“5 Commonly Overlooked Structural Issues in Residential Buildings: Insights from a Sussex-Based Structural Engineer”

As a structural engineer based in Sussex, I have seen my fair share of residential buildings with structural issues. Many of these issues could have been avoided or addressed earlier if they had been identified and addressed in a timely manner. Unfortunately, some structural issues are often overlooked by homeowners and even some construction professionals, leading to costly repairs and potential safety hazards. In this blog post, I will be discussing five commonly overlooked structural issues in residential buildings based on my experience and insights.

1. Foundation Problems
The foundation is the most critical structural element of any building, as it supports the weight of the entire structure. However, foundation problems are often overlooked until they become severe and require expensive repairs. In my experience, the most common foundation issues in residential buildings include settlement, cracking, and water intrusion.

Settlement occurs when the foundation sinks or moves due to inadequate soil support or poor construction practices. This can result in uneven floors, cracked walls, and doors and windows that no longer close properly. Cracks in the foundation can also allow water to seep into the building, leading to moisture issues and even mold growth. These issues are often overlooked because they may not be immediately visible, and homeowners may mistake them for normal wear and tear.

To avoid foundation problems, it is essential to have a thorough inspection of the foundation before purchasing a property. Regular maintenance and prompt repairs of any cracks or signs of settlement can also help prevent more significant issues down the line.

2. Improperly Sized Beams and Columns
Beams and columns are structural elements that support the weight of the building and transfer it to the foundation. However, many buildings have improperly sized or spaced beams and columns due to poor design or construction practices. This can lead to excessive deflection, which is the bending or sagging of structural elements under load, and can compromise the stability and safety of the building.

Improperly sized beams and columns are often overlooked because they are not easily visible to the untrained eye. However, they can cause issues such as cracks in walls and ceilings, sloping floors, and doors and windows that stick. To prevent these issues, it is crucial to have a structural engineer review the design and construction of beams and columns before and during the building process.

3. Inadequate Lateral Support
Lateral support refers to the resistance provided by a building’s walls and floors against horizontal forces, such as wind or seismic activity. Adequate lateral support is crucial for the stability of a building, especially in areas prone to high winds or earthquakes. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked in residential buildings, leading to structural failures during extreme weather events.

Inadequate lateral support can result from poor construction practices, such as omitting or improperly installing lateral bracing. It can also be caused by alterations to the building that compromise its lateral stability, such as removing load-bearing walls without proper reinforcement. To ensure adequate lateral support, it is essential to work with a structural engineer when making any structural changes to a building.