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Top 10 things to consider when planning your next deck

  1. If your deck is 30” or lower, you don’t need your deck engineered or a building permit, and you can do it yourself.
  2. Pressure-treated wood is required for deck framing.
  3. Plastic-composite decking vs. traditional wood is preferable. Plastic composite decks require more joists, but little to no maintenance, unlike traditional wood decks.
  4. For handrails, we recommend using pre-engineered metal – due to longevity. 
  5. If you do decide to go with wood railing – there are specific requirements for its strength and attachment per code, that have to be detailed correctly. 
  6. You need adequate support for your deck. This means properly sized beams, posts, and footings. 
  7. If your deck is anchored to your house, it has to be done correctly. 
  8. Lateral bracing is necessary to keep a deck from swaying. 
  9. If you intend to put a roof cover over your deck, or a hot tub on your deck, make sure the deck framing and footings can handle that additional load. 
  10. The deck fasteners need to be hot-dip galvanized.

At Ouellette Engineering, we specialize in designing all shapes and sizes of decks, from simple to complex multi-story decks and stairs. 

My floor is uneven, what’s going on?

We often get questions about floor settling.

A minor amount of floor settlement is not uncommon, and is generally considered minor/cosmetic (¾” settlement in a foundation is not unusual).

When is floor settlement or unlevel floors a problem? Floor settlement becomes an issue when you can see it, it bothers you, and you want to get it fixed.

If your floor is uneven and does need to be fixed – first we need to determine the cause. Is the wood rotten and needs to be repaired? Has the foundation settled and needs to be repaired? Is the foundation inadequate or does it have undersized footings? 

In extreme cases, there are companies that can re-level the foundation for you. But in minor cases, it may be a matter of just shimming the posts in the crawlspace to re-level the floor. If your floor is bouncy – additional supports can be added to a crawl space relatively easily to fix the issue. 

One thing to note: if you do have to relevel your foundation/floor you’re likely to have interior doors that will not close or stick, which will have to be adjusted. Windows may have issues with opening and closing as well. Additionally, cracks in finishes are not uncommon. 

If your floor needs to be releveled, we are happy to refer you to qualified contractors that specialize in floor releveling issues.

Can I take the wall out between my kitchen and dining room?

Recent kitchen/dining room trends favor a more “open” design concept. At Ouellette Engineering, we often get these requests. One simple way to change your floorplan to an open design is to take out the wall in between the kitchen and dining room. If you decide to go that route, you must first determine how to make that happen; from a structural integrity standpoint.

In these situations, the question you might ask is: “Can I take the wall out between my kitchen and dining room?” But what you actually need to determine first is: “Is the wall I want to remove carrying a load?” or “Is the wall I want to remove a ‘load-bearing’ wall?” It’s also important to find out if you can remove the wall safely.

The first thing to determine is what is above the wall you want to remove. Is there a 2nd floor? Are the floor joists parallel or perpendicular to the wall? Is there attic space above the wall? Does it have engineered trusses in the attic space? Is the roof stick-framed? 

The next step is to determine what is below the wall you want to remove. In the crawlspace, are the beams and footings aligned with the wall which suggests it is load-bearing? All these things factor into determining whether or not it is a  load-bearing or partition wall.

If it is a partition wall with engineered trusses above it, can I remove it without engineering approval? The answer is: maybe. Sometimes you will get sagging, or cracks that you didn’t have before. Sometimes you will get settlement – but it may be structurally adequate. However, some partition walls still require a structural engineering sign-off.

If it is a bearing wall, can have it removed? Yes, but we will need to replace the bearing wall with an adequately sized beam, posts, and footings that are designed to support the snow/occupancy load and the weight of the materials. With all bearing wall removal projects, we will help engineer a solution. 

One of our specialties is expertly evaluating walls for potential removal. We’re happy to help with your next wall-removal project, be it small or large.

There’s a crack in my foundation, what do I do?

So you’re buying/selling a house, and the home inspector identifies cracks in the foundation/basement wall/slab. The inspector advises you to hire a structural engineer to investigate. What do you do?

First, don’t panic. Next, give us a call or email – and we’re happy to help. 

If you send us your inspection report, we can review the issues the inspector is concerned about. After reviewing the report and any photos, we can quickly determine if a site visit is necessary. If so, an engineer will visit in person. 

Cracking can be very minor – just due to concrete shrinking – when it shrinks it cracks. Small vertical cracks are usually not a concern. A horizontal crack in a foundation wall suggests that the wall is bowing inward – which could be a big deal. Horizontal cracks are more critical than vertical cracks. If a vertical crack is wider at top then the bottom, that means the wall is rotating, and is an indication of soil settlement.

Foundation cracks occur for a number of reasons. Older concrete foundations are often under or un-reinforced. Over time, foundations will naturally settle. A settlement of ¾” is not uncommon and considered acceptable. Large settlements may be due to inadequate soil bearing strength, such as building on a fill. 

