Ten things you should ask before hiring a structural engineer

Hire the Right Structural Engineer

Here are ten things you should know before engaging a structural engineer.

1. What field of structural engineering does the structural engineer specialise in?

  • Does the structural engineer specialise in residential buildings or high rise buildings?
  • Does the structural engineer know more about commercial buildings or mining structures?

They’re very different fields. Check out the firm’s website for an “Our Services” page or ring and ask the structural engineer if they regularly work on projects like yours.

Ask for recent projects that you can inspect or drive past.

2. Who does the firm normally work for?

The type of client a structural engineering firm normally works for has an impact on how the firm works with its clients. Does the company work for homeowners on residential designs or does it specialise in complicated, long-term projects with intricate reporting and monitoring procedures?

3. Does the firm have up-to-date local knowledge of council requirements and construction practices?

Construction techniques vary around Australia.

Drawings and sketches should incorporate local knowledge and materials that will save you time and money.

Structural engineer inspecting bored pier footings

If your structural engineer does inspections during construction they will have a better knowledge of construction practices than if they stay in their office.

4. Is the firm able to work with your team of consultants and stakeholders?

You need your structural engineer to communicate effectively with your other consultants.

These include building designers, certifiers, builders and homeowners.

Will your project stall if your structural engineer is difficult to contact?

Is your structural engineer slow to respond to emails?

Check in advance whether the structural engineering firm is available before and after hours or on weekends if this is critical to your project.

4. How will you be charged for the service?

  • Always ask your structural engineer for a fee letter or a quotation.
  • Ask for a fixed design fee if you have a well-defined scope.
  • Ask for a time basis fee if the scope is poorly defined.
  • Check whether the firm expects payment before releasing their final product or if they issue accounts.

5. Which members of the structural engineering firm will be your primary point of contact?

You should be able to communicate with the person and feel comfortable in their ability and experience.

  • Who will you be talking to?
  • Do they have a direct phone line and direct email address?
  • Is the person experienced in your type of project?
  • What are the person’s qualifications?
  • Ask to meet the contact person before engaging the firm.

7. Does the firm understand the scope of the entire project?

Get the firm to reiterate their understanding of the project and what they will do and what they will deliver.

  • Will you be receiving a formal report or a quick email?
  • Will the drawings be professionally drafted or handwritten?
  • How they will achieve the best result for your project?

8. Does the structural engineering firm have Professional Indemnity insurance?

Your structural engineer must carry professional indemnity insurance. This insurance protects you so don’t be afraid to ask for a copy of the Certificate of Currency. It should be in date and cover the type of project you are undertaking.

Cornell Engineers carries sufficient professional indemnity insurance for the work it carries out. We work with the team at Bovill Risk and Insurance Consultants to secure the best insurance for our business.

9. Who are the firm’s repeat clients and are those client’s needs similar to your own?

For example, a structural engineering firm that regularly works for custom home builders will have different systems and abilities to a structural engineering consultancy that services mass-market builders. Find out who the firm does a lot of work for by asking!

10. Does the firm act with professionalism and integrity?

  • Does the structural engineering firm treat you and your project with the importance it deserves?
  • Do they ask relevant questions and try to anticipate problems before generating solutions?
  • Ask about recent projects where they have undertaken similar projects or solved similar problems.
  • Follow up and check their answers with your own investigations.


There are ten things you should ask your structural engineer before engaging them.  Structural engineering is an important community service.  Find a structural engineer you like and then ask them these ten questions.