What Should I Do If My Window Cracks?

Broken Glass Thermal StressRecently we were called out to a client who’d just installed new windows in their home because some of the new windows, nine in fact, had cracked. The cracking was a bit of a mystery, as there had been no impact to the window itself prior to the crack appearing.

So, what happened? In this case, thermal stress cracking is the likely culprit.

Thermal stress can happen when one part of a window’s temperature differs from another part. This can happen as the sun moves through the sky and heats different portions of the glass, especially if the glass is partially covered by eaves or awnings. Continue reading

Is The Building Doctor In?

Need a Doctor for your Property?

Your structural/civil/geotechnical engineer is a lot like a doctor, but for your property. Image courtesy pixabay.com

Sometimes we connect with property owners who ask, “Do we really need an engineer to inspect and provide a solution here?”

Let’s look at it from this perspective:  Would you feel comfortable taking very expensive medicine (typically tens of thousands of dollars) without a doctor’s advice and prescription?

Your structural/civil/geotechnical engineer is a lot like a doctor, but for your property. When looking for an engineer, look for one who’s a Licensed Professional Engineer and can stamp your report with a Professional Engineer (P.E.) stamp. You should be sure that your Engineer has affiliations with organizations like the NSPE (National Society Of Professional Engineers) or the NABIE (National Academy Of Building Inspection Engineers).  Each state has a license for engineers who are working in those states. Continue reading

Why You Should Speak To A Structural Engineer Before Buying A Property

Home Inspections With A Structural Engineer

Start with a Structural Engineer to evaluate a property before you buy. It could save you money in the long run. Image courtesy pixabay.com

Whether you’re buying a property as an investment opportunity or as a property you plan to use as a home or place of business, there’s always a lot to consider.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Check comparable property values
  • Make sure you look at the crime statistics.
  • Check on the quality of the schools in the area. This can tell you a lot about the neighborhood.
  • Find out about any HOA dues, taxes and insurance costs.
  • Talk to the sellers about their experience with the property.
  • Schedule an inspection.

When you schedule the inspection, make sure you contact a specialist to look over each major part of the property. It’s a good idea to hire an electrician to check out the wiring, a plumber to review the pipes, and a structural engineer to look for any structural issues. Continue reading

Solving Foundation Stabilization Problems from Start to Finish

water tower with foundation stabilization issues

As a property owner, an issue with your foundation stabilization can be an expensive process, and the process of correcting the issues can often be frustrating and disruptive.

When one door closes, another one opens – unless of course your property is suffering foundation issues, in which case getting those doors to behave might be harder than it should be.

As a property owner, an issue with your foundation can be an expensive process, and the process of correcting the issues can often be frustrating and disruptive. You’re going to need professional help to make sure it’s done right the first time.

Evaluating a property and getting a business or residence repaired, safe and usable is our specialty. Our team has successfully completed over 200 foundation repair projects – giving us the experience and the know-how for getting property owners back into their buildings with fewer headaches.

The team at Helfrich-Associates, a one-stop shop that handles all aspects of soils engineering, geology, and structural engineering services, can help. We’re a premier engineering and construction consulting firm in Southern California and throughout the Southwest United States.

First, let’s talk about what causes foundation problems. Continue reading

What Does An Expert Engineering and Construction Witness Do?

What Does An Expert Engineering and Construction Witness Do?

An expert witness can provide critical, educated opinions on evidence. Gavel image courtesy pixabay.com

A judicial expert, professional witness or expert witness is a witness with the skill, experience and education to have specialized knowledge in a particular subject.

An expert witness has necessary scientific or technical expertise that enables them to offer a specialized opinion as evidence in a court of law. The person’s opinion almost always pertains to evidence or facts within their scope of expertise. This is called an expert opinion.

An expert witness may also be asked to deliver expert evidence about facts from their area of knowledge.

The legal basis for expert witness testimony comes from Scots Law, Davie v Magistrates of Edinburgh (1953). It states that where an expert witness has specialized skills or knowledge in a subject being examined by the court, and that person has been called to court to elaborate on that area for the court, the witness may give evidence of his opinion on their area of expertise. Continue reading

Weather Watch: El Niño And Slope Stability

Weather Watch: El Niño And Slope Stability

Hurricane image courtesy pixabay.com

As we get closer to California’s rainy season, which is usually between November and March, meteorologists are warning of a record-breaking El Niño. El Niño is a warm weather pattern that can cause heavy rain in the Pacific Ocean and surrounding land masses, such as the Pacific Rim countries, including portions of the Western United States.

Over the last six months, California has experienced several major rainstorms. While this has been great for our rain-deprived residents, it’s wreaked havoc on the parched landscape created by the state’s record drought.  In fact, the drought has caused the soils to dry out, leading to surface cracks that will fill with rainwater. Continue reading

Keeping Up With HOA Maintenance

HOA Maintenance

HOA Maintenance Image Courtesy Pixabay.com

When you live in a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), you get some great perks, such as an HOA maintenance team. Some associations also boast parks and pools, full-service yard care. The maintenance teams usually keep those facilities in great condition. If you’re not familiar with how these associations can afford offer these benefits, they typically collect a monthly fee from all residents within the association. Usually agreement to pay these fees is a prerequisite to purchasing a home within the association’s communities.

HOA’s often include homes or condominiums in their communities. We’ve recently been working with condo-based associations that are having difficulties with keeping up their HOA maintenance programs. Continue reading

Stabilizing Seawalls

Stabilizing Seawalls

Image courtesy Pixabay.com

For those who live on a coastline, the sea can be a beautiful sight to wake up to. But as beautiful as it is, its awesome power can be harsh on manmade structures. Unfortunately, you can’t always see the damage before it is too late. Periodic engineering inspections can prevent many problems.

People have worked tirelessly to keep back the elements of the ocean and improve the safety of homes exposed to it. One of the first lines of defense is the bulkhead, or seawall. The use of seawalls goes back thousands of years. Did you know there were seawalls during the time of Constantine I and Byzantium? Things have come a long way since then.

Continue reading

Dealing with Damage Due to Wind

Dealing With Damage Due To Wind

Damage due to wind can be extensive. Image courtesy pixabay.com

If you’ve ever been in a windstorm, you know that wind is a powerful force of nature and damage due to wind can be extensive. There are several types of wind events. One type of event, called a Microburst, is a downward burst of air from the base of a thunderstorm. Traveling toward the ground at nearly 60 miles per hour, they can increase speed to nearly 100 miles per hour when they hit the ground – causing extensive damage to buildings and trees.

Microbursts are usually formed when dry air combines with rain within a cloud formation. When the dry air causes the rain to evaporate, the temperature of the air lowers. The cooler air will drop down through the cloud formation, gaining speed as it moves toward the ground. If it falls through an area with a large and steady change in temperature, the cooler air will fall faster as the air around it becomes warmer and less dense near the ground. When the air mass reaches the surface, it travels in all directions at high speeds. Continue reading