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4 Reasons Homeowners Should Consider Working with a Civil Engineer

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Frank Lloyd Wright was a famed architect, but he was a poor engineer. Some of the beautiful properties he designed were marred by supporting beams and other structures added later to prevent them from falling apart. Let’s discuss the four reasons homeowners should consider working with a civil engineer in addition to or in place of an architect.

A Strong Foundation

Are you concerned about a shifting foundation? You need to involve an engineer to ensure that your modifications to retaining walls, excavations, and shifting loading on the roof and walls don’t damage the foundation of your home. For example, any retaining wall over four feet tall typically has to be approved by a civil engineer before most jurisdictions will let you build it.

You should also engage a civil engineer when digging around the home to any serious degree, whether you’re putting in a bunker or cistern, to ensure that the altered drainage doesn’t end up eroding the home’s foundation. Note that an architect could become qualified to give this advice if they have graduated with a degree from an online civil engineering program from an institution like Norwich University.

Raising the Roof

You need to work with a civil engineer before you try to raise the roof so that you can turn an attic into new living space. A civil engineer should review the plans even if you won’t be moving any of the roof support beams since you’ll be putting a new, permanent load on the ceiling like new floors and furniture. If you want to add another level to your home, consult with a civil engineer. A home that supports two floors may not support a third, and building it the wrong way could damage structures that might otherwise be able to take the load.

Digging Deep

Always consult with a civil engineer if you’re going to be doing any type of digging in the basement. You cannot afford to damage a load bearing wall digging into the ground to put in a generator, sump pump, or wine cellar. Whether the engineer graduated from a brick and mortar school or has completed an online civil engineering degree, the essential knowledge is knowing how to properly calculate and manage the loads that otherwise would destroy your home. If you want to dig a basement in a home that lacks one, you also need engineering advice.

Putting in Heavy Infrastructure

You should call a civil engineer if you’re going to put heavy structures in your home since they alter the load put on your foundation and the supporting walls of your home. For example, you should contact a civil engineer if you want to put an elevator in your home for assisted living. A civil engineer isn’t necessary if you’re ripping out a fireplace unless the brick structure is a structural support for your home, but it is essential to involve a civil engineer if you are building a new, brick fireplace.


Civil engineers can help you throughout the home building process and beyond. Anything regarding the foundation, major changes, or even some seemingly simple additions should be reviewed by a civil engineer for added safety.