Hi, I've found an engineer that I feel comfortable with and I've given
him my drawings for an estimate. This is for a residence that employs
a lot of commercial techniques: suspended concrete floors, open web
joists made out of HSS, all masonry cavity walls, etc.
It looks like I'll get my building permit but the building dept wants
every page of the drawings stamped. They've delegated all structural
inspections to him.
My question is how should our deal be structured? Should I pay the
engineer like a sub? 60% now, 40% after I get my permit? How to I
insure he will do all my post permit inspections without extra fees?
I've never dealt with an engineer before. I just want to know how
these things are normally done. I want it fair for both of us.
Don't confuse engineers (educated, professional, registered, and regulated)
with contractors or used car salesmen. Simply ask him what's appropriate. If
he says "Payment on delivery of the drawings," pay him.
I disagree with 100% upon drawings. The building department has delegated
all inspections to the engineer. I would agree that a large portion would
be due and payable at the drawing stage after your permit maybe up to 80%. I
would hold at least 20% until the final inspection from the city.
Does you city require CFO's? certification of occupancy.
Talk to the engineer and voice your concerns.
Let me rephrase: Pay whenever and whatever the engineer says. In advance, at
the drawing stage, 90 days after the work is completed, whatever the usual
and customary terms are for engineering work in your community. The engineer
will tell you. You are NOT going to get ripped - there are too many
consequences for a professional engineer for him to engage in skullduggery.
You never know. I once hired a concrete contractor with good reputation.
We did not know he had marital problem which lead to divorce. Then he
was different person. Lien holdback on work completition is common practice.
Sounds to me like you're having him do two jobs:
1) the strutural design & resulting drawings so you can get a permit &
get it built
2) structural inspection to insure that the as-built condition matches
his design intent, ie the structure looks like the dwgs
I'm guessing that the design of the building (not the structural
design) is yours & it's just too "non-standard" for the building dept
They want the EOR to assume all liability (as he should in this case
since he's doing the structural design & compliance)
I chop the work up;
pay for the structual design / dwgs when the permit is issued (he might
want some partial pay if its a huge job)
How to pay for the "structural inspections"?????? hmmmmm
Generally structural compliance inspections (actually called
"observation") are not as intensive as one would think.
If the both of you want 100% strict compliance with the design intent
of the dwgs (& you probably do since this isn't your run-of-the-mill
stick framed house) you're probably going to need a special breed on
better to "build-in" compliance rather than try to "inspect-in"
compliance; a good working relationship between the contractor & the
engineer will go along way to getting the thing done right the first
time rather than constantlhy fixing stuff that got done wrong. A
pre-construction meeting is highly reccommended here. If the
contractor really understands the design intent & feels that the
engineer will be supportive of the construction effort, you'll be much
more likely to get a quality product at a reasonalbe price
Engineers do design, builders build.
Having the engineer running out to the site is going to get expensive;
it is a rather inefficient use of his time & his going to what to get
Consider having him establish "inspection milestones" such that they
prevent problems rather than catching them
Other things to consider
how will design mistakes that the contractor finds be handled?
That was an important detail............owner / builder
you've got a good opportunity to build just like you want it & your
engineer designed. If you understand the design & the dwgs you should
have very little trouble getting this thing built per design.
So does he. Tell him what you want, ask him what you need. It's
always a good idea to have a contract written up. He'll have his
standard contract and tailor it to your job. The drawings are usually
paid for when they are delivered. The contract should spell out who is
responsible for revisions required by the building department. You
could make payment contingent on getting the permit, but that's kind of
like strangling a horse to make it run faster. If he's done the work
in good conscience, and the building department is making him jump
through hoops because of your unusual (for residential) construction,
he shouldn't be punished for it. It should also spell out the
scheduling and number of inspections, or should list a fee for a site
You're reinventing the wheel and he's already rolling, let him lead.
The fact that you already feel comfortable with him is a major plus.
On 17 Jan 2006 15:22:18 -0800, email@example.com wrote:
I guess I would call another engineer and ask him how it is handled.
