What does it mean to you and your outdoor living project if your municipality requires us to obtain an engineering stamp before we can start construction? Will it delay your deck or porch project? Will increase the cost of your project?
We’re seeing a new trend within county building departments in the Dayton and Cincinnati areas, and it might affect you. When you added a deck or porch to your home in years back, your builder probably didn’t have to engage an engineer to review the architectural drawings. Now, though, before we can get a building permit, sometimes we’re required to consult a licensed professional engineer.
That’s a good thing, you might say. And sometimes it is. But what stands out is that some counties are now imposing this requirement on jobs that truly shouldn’t need an engineering consultation. For example, recently we had to obtain an engineering stamp on drawings for a pergola. A pergola? What we’re seeing is that the engineering requirement is being applied inconsistently, with almost no rhyme or reason.
Building Departments, Construction Permits, and Engineers Guard Your Safety
Don’t misunderstand … the requirement that your construction project be “permitted” by your local municipality is valuable – even essential. Somebody has to ensure that contractors are following the building codes. Without this oversight, homeowners could fall prey to unscrupulous builders wanting to cut corners and prioritize their profits over your safety. The building codes and permitting process are in place to protect you, the homeowner.
When a local building department reviews our architectural plans or drawings and determines that the plans look architecturally sound, they issue a building permit. Once we obtain the permit, we can move ahead with construction. You’ll see the building permit posted at the job site; it’s a requirement.
When we wrap up the job, the work must pass inspection before the building department will allow the homeowner to use the deck, porch, etc. An inspector comes to the site to ensure that building codes have been followed.
The Engineering Stamp: Another Level of Oversight
The more complex your outdoor living project, the more likely we’ll need to have a licensed professional engineer sign off on it. The engineer adds their seal or stamp to indicate that the drawings pass muster from an engineering standpoint. Again, this is to protect you. The engineer is concerned with the load path on a deck, for example. They determine whether the components of the deck’s support structure will support the weight of the decking boards, your deck furniture, and the occupants. In evaluating the load path, they want to see that the load is uniformly distributed across beams and joists that are not spaced too far apart. Every point of a deck must be properly supported. If any part of the deck has to support a concentrated load – such as your hot tub – that support must be reinforced adequately.
Historically it has been part of the contractor’s job to determine if a particularly complex project required an engineering consultation. We want to ensure your safety, too, of course. In most cases, the routine deck, porch, and 3-season rooms we design and build are not complex enough to require an engineering consultation. Since Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio is owned and managed by an experienced, licensed contractor, we know when to add reinforcement to a load path. County building departments now seem to be requiring an engineering stamp on projects for which that would not have been required in the past.
Archadeck projects, including those designed by Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio, are drafted or reviews by professional draftsmen. We know when an engineering consult would add value to a project. So the current (and inconsistent) imposition of oversight by a licensed professional engineer is perplexing.
Engineering Oversight: What it Means to You, the Client
To answer the two questions posed at the top of this article, yes and yes. If your local building department requires an engineering stamp on architectural drawings for your outdoor living project, it will slow us down and increase the cost. This additional step in the permitting process is beyond our control. Because we encounter this situation more frequently now, we mention it to our clients so they will be aware of this possibility.
Are you thinking about adding a deck, expanding one, or replacing the deck at your home? Let Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio design and build the best perfect deck for you. Contact us today at (937) 563-4847.
Let this be the year that Archadeck makes your outdoor living dreams come true.