Know the Difference: Structural Inspection vs. Home Inspection

Not sure whether your house requires a structural or home inspection? Although similar, these two types of house inspections serve different goals, involve different personnel, and focus on various home components.

In this tutorial, we will explain the distinction between a structural inspection and a house inspection, what each entails, and when you may need one or the other.

Key Differences Between a Structural Inspection and a Home Inspection

The intention is the key distinction between a structural examination and a house inspection. A structural examination verifies the building’s capacity to support design loads, whereas a home inspection evaluates the building’s condition in its entirety.

Licensed structural engineers do structure inspections, whereas certified home inspectors can conduct home inspections. Both of these professions are held to certain standards of practice and are required to acquire the necessary credentials.

Despite their essential distinctions, structural and house inspections are comparable in that they both evaluate the home’s structural components. Similarly, potential buyers might begin both before purchasing a house.

What Is a Structural Inspection? 

A structural inspection tries to evaluate the structural integrity of a structure. During this phase, a structural engineer examines the home’s structural components to determine whether or not they are sound and capable of supporting the design loads.

Typically, the examination focuses on the following aspects:


Even though foundation problems are rarely visible to the untrained eye, they can deteriorate over time and cause substantial structural damage to property. An engineer doing a structural examination will always examine the foundation to ensure that it is not heaving, sinking, developing dangerous fractures, or allowing water infiltration.

Exterior And Interior Walls

Visible flaws on external (and to a lesser extent, interior) walls are mostly innocuous, but they can sometimes suggest more serious underlying problems. Wide cracks, as well as those around door and window frames, might be the result of structural defects within the property. They may also be caused by foundational issues, such as heaving or settlement.

To ensure that fractures in the walls of a home do not indicate major structural difficulties, it is essential to have a professional engineer do a structural examination.

Studs, Joists, And Beams

These essential components of a home’s framework are subject to decay and termite infestations. Both rot and termites can cause permanent structural damage and result in catastrophic effects, including the failure or even collapse of damaged parts. The horrific results of a neglected wet rot epidemic, which took multiple lives in a Berkeley balcony fall, are easily recalled.

A structural examination is a smart strategy to avoid these problems from becoming irreparable or posing an immediate hazard to the home’s inhabitants. During the examination, a structural engineer would look for bulging, warping, and other symptoms of rot or termite damage on the floors, walls, and exposed portions of the home’s structure. Before committing to the purchase of a new house, a structural assessment may reveal these problems.


A qualified engineer can evaluate the state of the roof’s structure to ensure that it can safely support its design loads, such as wind and snow loads. Note that the structural assessment will not consider the condition of the roofing membrane and will therefore not always identify a leaking roof.

When Is A Structural Inspection Necessary? 

Legally, structural inspections are not necessary, but financial institutions may require them when giving mortgage loans, particularly when a modular home’s foundation must be approved.

Occasionally, it may be prudent to seek this service. Here are a few instances in which you may want to consider requesting a structural inspection:

Before Purchasing A Home

The last thing you want to discover after purchasing your ideal house is that it has a termite infestation or an uneven foundation. Frequently, structural difficulties are accompanied by astronomical repair expenses, which may be impossible to bear without incurring debt or depleting a substantial portion of your funds.

Before you put your name on the dotted line, a basic house inspection might alert you to any “hidden skeletons” in the property. It is far more prudent to invest $800 for a structural examination and abandon a bad purchase than to spend $30,000 on foundation repairs.

After A Natural Disaster

Whether your house has recently endured an earthquake, flood, or severe storm, it is prudent to have an expert inspect it for hidden damage. A structural engineer may be able to detect flaws that are not readily apparent and offer repair measures to prevent the home’s deterioration.

If You Suspect Structural Issues

If you see indicators of foundation concerns or other faults in your house, having a structural inspection is an excellent approach to identify these problems before they become irreparable. Consider consulting a structural engineer if any of the following conditions exist:

  • Moisture entering the crawl space
  • Significant fissures in the foundation or outer walls
  • Windows and doors that adhere to their frames regardless of seasonal changes in humidity
  • Warped flooring or floors that are soft to the touch
  • Unevenness is a clear indication that the foundation is flawed.
  • Walls bulging or bending

What Is A Home Inspection? 

Without focusing exclusively on the building, a general house inspection assesses the home’s overall condition. Similar to a structural examination, it may be undertaken before the purchase of a property to confirm that the structure is in good shape overall.

In general, a professional house inspector will evaluate the following:

Structural Integrity

This is the intersection between house inspections and structural inspections. A house inspection may include more components than a thorough structural examination, but it still analyses the home’s structural integrity, although on a more surface level.

For instance, a house inspector will take note of evident flaws such as wide cracks, warped flooring, sagging walls, and sinking or heaving foundations. If the engineer discovers such faults during the general inspection, they may suggest a structural check in their report.

Water Damage

Water may cause considerable damage to a home’s structure, walls, flooring, ceilings, electrical wiring, heating and cooling systems, and other components. During a home inspection, the inspector will search for indicators of existing water damage as well as signals that water has made its way into a property.

Roofing System Problems

In contrast to a structural inspection, which often focuses on the roof structure, a house inspection will assess the quality of the complete roof assembly. Possible problems uncovered by the evaluation include:

  • Worn-out roof shingles
  • Problematic rain gutters and downspouts
  • Evidence of leaking
  • Flashing flaws

Note that it is usually preferable to avoid scheduling such inspections during inclement weather. High winds, severe precipitation, or snow accumulation on the roof may hinder the inspector’s ability to notice problems.

Condition Of Electrical, Mechanical, and Plumbing Systems 

A home inspector will examine the HVAC and ductwork systems, electrical wiring, and plumbing to ensure that they are in excellent working condition. This will not only alert prospective homebuyers to impending repairs but will also validate the property’s safety.

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