While watching the TV show Hoarders, you might wonder who makes the decision about how unfit homes are after the junk is cleared out. In many cases, the building inspectors working for the cities where these homes are located are licensed structural engineers. The structural engineers do more than just decide if a home is salvageable. Here are some of the other roles a structural engineer plays in the repair and restoration of dilapidated homes.
Examining the Severity of the Damage
Because the floors and ceilings in homes are not designed for the weight loads that hoarders impose upon them, there is often a lot of severe damage caused by garbage and hoarded items falling through ceilings and floors to the levels below. The structural engineer's role is to examine these uncovered holes and weakened areas to determine how dangerous it is for any human to be standing near the holes or on top of the weakened areas. The severity of both the seen and unseen damage also tells the engineer/inspector whether the home is beyond repair and what the damage will cost to fix.
Redesigning the Home's Structure for Individuals with Disabilities
Many times, hoarders have a mental, emotional or physical disability that limits them from moving about and cleaning up, even when they want to. A structural engineer may be called in not only to examine the structural safety and condition of the home but also to redesign the home to accommodate anyone with a disability who is living in the home. The designs may be passed on to a building contractor who can assist the home's owner in rebuilding his or her home (and his or her life).
Recommending a Complete Razing
Sometimes the effects of hoarding and/or the complete avoidance of home maintenance leaves a house in such disrepair that it would cost far more to fix all the structural issues rather than raze the house to the ground and rebuild. A structural engineer acting as a building inspector can and will recommend a complete razing after deeming the home condemned. If you have a family member that is a hoarder, it is better to get them some help sooner rather than later so that your family member's home does not get to the point where a structural engineer says that the whole house has got to go.
Providing Cosmetic Solutions
If the damage to a home is more cosmetic than structural, the engineer may suggest a few ways for your family member or friend to patch things up. For example, a plaster ceiling that has some minor mold or mildew damage and the wall/ceiling supports are unaffected can be restored with a sheet of plasterboard, wall plaster and paint. You can ask the structural engineer for more solutions to cosmetic problems that would allow your family member's or friend's home to pass inspection.