Structure of Home

Certified Building Code Official


The description of structure implicitly offers an account of what a system is made of: a configuration of items, a collection of inter-related components or services. The combinations of systems and materials used to build the main elements of our homes: roof, walls and floor are ofter referred to as your homes structure. These systems are many and varied and each has advantages and disadvantages depending on use and requirements of design.

In engineering and architecture, a structure is a body or assemblage of bodies in space to form a system capable of supporting loads. Physical structures include man-made and natural arrangements. Buildings, aircraft, soap films, skeletons, anthills, beaver dams and salt domes are all examples of physical structures. The effects of loads on physical structures are determined through structural analysis. Structural engineering refers to engineering of physical structures.

Many insurance companies will not insure homes with galvanized plumbing due to age and life expectancy of galvanized being well over accepted time frames. Many people will replace the accessible galvanized plumbing in a home but will leave or even try to cover up any inaccessible galvanized plumbing.

Structual Engineers

Structural engineers are most commonly involved in the design of buildings and large nonbuilding structures. Structural engineers must ensure their designs satisfy given design criteria, predicated on safety (e.g. structures must not collapse without due warning) or serviceability and performance (e.g. building sway must not cause discomfort to the occupants).

Structural engineers are responsible for engineering design and analysis. Entry-level structural engineers may design the individual structural elements of a structure, for example the beams, columns, and floors of a building. More experienced engineers would be responsible for the structural design and integrity of an entire system, such as a building.

The architect is usually the lead designer on buildings, with a structural engineer employed as a sub-consultant. The degree to which each discipline actually leads the design depends heavily on the type of structure. Many structures are structurally simple and led by architecture, such as multi-storey office buildings and housing, while other structures, such as tensile structures, shells and gridshells are heavily dependent on their form for their strength, and the engineer may have a more significant influence on the form, and hence much of the aesthetic, than the architect.

IMPORTANT! When using an engineered product it can only be used for the purpose it was designed for and installed according to design. Any modifications or design changes must be made by a qualified designer or engineer who will product a "detail" which is stamped.

Engineered Structure

This is a sample of Roman engineering used to erect this ancient structure. The Romans put a great deal of effort into engineering. Roman engineering led to the building of some remarkable engineering feats that have survived to this day throughout western Europe - be they roads, theatres, baths or Hadrian's Wall. Engineering was used as a way of improving the lifestyle of the Romans even on day-to-day issues such as a frequent water supply.

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dead load:  This is the weight of everything that is permanent such as the floor joists, walls, piping, ductwork, floor tile, etc.

live load:  This is the weight of everything that you add to the house or apartment when you move in.  Furniture, bookshelves, people, appliances, and of course, your computer and your aquarium(s).

safety factor:  Your floor was designed to support loads without collapsing using a "safety factor".  The "safety factor" in most structures is usually somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0.  So, if I tell you that your floor can "safely" support 1000 pounds then that also means that your floor might theoretically fail  when it receives a load of 1500 to 2000 pounds.

bearing wall:  This is a wall in your house or apartment that was designed to support the weight of the floor, wall, ceiling or roof.  (Most or all of the concrete or masonry block walls in your basement are bearing walls.)

partition wall:  This is a wall in your home that acts only to separate rooms.  While it might be able to support some load, it was not designed as a part of the structural system that carries the weight of your floor or roof down to the foundation.

floor joists:  These are typically 2 x 8's or 2 x 10's at 16 inches on center that support your floor. Each end of the joists are supported by bearing walls or beams.

subfloor:  The sheet of wood (usually plywood) that is nailed to the top of the floor joists to form the floor itself before carpeting or tile etc.

beams:  The beams act to support the floor joists.  These beams might be constructed of wide-flange steel beams (commonly and incorrectly called an I-beam) or they might be wood triple 2 x 10's, etc.

column:  A vertical post that supports the floor beams.  In a home this is usually a round hollow pipe.