Need an Engineer’s Structural Certification Letter?
Here’s a simple checklist for working with your engineer to get your foundation (no matter how big or small) inspected & certified so the “City” will give you your “Certificate of Occupancy” and close your project:
- Find a Structural Engineer who performs Structural Inspections (Yes, we do Structural Inspections!).
- Hire the Engineer before your pour concrete if possible.
- If you do not have a foundation design, get one. You’ll probably save some money in the long run.
- Email your foundation sketch to the Engineer (if you do not have a drawing or sketch, that’s OK, but if the engineer gets to your site and determines the foundation violates
- code, the engineer must make a repeat inspection for added fees).
- Schedule your engineer to inspect your foundation (big or small).
- Request the engineer to provide you with the “Standard Engineer Letter” and send it to Development Services so you can get your “Certificate of Occupancy” and close your
- permit (or, just give us a call and we’ll put you on the schedule).
Make sure you check with your local building permit department for their specific requirements. Here’s an example of a city ordinance requiring an engineer’s inspection and certification letter:
… In order to obtain a permit, applicants must be the homeowner or registered as a residential builder and must complete the Foundation Repair Permit and submit it to the One Stop Counter at the DBS Center or any of the City’s Service Centers. This application and the permit must be available at the job site. This permit cannot be obtained using the department’s on-line permitting system. A double fee will apply for failure to get a permit before starting work. The specific requirements for each foundation type are as follows:
Slab on Grade – This type of repair needs to be designed and inspected by a professional engineer, licensed by the state of Texas. In order to clear the foundation inspection, the engineer letter must specifically indicate that the drainage away from the foundation meets the minimum requirements of the City’s current building codes. Failure to include this information in the engineer letter will result in receiving a “partial pass” Foundation Inspection and will require the permit holder to schedule an Inspection in order for the department to verify that the drainage away from the foundation meets the minimum requirements of the code.
Pier & Footing – Applicants must state the type and number of piers that will be repaired and/or replaced. This type of repair or replacement work needs to be designed and inspected by a professional engineer, licensed by the state of Texas. An engineer letter must be submitted to clear the foundation inspection. NOTE: IF THE ENGINEER LETTER DOES NOT MATCH THE PERMIT APPLICATION, YOU WILL RECEIVE A “PARTIAL PASS” INSPECTION. IN ORDER TO CLOSE THE PERMIT, YOU WILL NEED TO EITHER SUBMIT A SECOND ENGINEER LETTER OR SUBMIT A REQUEST TO AMEND THE PERMIT (A PERMIT AMENDMENT FEE WILL APPLY).
The ICC Residential Building Code has additional requirements based upon the scope of work as follows:
Wood Sill/Beam/Girder/Shimming Repair or Replacement – This type of work must be designed and inspected by a professional engineer, licensed by the state of Texas. In order to clear the foundation inspection, the engineer letter must specifically indicate that the repair or replacement of the wood sills, wood shim, beam, girder, meet the minimum requirements of the City’s code. Failure to include this information will result in receiving a “partial pass” Foundation Inspection and the permit will remain open until the department receives verification from the engineer that the wood sills, beam, girder, shimming meet the minimum requirements of the code.
Skirting Removal, Repair or Replacement – If the scope of work requires you to alter the skirting, the permit holder is responsible for the additional requirement to schedule a Final Inspection to allow the department’s building inspectors to inspect the work for venting, subfloor access, and drainage. If the engineer letter specifically includes an inspection for venting, subfloor access, and drainage, a Final Inspection will not be requires.
If you are building in San Antonio, all engineer letters should be standardized using a template and submitted to Development Services.
Engineer’s Structural Certification Letter Engineer’s Structural Certification Letter Engineer’s Structural Certification Letter
ASCE Foundation Evaluations – Structural Inspections
Our firm proudly practices both CIVIL ENGINEERING AND STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING. We also practice forensic engineering and testify in the Texas courts when called to do so. We are experienced, seasoned professionals. At any given time, we are providing expert testimony, designing commercial building facilities, and providing civil and structural consulting services to our customers.
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Texas Section, provides guidance for three foundation evaluation types: Level A, B and C Residential Foundation Evaluations (inspections). Each need the combined skills of a civil engineer, a structural engineer, and various civil engineering sub-specialties such as geotechnical engineering, earth science, coastal engineering, surveying, and construction engineering. The one-dimensional practice of structural engineering may not be adequate to satisfy the education, training, and experience requirements to complete a level A, B, or C foundation evaluations, inspections, or assessments.
Civil engineering is a professional engineering discipline covering the design, construction, and maintenance of the physical and naturally built environment. Civil engineering includes works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. Civil engineering is the oldest non-military oriented engineering discipline. In fact Civil engineering was defined to distinguish non-military engineering from military engineering.
Civil engineering is traditionally broken into several sub-disciplines including environmental engineering, geotechnical engineering, Geophysics, Geodesy, Control engineering, structural engineering, biomechanics, nanotechnology, transportation engineering, earth science, atmospheric sciences, forensic engineering, municipal or urban engineering, water resources engineering, materials engineering, Control Engineering, coastal engineering, surveying, and construction engineering. Civil engineering takes place on all levels: in the public sector from municipal through to national governments, and in the private sector from individual homeowners through to international companies.
