Structural Engineer - reasonable rates?

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Old 04-03-09, 06:48 PM
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Structural Engineer - reasonable rates?

I've just received a bill from a local structural engineer for four hours of time to evaluate some structural conditions in my home. His bill is for more than I expected. I'm wondering if he is being reasonable.

He came to my house and spent about 45 minutes chatting with me and looking at the house. This included going up in the attic to study the problem of a ceiling crack (my house is a ranch). He has provided me with two relatively simple hand drawn sketches. One sketch illustrates a solution to strengthen the roof structure and the other addresses providing support after removing an interior load bearing wall. I've also received a one page letter with some details that accompany the sketches.

I suspected the cause of the ceiling crack was the weight of three layers of shingles on the roof and he confirmed this for me. I could have had roofer come in and tell me the same thing but I wanted an independent opinion and the roofer would have an obvious vested interest.

The bill is for $480. I live in North East Ohio if that has any bearing. Is $120 an hour justified?

Thank you.
 
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Old 04-03-09, 09:57 PM
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Hi jjtbay,

I don't know the hourly fees of a P.Eng in Ohio, but there are some important points
- The common practice for the type of service requires a proposal with a prefixed fee.
- You can verify with your local agencies the usal fees for this type of service
- But over all, there is a very important thing--> when a P.Eng or an Archietc or a Building Inspector provide a technical document, he / she is assuming the technical liability. This means that if the solution provided becomes a disaster, you can get her / him to the court. This is why you receive a legal document and not just an opinion.
Granted, the roofer can say the same thing, but is he going to bring you a document stating this fact and assuming the liabilty for the consequences?
 
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Old 04-05-09, 12:35 PM
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I was able to speak with an acquaintance who works in the construction management / civil engineering field about this matter he was not understanding why the fee was this high. He mentioned that I'm being charged the 'commercial rate'. That implies to me that the hourly rate for work being done on a large complex and building project should not the same as the rate for work being done on a relatively simple residential dwelling. Perhaps there is an argument that a structural engineer has the same problem as a medical doctor because they have to pay outrageous insurance premiums in case someone sues them? And as a result they have to charge a great deal for their services to cover this premium? I'm probably being way too open minded here -- somehow I don't think this is the case. I'd happily sign a release form releasing if that meant a dramatically lower rate.

All I'm looking for is an opinion from someone who knows about these matters. When I hired a housing inspector, after making an offer on a house, I understood that he could not be held responsible for detecting every possible defect. Similarly I'm not expecting that a structural engineer is going to give me the one perfect solution to a particular structural problem. And if I don't get that one perfect solution then I'm going to sue. If the recommendation it's more or less correct then that is all I care about.

The idea of contacting an association is a good one which never occured to me. I found Structural Engineers Association web site but it does not seem like they have an office number and only have an e-mail addresss. The site is xxxx So I'll try sending an e-mail hoping that I'll get a response with some good information.
 

Last edited by pmgca; 04-05-09 at 03:51 PM. Reason: Commercial Link Removed
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Old 04-05-09, 02:09 PM
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Is there a problem with the engineer's advice that you are questioning his report?

You have hired an educated and licensed professional.
What are you comparing his rate with........a roofer?
Many car dealerships charge in the range of $90.00/hr for a flat rate repair and most experienced mechanics can do the repair in much less time than what the book says.
They will be charging more than the $125.00 for most jobs.

My experience with "commercial" engineering rates is that the hourly charges are often less than a residential rate because of the amount of time an engineer will work on a commercial project.

Unless you have a beef over what was done for you don't worry, be happy!
I think you got a fair deal.

Ever price out a root canal?
 
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Old 04-05-09, 02:29 PM
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You normally have to pay for his from "portal to portal" , which is time involved in making the inspection and making up some sketches or drawings. In addition, there is a cost for preparing a letter to give specific recommendations that you can use for prof. He probably had to type up the report or have it typed by someone else.

When I do work for an engineering firm, it is billed out at $150/hr plus travel costs, but that is because of the office support and overhead. If the overhead ans support is not covered, you would not be able get any takers for the opinion.

Since you said he was local and he may have been able to fit the job into his schedule without losing too much other work, the $120/hr is reasonable. - Remember his still has all of the usual costs (car, taxes, social security, insurance, etc.) that cut down on the pay in his pocket.

Dick
 
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Old 04-05-09, 03:57 PM
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The website you posted is a commercially oriented organization
I'd suggest to contact the NSPE (National Society of Professional Engineers)
They take questions from the public
 
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Old 04-09-09, 05:23 PM
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Thank you for your responses. It seem like the consensus is I'm not being overcharged.

But don't you think it's reasonable to be told ahead of time that it will cost $180 just for his travel time of 90 minutes round trip? I spent about 15 minutes chatting socially with him without realizing that it was costing me $2 for every minute. Because the rate is so high I say it's unethical to charge at this level without having prior consent.

And that is what bothers me the most. I realize this forum is not about resolving business ethics problems but at least it's clearer to me what the real issue is.

The previously mentioned acquaintance of mine has worked with this particular individual on a professional to professional during various commercial projects. My acquaintance felt comfortable giving me this individuals name as someone who might be able to help me address the problems in my home and he felt his cost would be 'reasonable'.

Once I contacted this individual did I ask what the hourly rate would be and how many hours he might require? Or did I ask if he would charge for travel time? Did he volunteer any of the above information? Unfortunately the answer to all these question is no.

I made a mistake by not verifying the potential costs.

But I think the engineer also made a mistake by not providing any of this information early on.
 

Last edited by jjtbay; 04-09-09 at 05:43 PM.
  #8  
Old 04-09-09, 05:47 PM
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Hi jjtbay,

In any situation, the normal procedure is to ask for a proposal, with the price and conditions. Perhaps the engineer assumed that you knew his conditions?
But anyway, the price is always linked with the responsibility

Imagine that we are talking about a dentist. A dentist will not go to your house for less than $480.00.... I just paid $150.00 to my dental hygienist for a 30 minutes teeth cleaning....so make the math
 
 

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