Dream Home: Pool Nightmare

The owners of a beautiful contemporary 7,000-square foot dream home with a forever view in Murrieta near the Temecula wine country of Southern California awoke to a disturbing pool disaster a few years ago. Shortly after construction, their new pool, surrounded by a resort-like patio deck suddenly started to slip tragically down the slope below.

The movement of the patio/pool structure with large, visible cracks left no doubt about the unstable nature of the lot and hillside below. With the region’s often weak, compressible soils, and a proclivity for earthquakes, hillside homes in Southern California are often unstable and subject to more than a little shaking. Continue reading

Now You’re in Hot Water . . . Let’s Keep it That Way!

Water heaters are like many appliances, and they need to be maintained regularly to extend their life.  Minerals in our hard water, as well asnormal corrosion, can shorten the life of your water heater by years without annual maintenance. Otherwise, you might be in for a rude, cold surprise!

If it has been awhile since you purchased a new water heater, the prices have gone up quite a bit.  You can easily spend $500.00 to $1,000.00 for a simple, natural gas entry level small family water heater that serves up to four people.  

Labor is extra and typically adds up to another $1,000.00 or more.  In Southern California, earthquake strapping is necessary too.  With natural gas, the services of trained, licensed plumber are needed to ensure safety during installation and that the installation will meet local fire codes. Continue reading

Property Inspections—Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Can a tennis ball really give you home-buying insight? Normally, when people are looking for properties to purchase, they worry about the roof or the walls or the plumbing or the appliances or the heating/ac system, but not many realize that inspecting the foundation is critical to the building’s structural integrity.

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Making all the Right Moves in Southern California

When the iconic 1960’s surf band the Beach Boys sang their hit song “Good Vibrations,” they definitely had romance on their minds and not earthquakes, slope movement, or landslides, etc.  Falling in love and that unsteady feeling you get during an earthquake are different to be sure, but, they both can rock your world and leave you as Elvis would say, “All Shook Up!”

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Red Tag Alert: View for Days Comes With a Price

The ocean and canyon view

We were asked several years ago to consult on a “view” property in Malibu, California, that had been red-tagged (deemed unsafe for occupancy) due to earth movement and undermining of the house by a landslide that had occurred during the winter rains of 2004/2005. The client contacted us in May, 2015, after he purchased the property. Continue reading

That’s The Breaks: Aging City Water Lines

Most of us in Southern California, even during periods of drought, generally take it for granted that when we turn on the tap the water flows.  Our reliable municipal network of ground and surface water resources, water treatment plants, pumps and pipes is generally an invisible world until the water temporarily stops flowing—usually due to a planned maintenance outage or a surprise prolonged power outage or a line or pump problem.
Unfortunately, some people have had the opposite experience and it’s becoming more common as our infrastructure ages in the Golden state:
What happens when a city installed pipe bursts below the ground on your property?
Well, the only way to describe it is, “That’s a gusher!”  Most of us would never see such a disaster coming, but it does happen from time to time due to earthquakes, corrosion, construction and other maintenance or operational issues.
Part of our client’s property in Simi Valley was flooded when a city water line broke on the property. The back and side yards of the home were inundated with several inches of flowing water on February 18, 2019 from the city’s broken pipe. In these situations, everyone is usually very cooperative until the water is shut-off and the homeowner calls the insurance company, the repair contractors or the family attorney.

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Inspecting This Old House To See If It Stands The Test of Time

If you’re a fan of classic architecture and the great homes of the past centuries, then you’ve probably also watched the PBS television classic, This Old House.  Many of the homes featured on the long-running TV Series are located on the East Coast and typically have required construction repairs and updating with modern plumbing, electrical, HVAC.

On the West Coast, we have our share of classic homes too, dating back to the late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth centuries.  In Southern California, our classic Victorians, Craftsman, Adobes, Spanish Revival and Ranch homes are local architectural treasures and are of historic significance.  For our clients, preserving them is often both a practical matter as their principal residence and a labor of love to ensure their survival continues for generations to come. Continue reading

Is This Building Slip Sliding Away?

Tilted reinforced concrete foundation next to slope below building.

Tilted reinforced concrete foundation next to slope below building

In 2015, one of our property management clients purchased an apartment complex in Northern California that consisted of five, two-story buildings. One of the buildings in the complex (constructed in the early 1960’s) has had a long history of foundation problems, consisting of fill settlement and slope movement. This building movement had caused leaks in the below ground plumbing (water pipes and sewer pipes), which caused additional settlement and movement of the building.

Attempts to stabilize the building, and to lift it to approximately level, were made in the early 1980’s and in the mid-1990’s, approximately 15 years later. We were contacted about 20 years after the latest repairs because the building was again becoming seriously tilted and potentially unsafe (and certainly inconvenient) for occupancy. Continue reading