Employers Agent

Are building and structural surveys the same?

If you’re buying a property, it’s sensible to arrange a property survey to check for any current or potential issues. But what kind of survey do you need?

There is often confusion between building surveys and structural surveys and we’re here to help you understand the differences…

At a glance: the differences between building surveys and structural surveys


Building Survey

Structural Survey

Who carries out the survey?
Chartered Surveyor Structural Engineer
What does it look at?
Inspects all areas of the property, listing defects and maintenance issues. Typically involves structured appraisal of individual elements or components of a building.
When do I need one?
Usually when buying a property that is old, made of unconventional materials, has had significant changes or you plan significant changes to it. If your property survey highlights an area of potential structural concern for further investigation.

What is a building survey?

A RICS Level 3 Building Survey is carried out by a Chartered Surveyor and is a great way to look into the overall condition of a property you are thinking of purchasing. It should be carried out before you exchange contracts so that you can act on any new information that is unveiled. Sometimes, your mortgage lender will insist that building surveys are carried out before agreeing to a loan.

When buying a property there are different kinds of surveys available but the Level 3 Survey is the most comprehensive and perfect for buildings which are old, particularly large, unconventionally built or have had major works carried out. It will look at:

  • the property’s condition (usually reported by element)
  • signs of adverse grand movement or foundation failure
  • signs of structural movement
  • timber defects
  • Japanese knotweed
  • dampness (rising and penetrating)
  • drainage
  • insulation/energy efficiency
  • potential legal issues
  • urgent defects
  • repair options
  • advice on what may happen if you don’t carry out repairs
  • option to include a valuation
  • photographs of findings

What is a structural survey?

Structural surveys are carried out by structural engineers and will look at the structural integrity of a building or individual elements/components. They are often requested if a building survey highlights an area of structural concern in their own report and will often involve a level of structural analysis or calculation.

A structural survey reports on:

  • the cause and severity of any structural defects
  • proof or structural capacity/capability
  • what may happen if the issue is not rectified
  • and may include specific remedial measures based on formal structural calculations

Why is there confusion between structural surveys and building surveys?

It’s no wonder people get muddled between building surveys and structural surveys… they used to be called the same thing!

RICS Level 3 Building Surveys used to be called ‘full structural surveys and a lot of people would shorten this to ‘structural surveys.’ However, building surveys are quite different to what a surveyor or structural engineer would consider to be a structural survey.

In a nutshell:

  • Building surveys look at the whole property and note defects and maintenance issues.
  • Structural surveys assess the structural integrity of a property or an individual component /element.

Usually, when you’re buying a property, you’ll initially want to arrange a building survey (if the property is old or unconventional). A structural survey can be commissioned if that report highlights any areas of structural concern.

Get in touch

Hopefully, you’re now clear on the difference between building surveys and structural surveys and may even be ready to arrange one or the other.

At Trinity Rose, our team of Chartered Building Surveyors have years of experience carrying out RICS Level 3 Building Surveys amongst other property surveys. If you have any questions about our services or which survey is best for a particular property, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.