Ever since hurricane Sandy made its presence in our area, I’ve been receiving numerous calls from homeowners, and seen lots of flooded houses that were affected by it. Many of them ask me for my opinion, and after offering it (initially for free) they tell me “well, my contractor said this, or told me to do that…” A contractor is the last person you hire! First, you need an engineer and/or architect.
Over & over, I’ve said that houses in the flood zone that had water inside (please refer to my article on 11/24/12), should have their foundations checked by a structural engineer for structural cracks not caused by natural settlement, for possible displacement, and for soil erosion below it.
Should the structural engineer deem necessary to correct the damaged foundation, it should be done as per his directive only. If any other damage occurred in the house, that implies the removal or replacement of floor joists, girders, etc., and rearrangement of places within the house, an architect should be hired. Before remediation work can commence, the architect will have to prepare architectural drawings, and file them at the local Building Department having jurisdiction in order to obtain a construction permit. Contractors are hired afterwards (please refer to my article on 5/12/12) to perform the work as determined by the architect and/or engineer.
Why am I saying all this? Well, in most cases I see that either the engineer’s or the architect’s opinion is ignored, and many people rely on an “eager to get the job” contractor, who convinces the homeowner that they can do whatever is necessary without the need to hire a licensed professional, and save them a couple of bucks. WRONG! Get the professionals first. Needless to say that by doing so, and if indeed there’s structural damage, any corrective work done falls under the title of “ILLEGAL”, if not backed up by a set of drawings signed by a licensed professional. If caught, the homeowner will be summoned, will have to pay a violation, and will have to legalize the work anyway. End result? more $$$. Don’t forget: contractors are there just to do the work, not to tell you what to do!
To conclude, it’s imperative that homeowners hire first an engineer to check the foundation and structural stability of the house. If any repair work has to be done, an architect has to be hired to produce all necessary documentation to be filed at the Building Department. If there are no structural problems, and the remedial work is just “cosmetic”, there’s no need to hire a licensed professional, and any licensed contractor can do the job alone.