San Antonio and Austin

Foundation Engineering,  

Structural Engineer in San Antonio – When do you need one?

The general public is somewhat not aware of Engineering and Structural Engineering and what they do, and Structural Engineers have not done a good job in educating the public either. While a good introduction to the History and the field of Structural Engineering can be found here, the purpose of this article is to try to inform the residents of San Antonio and Bexar county on when you they are required to use a Structural Engineer either by Law or by safety or by qualifications. This article is mainly directed at Residential Structural Engineering because from experienced we have noticed that the field Commercial Construction is very well aware of the responsibilities and requirements of Structural Engineers.

Table Of Contents
Residential Structures

The city of San Antonio requires any residence in excess of 1000 SF (Square feet) or 2 stories high, to include a foundation plan with a seal and signature of a Structural Engineer licensed in the State of Texas. The Structural Engineer will take the plans of the house (either drawn by an Architect or someone else) and draw a foundation plan for the residence which will include details showing for slab on grades, the size of grade beams, the amount of reinforcement, the type of concrete, spacing, etc.

If the foundation is a pier-and-beam system then the city of San Antonio considers the foundation as being the piers, so the Structural Engineer would show a plan with pier sizes and spacing and details showing the depth and diameter of the piers and their reinforcement.

The Structural Engineer in San Antonio also is required by the city to go inspect the foundation for general conformance to the Structural Plans prior to pouring concrete and provide a letter saying so.

For more on Foundation Engineering click Foundation Engineering, or for Pier-and-Beam foundation click Pier and Beam Foundation.

Foundation Inspection Pre Pour

For Residential Structures less than 1000 SF (and only one story) and for decks and patios more than 200 SF, the city of San Antonio requires the Structural Engineer in San Antonio to inspect the foundation prior to pouring concrete and writing a letter saying that the foundation is acceptable.

Even though the city of San Antonio does not require a plan from the Structural Engineer showing the foundation, it’s always good to pay just a little more to get a plan drawn or at least call ahead of time the Structural Engineer you’re planning to hire and ask him if what you intend to build for your foundation will be acceptable because many times the Structural Engineer will inspect the foundation and find deficiencies that need to be fixed.

Framing Letters

Sometimes in a Residential Structure you may encounter several openings in wall, such as doors, windows, and even large garage doors. Sometimes you may walls and rafters that are taller or longer than normal.

For such conditions, the city of San Antonio requires a letter from the structural Engineer saying that the wall bracing for the residence structure is acceptable while for taller wall studs or longer rafters the city of San Antonio may even require calculations (ironically, for commercial structures, the city never requests calculations and seldom requires any letters).   

Retaining Walls

Any retaining wall that is 4ft or higher and any retaining wall that is any height but has a surcharge load (such as a fence) requires a Structural Engineer plan and inspection according to the city of San Antonio.

However, even for retaining walls less than 4ft in height, for safety purposes, we strongly encourage you to hire a Structural Engineer; The cost for a Structural Design of a retaining wall is almost nothing compared to the cost of building the retaining wall, so why not hiring a Structural Engineer and be certain that the wall will likely not collapse? It is better to pay just a little bit more to get a Structural Engineer from the Beginning than having to pay a huge some later because the wall wasn’t built properly and wishing you had hired a Structural Engineer from the beginning. For more on retaining walls, click retaining walls.

Construction Inspection Reports

Besides what has been discussed in the previous paragraphs, you might want to hire a structural engineer to inspect whatever structure you are building. The city of San Antonio doesn’t require Construction Structural Inspections on items other than the usual discussed previously, but it may be a good idea to hire Structural Engineer to check that the plans are being followed. In San Antonio, the city of San Antonio building inspector will inspect the framing, but if you’re outside of San Antonio, you are strictly relying on the contractor to do a good job. The most qualified individual to inspect the foundation and framing of a structure is the Structural Engineer.

FHA Inspection

For Manufactured homes, the city of San Antonio, and the Lender required an inspection Letter from the Structural Engineer stating that the foundation meets FHA Guidelines. Even if you are refinancing, the lender will still require a inspection report from the Structural Engineer saying that the foundation is acceptable. For more on FHA Foundation Inspections click FHA Foundation Inspection.

Structural Inspection for home buying, selling, or Refinancing

Many times a house may have a crack here or there, sometimes due to Structural Problems (such as foundation movement, framing deflection, etc.) and sometimes due to other non-structural problems (such as moisture change, temperature, leaks, etc.).

In any event, during the inspection and appraisal of a residence structure, the inspector or appraiser may write on his report that there might be a structural problem that may require the attention of a structural engineer. Therefore, in this case, the bank or the lender may require a structural engineer report on the residence structure. For more on Structural Inspections, click Structural Inspections.

Foundation Repair Inspection Reports

Foundation Repairs in San Antonio must be submitted with a Structural Engineer report which states that the Structural Engineer has inspected the foundation repair. All foundation repair contractors must hire a structural Engineer for the repair of the foundation.

But before thinking about repairing the foundation, a savvy homeowner would hire a Structural Engineer to look at the house foundation and the rest of the structure and determine whether there is a foundation problem, but most importantly, whether the foundation problem is something that will cause the house to collapse. In addition, most foundation repair methods will not solve the foundation problem, click Foundation Leveling to learn more.


If you have any more questions or need help from our Structural Engineers in San Antonio or across Texas, please do not hesitate to contact us. And please, don’t forget to visit our page Structural Engineer San Antonio And Structural Engineer Austin