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
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 earth—Disneyland, 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
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.
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.
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.
regarde ça 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.
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
Photo Source: Randy Jibson, USGS
What do you do when you own a vacant lot with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean in Southern California? You build a vacation home, of course, but there’s always a complication or two with coastal properties and sometimes it pays to call in an expert at the start of the process.
Example of exterior wall cracking.
At Helfrich-Associates, we know how important it is to do your research when starting a new project. We were asked to investigate a property located in Los Angeles. The house we visited was originally constructed in 1937 and alterations were performed in 1957 and 2010-2011. Continue reading
Do 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
Wondering 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
In the last several weeks Southern California has received much needed rain, helping to alleviate the state’s drought conditions. It’s critically important to our ecosystem that we get enough rainfall each year. However, it can be devastating to property owners and to public areas, especially if a property is not properly prepared to handle large amounts of it. Areas of concern can range from water intrusion into buildings to unstable slopes becoming mud slides. Continue reading