Some soils are prone to expand and contract, like clay soils, which will often crack a foundation with changes in ground moisture content. Tree roots are notorious for cracking foundations. Water infiltration from clogged downspouts, poor grading around the building perimeter, or natural springs can all be the cause of foundation settlement. 

In cases of foundation cracks, the engineer can determine if the cracking needs to be fixed and how to do so. The type of fix for a crack in a basement wall or foundation is all dependent on what is going on. Multiple methods are available. Whether cosmetic – or elaborate (caulking the crack, or designing a structural fix). Every situation is different. 

Regardless of what is causing a crack in your foundation, we can expertly deduce the problem and find the right solution.

What does Ouellette Engineering not do?

Ouellette Engineering prepares engineering documents for residential & commercial remodels, new construction, and industrial projects.

However, there are some of the types of projects that we do not do. These include:

  • Geo-techincal engineering
  • Architectural design
  • Special inspections (we can however, do engineering observation reports)
  • Submit permits; and our fees do not include permit fees
  • Large scale projects, including: new apartments, condominiums, hospitals, high rises, etc. 
  • Bridges of any size
  • Civil engineering: water-detention facilities, dams, underground utilities, roads, driveways, site-development grading
  • Land surveying
  • Work outside of the state of Oregon
  • Stamp other professionals’ documents/drawings/calculations
  • Share engineering responsibilities/duties with other firms
  • Drafting with other programs aside from AutoCAD
  • Pre-cast concrete

Do you need a permit for your building project? Here’s what you need to know.

The process for getting a permit for a building project can be confusing. Do you need a permit, or do you not need a permit? Here’s what you need to know…

Work that is exempt from a permit: 

  1. non-habitable one story detached accessory structures not exceeding 200 square feet
  2. Fences under 7 feet tall
  3. Concrete sidewalks and driveways
  4. General building repairs (siding, painting, etc)
  5. Decks no more than 30 inches above adjacent grade
  6. Door and window replacement (where no structural member is changed)

(Note: refer to the Oregon Residential Building Code, Section R105.2 for further exceptions.) 

We do not participate in the permit process. It is the responsibility of the owner or contractor to get appropriate building permits. However, If we do structural drawings for you; they will be permit-ready. 

If we do engineering for your project, and it does not pass the permit building review process, what then? If it is a drawing or calculation error on our end, we will correct the error at no cost. If it is a change in scope from what was originally agreed upon, then we will bill out the time accordingly. 

 

Do you need an Engineer or an Architect?

The time has come. After months (maybe even years) of putting it off, you decide you are ready to start on a new building project… 

So the question comes up: Do you need an architect, or an engineer? Well, that depends on the size and scope of the work. An architect or designer is generally not needed to build a retaining wall, remove a beam, or upgrade and install a patio cover over a deck.

At Ouellette Engineering, we often get requests to help with a residential project…but, alas, it may be missing an architectural design. If you don’t have a detailed architectural design ready to go, then the structural engineering drawings/calculations cannot get started yet. 

But don’t worry. If you don’t have architectural design skills – then your first step is to find a suitable local architect or designer who can help you put your dreams to paper/drawings. Residential architects or designers will help you develop a plan. At Ouellette Engineering, we are happy to provide referrals for architects, contractors, designers, and other professionals – as requested. Your local building department can usually supply a list of architects, contractors, and designers as well. 

Architectural projects can take a couple weeks or months for basic designs. For a brand new building or complete remodel, you should expect at least two months to complete the design phase.

Once you have a building plan drawn up, then a structural engineer can get involved. At Ouellette Engineering, most of our projects take somewhere between a few hours to a few weeks to complete – depending on the complexity of the project. Rarely do structural engineering plans/calculations take longer than five weeks to complete.

Whether your residential project is large or small, we’re happy to assist you and point you in the right direction.

 

A Message About COVID-19

As cases across Oregon continue to rise, the outbreak of COVID-19 has certainly changed how businesses service their customers. At Ouellette Engineering, protecting our clients safety and health is our top concern. As such, we have implemented new guidelines for our workplace, our employees, and our customer interactions.

Whenever possible, we use email correspondence or phone conferencing – in lieu of a face-to-face meeting. Some simple jobs require only email correspondence and phone conferencing and can be started and finished all over the course of a week or two.  

When visiting a client residence or jobsite, we adhere to social distancing guidelines. That means a healthy 6-foot distance, whenever possible. Additionally, if requested, we are happy to wear face masks. We also always use hand-sanitizer before and after meeting with clients. Our customer’s health and safety is paramount, so our team will take additional precautions as requested.

On the positive side, if you find yourself at home with more free time than usual, now could be the perfect time to start on that home remodeling project you’ve been wanting to get to. At Ouellette Engineering, we’re here to help provide smart solutions to your building needs.

 

Welcome to Ouellette Engineering

Welcome to Ouellette Engineering – serving the Willamette Valley area since 2001. We are happy to serve your structural engineering needs. Feel free to reach out for a quote on a new project or questions about our services.