Conversely, structural engineering is usually considered a specialty within civil engineering, but it can also be studied in its own right. It is a field of engineering dealing with the analysis and design of structures that support or resist loads. Structural engineers are most commonly involved in the design of buildings and large non-building structures. They can also be involved in the design of machinery, medical equipment, vehicles, or any item where structural integrity affects the item’s function or safety. Structural engineers must make sure their designs satisfy given design criteria, predicated on safety (e.g. structures must not collapse without due warning) or serviceability and performance (e.g. building sway must not cause discomfort to the occupants). Structural engineering theory is based upon physical laws and empirical knowledge of the structural performance of different materials and geometries. An engineering design uses a number of simple structural elements to build up structural systems that can be very complex. Structural engineers are responsible for making creative and efficient use of funds, structural elements, and materials to meet these goals.
ASCE Foundation Evaluations – Structural Inspections ASCE Foundation Evaluations – Structural Inspections ASCE Foundation Evaluations – Structural Inspections
Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair
Residential ground surface storm drain systems must transport excess moisture away from designated areas where excess water would otherwise prevent the normal use of a residential property. If rainfall is allowed to pond or collect next to a structure built on expansive soil, the structure may be subjected to unscheduled distress caused by swelling bearing soils due to increased soil moisture content. Lot surfaces must be graded to drain away from the structure in accord with the International Residential Code R401.3. Likewise, perpetually moist ground surfaces limit recreational use of residential yard areas, and can become a breeding ground for disease carrying insect infestations. Water must freely exit the property to assure unrestricted, healthy, and environmentally safe use of land areas within residential property boundaries.
Drainage Improvement Guidelines and Criteria.
Section 7.3 of the ASCE provides the following non-structural guidance and criteria for improving or modifying residential storm water drainage systems:
Install a Roof Rain Gutter System (ASCE, section 7.34). Uncontrolled roof rainfall runoff can erode the ground surface along the foundation perimeter and creates a moisture imbalance along the foundation perimeter. Variances in bearing soil moisture content distribution along the foundation perimeter can result in unscheduled foundation system vertical displacement and rotational movement. Rain gutters and downspouts should be placed along the entire house perimeter eave lines where the sloping roofline discharges rainfall runoff. The gutters will capture and convey roof rainfall runoff into downspouts. The runoff then discharges onto the ground surface swale, or into a subsurface solid pipe drain system. This type of gutter system will help end ground surface erosion and prevent excess water accumulations near the foundation system.
Improve or Modify Existing Ground Surface System (ASCE, section 7.35). The following criteria may be used to improve or change the existing ground surface drainage system:
Surface Grading along the Foundation perimeter. A minimum slope of 5% (6″ fall per 10′) away from the foundation perimeter should be provided for adjacent ground areas.
Ground surface swales parallel to the house walls (rear yard and both side yards) shall have longitudinal slopes of at least 2% (6″ per 25′) if practical, and 1% (3″ per 25′) minimum.
Eroded surfaces should be replaced with vegetated surfaces.
Gaps between concrete surfaces along the foundation system perimeter that allow surface water to infiltrate into the foundation bearing soils should be eliminated.
Concrete surfaces that may allow water to flow towards the foundation system perimeter should be modified to direct water away from the foundation perimeter.
Erosion Control. Ground cover should be placed in areas where ground surface erosion currently exists.
Surface Water Drainage Option A. The ground surface should be graded to slope to one or more subsurface solid drainpipe (plastic or PVC) single collector inlets or continuous grate type rectangular inlets. The drain inlets should be located to drain excess water from the side and rear yards and discharge to daylight in the front yard. The street serves as the drain outfall where storm water is directed into street gutter inlets. Cleanouts should be provided at 50 feet intervals for proper maintenance. Roof rainfall gutter downspouts may be connected to the subsurface solid pipe system provided the pipe has sufficient capacity to prevent a backwater condition. The pipe should have a minimum slope of 1% to the daylight discharge. In any case, the ground surface slope along the foundation perimeter must comply with local building code requirements.
Subsurface Water Drainage Option B. Subsurface water drains are proper to control surface water runoff. They may consist of a perforated pipe placed in an aggregate filled trench (french drain) along with an optional filter fabric to prevent pipe stoppages. The pipe should have a minimum slope of 1% to the surface outfall. Cleanouts should be provided at 50 feet intervals for maintenance. In any case, the ground surface slope along the foundation perimeter must comply with local code requirements. Gutter downspouts should not be connected to a perforated pipe system.
Monitor foundation performance after completing drainage improvement measures to assure their satisfactory implementation.
Recommended drainage improvements, including Option A and Option B above respond to the requirements of section 5.8 “Remediation Criteria” of the ASCE Guidelines and does not constitute an engineering or construction design document. The above guidelines and criteria are for planning and pricing purposes and require an on-site civil survey and geotechnical evaluation when the work is done.
Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair Austin Drainage Failure – Cause and Repair