Common Signs of Home Damage and Deterioration

A deteriorating homeDo you know the common signs of home damage and deterioration? It’s important to be aware of changes around your home or property that could be signs of deterioration. These signs could be sagging beams, discoloration on ceilings/walls, cracks in floors & foundations, rust on steel stairs, tipping of retaining walls or slope movement.

Let’s face it, home or property repairs are never fun. They’re costly and time consuming. Most of us want to get them done as quickly and economically as possible. Yet there’s one thing you should never exclude from your project — a consultation with an experienced construction engineer about the signs of home damage. Continue reading

Termite Damage and HOAs

Signs of Termite DamageHearing your property has a termite infestation can send chills down any property owner’s spine. The cost of ridding a property of termites can be out of budget for many folks. Dealing with them is also inconvenient because most cases involve fumigation to make sure that you’ve rid a structure of the whole colony. It’s no wonder that many opt to put off the problem. That’s especially easy to do because it’s a problem that is often occurring out of sight – making it easy to put it out of mind. Continue reading

Oroville Dam Engineering: What Happened?

The California Department of Water Resources stopped the spillway flow on Thursday morning to allow engineers to evaluate the integrity of the structure after water had been released at 20,000 cubic feet per second through the night.

(Courtesy of the California Department of Water Resources).

Last week California’s Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, almost failed due to a surplus of water filling Lake Oroville. As the lake filled higher and higher, water was being released, via spillways, into the Feather River. The volume of water caused erosion of the dam’s main spillway, causing it to crater and break apart. As a result, the dam’s emergency spillway began to erode. That spillway had never been used and was unlined. The lack of concrete lining may have led to its erosion as well.

Nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from the area, many of them fleeing to higher ground cities like Sutter. As the water began to recede, residents began to travel back home.

But what went wrong? What caused the damage in the first place? Continue reading

Preparing Your Property for Severe Weather and Its Aftermath

ThunderstormsDuring the Thanksgiving holiday the Southland got a little more relief from our record-breaking drought conditions. While it’s important that we get enough rain to hopefully end our dry conditions and restore our groundwater levels, it’s also important to keep people and properties safe during and after rainstorms.

Areas of particular concern are slope stability and water intrusion. When an area has been particularly dry, slope stability issues can threaten properties in and around the slope. Unstable slopes can move very slowly or very quickly, and lead to property foundation issues as well as safety hazards. This is especially true for burn areas where the plants and trees have been destroyed and the integrity of the soil has been undermined.

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How to Deal With Rising Sea Levels on Your Coastal Property

Coastal ErosionProtecting properties on coastal parcels is critical, especially as we start to see much of our nation’s coastal areas affected by rising sea levels. Higher sea levels are allowing the tides to carry away much of the natural defenses and sands that keep properties and beaches protected from the oceans, especially during heavy coastal storms. In fact, some coastal communities are running out of beach sand due to global warming.

What can coastal property owners do to protect themselves? The answer is installing or improving existing seawalls. A bulkhead, also known as a seawall, helps prevent erosion of land area or damage to structures by placing a barrier between the sea and land. Seawalls protect properties and beaches against damage from wind, wave and ice forces. They may feature curved or flat-facing surfaces, and can be comprised of gravity retaining walls, cantilever retaining walls, and pile-supported retaining walls. New seawalls are commonly constructed of concrete, but older seawalls included materials like stone, an excellent buffer against wave energy. Continue reading

Avoiding Surface Water Drainage Issues

Avoid Surface Water Drainage Issues with a Gutter SystemStanding water can ruin a property and pose serious issues to a community’s health. It can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mosquitos, and can lead to structural issues for buildings on the property. There can also be issues for adjoining properties, which can in turn will draw the ire of neighbors and possibly result in increased litigation risks. If you’ve ever had a property that has issues with surface water drainage, then you know full well the damage and headache it can cause.

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Is Rotten Wood Ruining Your Property’s Structures?

Fence with Wood RotEven in drought-stricken Southern California wood rot caused by water is damaging structures on both commercial and residential property. Rotten wood caused by moisture can be easy to miss, especially when the seasons have been as dry as they have been over the last 10 years. It’s also easy to put off the repairs – for some of us the drought makes dealing with wood rot seem like a back burner project. It’s easy to ignore the problem when we aren’t expecting wet weather.

Water-caused rot develops when moisture lingers on wooden surfaces that are unprotected. The lack of protection happens when wooden structures are not repainted regularly or resealed after a period of time. The moisture will settle into unprotected cracks and crevices and that creates a fantastic environment for fungi – the real culprit of the wood rot. Wood rot only needs 20 percent moisture content to live. That means it can show up in all but the most arid temperature zones. Continue reading

How Can I Repair My Building and Property To Code?

Code Compliance On Old Home Construction

Code compliance differs between old and new construction and repairs.

If you’ve ever been to Redlands, California, you may have seen its many historic buildings. There are dozens of Victorian-style residences and Craftsman era homes that date back more than 100 years.

I was recently talking with an acquaintance here in town that owns (and was looking to sell) an older home from the late 1800’s. He was telling me all about some of the renovations that he thought were necessary in order to bring the home up to code and make it habitable as a residence. There was a lot of work that needed to be done – ranging from replacing old electrical and plumbing work to repairing some damage to the structure that was a result of age and unstable land.

At one point, I was asked what I thought should be done about the structural issues due to the unstable land beneath the home? He was very concerned about what the city’s building department might require to repair the structure in order to sell it.  Since Helfrich-Associates has performed many investigations of structures that were built on unstable property, I knew he was probably dealing with issues that could range anywhere from minor cracks in the floors, walls, and ceilings, to difficulty operating doors and windows, to significant and serious foundation movement. If not repaired, these issues could discount the property value. Continue reading

What To Do When Tree Roots Threaten Your Property

Concrete cracking due to tree roots.

Concrete cracking due to tree roots.

If you’ve ever bought an older property with trees on it, you may have run into problems with tree roots. Often you’ll find that tree roots can damage both your foundation and your plumbing.

If there’s a problem with your tree’s roots invading your plumbing, its usually an easy fix involving scraping the pipe lines and then flushing some chemicals down the toilets to keep the roots at bay.

If you have a problem with tree roots disrupting your foundation it can be a little more difficult to deal with.

One of our projects in San Marino, California dealt with tree roots from two trees that had grown under the house. Continue reading