Structural surveying is an essential process for any construction project, from a small home renovation to a large commercial development. Structural surveying involves the collection of data and information about the physical characteristics of a real estate project, such as existing structures, to inform the design and planning of the project.

Structural Survey

In the case of a full structural survey, or building survey, it’s built a detailed report on the condition and the construction of a residential or commercial property. It’s mostly used for buyers/ investors considering older properties, buildings that have been renovated, or those that are in an obviously dilapidated state.

This type of survey process typically involves several steps. First, the surveying team will conduct a visual inspection of the site to identify any potential hazards or challenges. A visual inspection survey is including any intrusive testing, to assess the condition of the structure and provide a report with advice for remedial repairs.

What does a full survey report include?

The surveying team will analyze the data they have collected and prepare a report that outlines their findings. This report will typically include recommendations for how to address any issues that were identified during the survey, as well as an assessment of the site's overall suitability for construction.

Our experts will provide a detailed report that will contain important elements such as :

  • A thorough assessment of the property defects and notable hazards
  • A thorough assessment of the property defects and notable hazards
  • Personalized advice on repairs and maintenance, including an estimated cost.
  • A brief of any previous structural work done on the property.

A complete structural survey will generally take up to a day to complete and between five and ten days to produce the report.

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Common issues found during a structural survey

Based on the recommended repairs and maintenance advice the client can fully understand how severe each problem is. Some common problems include:

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Poor ventilation or damp issues

Damp or moisture problems can lead to mold growth, rot, and other issues that can compromise the structural integrity of a building. Common causes of dampness or moisture issues include leaks, poor ventilation, and condensation.

When coupled with poor ventilation, properties with issues such as rising dampness, condensation, or mold can require a lot of work. Older properties will often have been constructed without adequate ventilation or proofing so, damp issues are extremely common.

Structural & Foundation issues

The foundation is the most critical part of any building, and problems with the foundation can cause significant structural issues. Common foundation problems include settlement, cracks, and water damage.

Structural movement is when integral parts of the building confer strength and stability shift. Roof carcassing, floors, walls, frameworks, and foundations can bulge, crack, expand, or contract over time and may compromise the safety of a property if the movement is severe. Natural decay, paired with variations in the quality of materials, means that building surveyors tend to identify some form of structural movement in older properties.

Japanese knotweed is a clump-forming plant that grows rapidly and can cause damage to properties by targeting weak structural points. It produces thick and extensive roots that invade and worsen masonry cracks and mortar joints.

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Fire safety issues

Here are some key areas related to fire safety that a structural survey should cover:

  • Fire escapes and exits: The building surveyor should ensure that the building has sufficient and appropriate fire escapes and exits and that they are clearly marked and free of obstructions.
  • Fire alarms and detection systems: The building surveyor should check that the building has a working fire alarm system in place and that it is regularly maintained and tested.
  • Firefighting equipment: The building surveyor should check that the building has adequate firefighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, fire hoses, and sprinklers, and that they are in good working condition and located in the correct positions.

  • Structural fire protection: The building surveyor should assess the building's structural fire protection measures, such as fire-resistant materials and fire-resistant doors, to ensure that they meet the required standards.

Electrical or Plumbing problems

Electrical or plumbing problems can also be identified during a structural survey. These issues can include outdated wiring or plumbing, poorly installed fixtures, and other issues that can compromise the safety or functionality of a building.

Electrical problems can vary from minor issues to something that could lead to a full rewiring of the property. Similarly, faulty drain pipes can cause numerous issues within a building, including water pooling and water damage.

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Asbestos can cause life-threatening health issues and was banned in 1999 as a building material, so any property built before this date could still contain it. In the case that asbestos has been found on your property, you should contact a specialist to remove it.

Roof issues

The roof is another important component of a building's structure, and problems with the roof can lead to water damage, mold, and other issues. Common roofing issues include leaks, missing or damaged shingles, and improperly installed flashing.

Surveys usually find evidence of poor installation, ponding water, slipped slates, and inadequate ventilation in older properties, and without proper maintenance, these issues can become catastrophic.

While most of these problems are easy to rectify, it’s important to look at the condition of the roof on the whole and consider how this may impact the property in the future.

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What happens after a structural survey?

If the report has uncovered problems with the property or the building surveyor has valued the property at a lower amount than you offered, you might want to negotiate the price of your new home. Most reports help you decide which problems are most urgent by ranking issues by severity using a traffic light system.

This stage in the process can be stressful but, once resolved, you can contact your mortgage lender and solicitor to proceed. At this point, you will receive the final contract to sign and complete the sale.

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