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When You Might Need to Engineer House Plans

Choosing the house you want to build is one thing, but getting it approved by your local building department is another thing entirely. While all house plans on The House Designers conform to the International Residential Code (IRC), meaning they meet a standard for quality and detailing used around the world, that doesn’t mean they’ll automatically be accepted by your building department. The IRC sets a universal minimum standard, but it can’t possibly address all of the special circumstances that certain regions face. That’s where engineering comes in.

If you want to build somewhere that experiences extreme weather or has geological challenges to consider, you should expect to get your house plans engineered. It’s always worth a trip to the building department to ask about what is necessary for the area. They can give you a list of criteria to meet, and they may even be able to point you in the direction of a local professional who can bring the blueprints up to their standards.

Where to Expect Engineering

While regular IRC-compliant house plans are acceptable for many building departments, there are some places where you definitely should expect to engineer, like:

  • Earthquake Zones – Including California and the rest of the West Coast
  • Hurricane Zones – Including Florida and the Gulf and South Atlantic States
  • High Snow Load Zones – Including Alaska, Maine, and Upper Midwest and Rocky Mountain States

Additionally, some other jurisdictions might surprise you—places like New York, New Jersey, Nevada, and parts of Illinois. And it can get even more specific, all the way down to particular addresses, if you plan to build in an area with diverse soil conditions. Your own building department knows better than anyone what modifications are necessary.

Obtaining a State Stamp

Some building departments require a professional stamp before they’ll approve house plans. In this case, only a stamp from a professional in the state where you’re building will be accepted. A local engineer or architect will be able to review the house plans and stamp them for you, usually for a reasonable fee. Please note that plans used to build homes in Nevada are required by law to be drawn by a licensed Nevada architect.

How to Get Plans Engineered

If you need engineering to bring your house plans up to local codes, it’s just like anything else—you should shop around! Putting in the time to research professionals and choose one you trust can make things easier down the road. The House Designers actually has architects licensed around the country, so we might be able to help—be sure to ask your home plan advisor! You can also ask your building department for recommendations, because they can point you toward somebody they know and trust, which will increase the chances of your plans being accepted the first time.

Engineering is a compulsory part in the building process for many people, so don’t be intimidated by it. At the end of the day, this step ensures that your dream home is well-suited for its environment. That means it’ll be built to last and made to keep you and your family safe.