Is This Building Slip Sliding Away?

Tilted reinforced concrete foundation next to slope below building.

click site 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

Things Were Going Downhill In A Hurry

Several years ago, we were asked to assist a homeowners association (HOA) with their damaged retaining walls in Anaheim, California.  Twelve properties in the HOA were being affected by the movement of a retaining wall that varied in height up to about 12 feet, which supported the backyards of their stunning view properties.

When you say you live in Anaheim, many people think you live near the happiest place on earthDisneyland, which is relatively flat and much closer to the western side of the city.  These HOA owners, however, were unhappy campers located in the newer eastern scenic foothill region of the city known for its planned suburban communities with parks, open space, schools and shopping. Many of the homes in the Anaheim Hills have views to the north of the Yorba Linda Hills and the snow-capped mountains beyond, which make them highly desirable and irresistible to buyers—especially young professionals and their growing families. Continue reading

Block Wall Alert—TILT!

When purchasing a home, especially a resale home, be sure to walk around the outside of the entire property or you might be surprised at what you find after your purchase. The phrase, “buyer beware,” still applies when it comes to purchasing real estate.

This situation occurs more often than you would think when it comes to older or historic properties dating back 40 years or more when building codes and construction industry standards were less stringent than today.

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WARNING: The Bridge Is A Tumblin’ Down!

Bridge Out Ahead!

We were asked to investigate a property in Thermal, California to observe and evaluate erosion of the foundations of a steel bridge.  This bridge crosses a 50-foot wide irrigation canal in a rural area. Thermal is located in the east Coachella Valley of Southern California about 35 minutes from Palm Springs.  The area’s economy is centered largely on agriculture, which includes a wide variety of vegetables such as bell and other peppers.

site utile Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Agricultural canal bridge

This bridge serves as access to farmland and a residence.  It looks safe from the road level, but at this point it is unsafe to use!  This is a real inconvenience for the farmers who need to access their crops and perform necessary tasks such as irrigation monitoring, fertilizing, harvesting and replanting.  The homeowners are bothered by this nuisance, which limits their safe access by car or truck to their property without the worrisome danger of a bridge collapse.

When we arrived on site, we made several observations about the bridge’s construction and pointed out the extent of the problems.  The bridge was built in the early 1990’s across a channel that normally conveys about one to two feet of irrigation water.  Annual rainfall in Thermal averages about 3.4-inches of rainfall, but it can be more severe with thunderstorms.

sur ce site Take A Look Below At Damage

Underside view of eroded bridge abutment

In March 2020, water overflowed the channel, and it caused severe erosion of the south embankment.  This erosion potentially has undermined the north bridge foundation.  The south abutment footing has been undermined by about 6 feet, based on our observations.  The bridge abutment foundation is about 10-feet long beyond the top of the channel slope.

Repairing The Damage

View of channel erosion

Our services will include preparing recommendations to restore the foundations and to restore the eroded channel slope. We have provided the client with a report of the damage and a plan to make the necessary repairs, which will include securing the necessary permit and approvals from local authorities. The work will require significant labor to repair the foundations and heavy equipment for the channel slope.  Design, permitting, and construction of the project is expected to take about 16 weeks.

Too Close for Comfort

Existing Narrow Driveway and Wall

What do you do when the retaining wall along the driveway entrance to your coastal home’s garage is too narrow for your cars? After experiencing constant, annoying collision sensor beeping on your newer vehicle or a scrape on your classic car, you begin to think that something has to be done.

In Southern California’s scenic beach areas, the land is very expensive and this often leads to compromises in home design that sometimes later prove to be impractical. A popular solution is to go skinny and vertical—building two- or three-story homes on narrow lots with the garage at street level. The stunning upper story or roof-top ocean views are a welcome incentive to climb the stairs. Continue reading

When Your Pool Moves and Cracks

Patched pool shell & cracks.

We were recently hired to evaluate a beautiful pool and patio that were built near a hillside in the popular community of Diamond Bar, California.  Unfortunately, the pool has experienced soil movement, causing cracking and tilting of the pool and patio that led the concerned homeowner to call us before the damage became any worse.

This unfortunate situation is an all too common occurrence in hillside residential developments across Southern California, where the earth is prone to continuous movement, earthquakes and periodic heavy seasonal rainfall. One or all of these factors can contribute to the destabilization of slopes where homeowners often buy properties with spectacular vistas of natural scenery, sunsets, wildlife and more. The problems then begin after the outdoor amenities such as patios, pools and spas are built, the contractor has been paid, the first family celebration and then months or years later the problems show up. Continue reading

The Slippery Slope: What Can Happen When Contractors Fail To Practice Due Diligence

We were asked to perform a geotechnical investigation at a property in Temecula, CA, to assess damage and prepare repair recommendations for a pool, retaining wall and patio system. Damage was caused by settlement of improperly compacted fill dirt and the movement of slope soils. Cracks and separations in the retaining walls up to about 1.5-inches wide were visible. Continue reading

Owner Alert: More Building Code Changes

Wooden apartment balconies will require periodic inspections in California by 2025.

If you’re an owner or investor in an apartment building or an officer in a home owners association, which at the time of sale met all the building code requirements with all the paperwork in order, you might think that’s the end of the story.

Think again because, unfortunately, building and civil codes in California and elsewhere have a way of evolving and changing over time, which frequently requires new inspections and property maintenance.

A case in point: We were recently asked to evaluate an HOA community’s buildings and see if they were affected by California SB 721 and/or Civil Code Section 5551.

KEY PROVISIONS OF SENATE BILL 721
The bill (approved by the Governor on September 17, 2018) requires an inspection of “exterior elevated elements and associated waterproofing elements… including decks and balconies for buildings with three or more multi-family dwellings…” These inspections are to be performed, by a licensed engineer or architect, by a qualified building contractor, or by a qualified building inspector, before January 1, 2025.

The bill applies to apartment buildings, but not to hotels/motels and “common interest developments” such as HOA’s. The bill, however, authorizes a local governing entity to enact stricter requirements, and some will do so before the SB721 deadline.

Exterior elevated elements that are subject to this requirement include those building elements that are supported (in whole or substantial part) by wood members, are more than 6-feet above the ground surface, are outside the building envelope, and are designed for human occupancy or use.

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