What is the difference between a Building Survey and a Structural Survey?

There is often confusion between what a Building Survey and a Structural Survey is.   The term Structural Survey although widely used by the public is not generally used by Chartered Building Surveyors any longer as it is thought the term ‘structural’ is a little ambiguous and left people unsure what precisely was included within the survey.

Instead we now differentiate by having two survey types; a building survey and a structural survey.

A Building Survey is carried out by an RICS Building Surveyor and includes a full inspection of all accessible parts of the property and reports in detail upon everything that can be seen. The report is produced in a bespoke style to suit your requirements and those of the property in question and the report will deal with all parts of the building and covers defects or maintenance issues in detail.

A Structural Survey is carried out by a Chartered Civil or Structural Engineer.  They specifically look at the structural integrity of the property in detail.

What type of survey should I have?

The Building Survey is recommended if the property is built before the 1950’s, is of age or unusual, if you’re looking at carrying out major works or if you are requiring a more bespoke report.  Within the contents of the report the Surveyor (if requested) can provide approximate figures of any costs which the purchaser may incur due to remedial works required. 

The Surveyor will carry out a visual inspection which means they will not lift, move or test anything within the property.  They will inspect the inside and outside of the main building and all permanent outbuildings, making notes of any defects which are either major or minor.  The Surveyor will use equipment such as damp-meter, binoculars, touch and ladders to access flat roofs which are no higher than 3 metres from ground level.  Lofts will also be accessed on the inspection if it is safe to do so, and on the understanding the hatch is no higher than 3 metres.

Whilst commenting on the condition of all walls, floors and ceilings throughout the property, the Surveyor will advise within the contents of the report that gas, electrical, plumbing and drainage must be checked by the qualified body, i.e Certified Electrician and Gas Safe Engineer.

With regards to the structure of a property, within a building survey, the Building Surveyor will comment on and signpost within the report if they felt that there were any structural problems. They wont however, go into in-depth detail of what has caused the structural issue and how to address it. They will instead advise the buyer to then have a structural survey done and for a qualified structural engineer to investigate further.