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
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.
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
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
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
We were hired to evaluate the interior ceiling cracks in a home in Fullerton. CA. A contractor performed measured floor elevations to see if there was any foundation or slab movement and their measurements showed that the slab had not moved. So, foundation settlement was ruled out.
During our site inspection it was noted that the eaves were between 5 and 6 feet wide. A normal eave is between 2 and 3 feet wide. It was also noted that stucco had been added to be bottom of the eaves which made them heavier than normal eaves.
What do you do when the tree you love is causing damage to your building?
On one of our recent projects, we visited an apartment building complex where one unit had visible damage caused by tree roots. The adjacent unit had no damage.
However, upon further examination we discovered damage to the sidewalks, and it became obvious that tree roots are growing underneath the foundations. We observed a 23-feet-section of the exterior wall that has been lifted several inches. Continue reading
We were hired to investigate a property that had experienced tree root damage. Tree roots had cracked and lifted a concrete patio next to the house. The owners were concerned about possible damage to the structure.
The interior and exterior of the building showed minor foundation movement. However, no roots were discovered underneath the foundation of the building.
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