Red Tag Alert: View for Days Comes With a Price

http://royalamericantours.com/wp-content/themes/suco/themify/js/utils.js 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

Block Wall Alert—TILT!

mail order Lyrica Tilted retaining wall

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.

Continue reading

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

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

Case Study: How the Terms Mouse Trap and Fire Training End Up in the Same Sentence

Fire Mouse TrapA mouse trap is a common, albeit annoying, word in suburban households. To most people, we picture a small slab of wood, a piece of cheese, and the impending doom for a little furry critter. A mouse trap, regarding to fire training, is a whole new ball game.

Helfrich-Associates was called out to a job site in the Inland Empire: A Fire Training Center. This state of the art training center will be utilized by fire departments and students in the surrounding area with every square inch of this training center being built meticulously. There are buildings that are being constructed specifically to be put on fire, but most interestingly, and why Helfrich-Associates is here, is the Mouse Trap. Continue reading

Understanding Shoring for Building Repairs or Renovation

An example of shoring.Shoring is a critical technique for many building renovation projects. If you have an older property that needs repairs or renovation completed, you may need to include shoring in your plans. Shoring a building consists of temporarily supporting the structure while critically important portions of the building are removed and replaced.  These include critical elements include foundations, load-bearing walls, and the roof.  Shoring can also be used to prevent collapse of building elements that are failing, and can allow the building to be safely occupied during repair construction.

Three of the most common are lateral shoring, vertical shoring, and excavation shoring. Continue reading

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

When Does a Property Need a Floor Elevation Survey?

When Does a Property Need a Floor Elevation Survey?Is it time for a floor elevation survey? Have you noticed a lot of cracking of the foundation or patios on your property? It could be related to ground or soil movement. When the ground under a property shifts, it can  lead to cracked foundations, patio slabs and/or interior finishes such as drywall and tile. This can be especially true in places like Southern California where we have very adverse geology such as clays, loose sand and unstable hillsides. Add to this years of drought followed by an El Niño year, and ground movement is inevitable. Continue reading

The Dangers of Building Without A Permit

The Dangers of Building Without A PermitGetting ready to start an improvement project and wondering if you can start building without a permit? If you’ve ever been in the market for a new property, for instance a new home, you may have come across some that were remodeled without a permit. Buyers may encounter properties that have been updated since their original construction with additions that range from electrical work to an expansion of the building. So what should you do when you find that perfect property that’s had work done but the previous owner may not have obtained a permit to do the work? Continue reading

What Caused the Big Sur Landslide of 2017?

Big Sur Mud Creek SlideWondering what caused the Big Sur landslide of 2017? Landslides can be one of nature’s most catastrophic forces. On May 20, 2017 California suffered its biggest landslide since the 1980s. A portion of Highway 1, not far from Big Sur, was buried under 30 to 40 feet of soil and debris.  Anything in its path was most likely swept away into the ocean below — altering the iconic coastline for years to come. Luckily nobody was killed, since the portion of the highway affected had been closed off due to smaller, earlier landslides that have been occurring since January 2017. Continue reading