I guess the easiest time to do this was when you were talking to more
than one engineer, but since you ddidn't do it then, you can still do
it now. Either
a) call one of the ones you've dealt with, tell them the truth, ask
if they will tell you anyhow.
b) if you haven't told them NO already, ask further questions to get
answers to your questions above. (After all,you might still have a
fight with the current engineer about this or something else, and you
might still dump him and go back to the guy you are talking to, so if
this previous guy was rasonably suited to do your job, it is
reasonable to ask him more questions now.)
c) you can outright lie to some other engineer, or evade saying that
you have just about hired someone else, ask him some basic questions,
including the ones about how much in advance etc. You can call
someone you already talked to and pretend to be someone else, or you
can call someone you never talked to before. Either way, you don't
want to waste much of their time, but again since you haven't actually
settled on this guy (until the contract is signed, or money is paid,
or both.) there is still a possibilty you will dump this guy and hire
Of course not only could someone ask for more than he is entitled to,
someone who really needs a job might ask for less than the normal
deal, might offer a better deal than is standard, like NO payment
until plans fully approved. Don't let someone like that queer your
deal with a guy who is only asking for what is normal.
I might also say that anyone who can build such a avant guarde house
can hire a lawyer with experience in dealing with engineers, but I do
think it is a good idea to come to places where contractors and
regular people have dealt with engineers and get there opinions.
That someone has maybe a lot of momey is no reason to give too much to
lawyers, if the answer can be foudn more cheaply. And how would you
find a good lawyer who has experience with engineers?
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let
me know if you have posted also.
As to the suggestion to discuss this only with the engineer you're
dealing with, I just don't see it. Most people are honest and much of
the time a contract woudln't be needed, but when a contract is needed,
it's because of a dispute of some sort with the other party.
Just discussing it with the other party, is sort fo like a girl asking
a guy, Is it true I can't get pregnant the first time?
Or asking the guy you buy the house from, Does it have any problems,
and relying on his answer alone.
Remove NOPSAM to email me. Please let
me know if you have posted also.
A contract is written beforehand to prevent disputes and provide
procedures for settling disputes should they arise. You make it sound
like the only time someone would need to have something written down is
if they suspect there will be a problem down the road. That's not how
it works. It's good business practice to have a contract.
The odds of an engineer designing a house for a new client, with
inspections, and without having a written contract, are about zero.
I also don't understand your position from an earlier post in this
thread. The OP feels comfortable with his engineer, yet you're
advising that he make up stories to tell other engineers to find out
what they do. That's a waste of time for everyone. There is no
benefit. the engineer has done this all before and has a standard
contract. If the OP has any questions about the engineer's contract,
he should run it by a lawyer.
Every engineer that I work with gets paid when he gives me the
drawings. In the case of special inspections, he gets paid
for each inspection when he does them. My favorite engineer
just bills me each time he does something and I pay him when I
get a draw for that item.
One thing that is in your favor, the inspection dept of your
jurisdiction will defer to the engineer on anything. So, if he
designs it, it is built like he drew it, and he inspects it,
then it will be good with the city. I have yet to see an
engineer not pass something that he designed.
Here is the schedule that you will probably pay:
Drawings paid upon completion. If something that he designed
does not work, he should do the redesign and redrawing for
free. If he has to redraw for a change order or anything else
not his fault, it will cost extra.
Inspections will either be paid for after each inspection, or
he may be paid a set amount for all required inspections
(which will amount to the same money amount, but may be billed
in groups,...i.e; concrete prepour, framing, etc.).
Reinspections are the same as inspections. So make sure it is
ready before you call him out.
For each inspection, there will be a letter written and
stamped by him, for which you will have to pay. The price of
this is usually, but not always, included in the cost of the
If possible, I try to get inspections grouped so that he can
do two or more at one trip. Costs less that way.
You should find out what he requires for inspections, ie; can
you call him and he will be out the next day, or does he need
more notice. My favorite engineer will usually come out
within 24 hours of my phone call. He has even been known to
come out and inspect after hours in an emergency (emergencies
are when I forget to call him soon enough and need an
inspection quickly due to my own stupidity).
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