) and I am also an avid DIYer. It's an interesting seat to sit in. I frequent many different forums, and often see people asking questions and trying to make designs where it's pretty obvious they should be talking to a professional of some kind (ie an architect is such an invaluable tool when talking home design of ANY sort, remodel, starting from scratch, anything) and I often want to say "why don't you just talk to someone who knows what the #%*!@ they are doing?" yet I totally understand the desire to DIY. There's a fine line somewhere, and it's an art to be able to indentify when to bring in a professional and when not to.

Chfite obviously managed to correctly identify his situation. Congrats on that!
 
 

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