As a former guest on the popular HGTV Series Flip or Flop, I had to deliver some unfortunate news to the very talented hosts of the show who rarely if ever have a flop on their hands. This time the home that they had purchased to flip had an old fissured, crumbling concrete foundation that would require expensive replacement. It was truly one of the worst foundations that I’d ever seen as an engineer.
The response to this episode was overwhelming with many of you asking me, “How do I avoid that kind of trouble?” The simple answer to the question would be for me to say, “Buyer beware and know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.” Continue reading
Nothing can turn a good property investment into a nightmare faster than discovering serious code violations that require unplanned and expensive repairs. The trouble usually starts with tenant complaints. When tenant complaints are ignored or poorly managed with substandard repairs, these situations can quickly snowball into major code enforcement violations, fines, accidents, evacuations, loss of life, litigation and even criminal negligence.
The building codes are different in every town, city, county and state. They are living, breathing documents that continue to change as new materials, products and construction techniques continue to evolve. Other contributors to changes in building codes are more subtle, such as socially recognizing that people with special needs must have equitable access or the true consequences of natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes and earthquakes. Continue reading
Los Angeles, California now requires Seismic Retrofitting.
As Californians, many of us have been waiting for “the big one” for years.
In 2015 Los Angeles set the nation’s strictest earthquake regulations. 15,000 of the city’s buildings will need to be retrofitted so that they can withstand the shaking of severe earthquakes.
Seismic retrofitting involves the process of securing buildings that may not have been adequately anchored prior to current retrofitting standards.
Most of the retrofitting will need to be done to the city’s apartment-style structures.
Smaller and medium-sized complex owners may not have the capital to complete their projects, but the city is offering various programs to help fund the cost. Also, many contractors have banks behind them and can offer financing to help fund the retrofit process. Continue reading
Code compliance differs between old and new construction and repairs.
If you’ve ever been to Redlands, California, you may have seen its many historic buildings. There are dozens of Victorian-style residences and Craftsman era homes that date back more than 100 years.
I was recently talking with an acquaintance here in town that owns (and was looking to sell) an older home from the late 1800’s. He was telling me all about some of the renovations that he thought were necessary in order to bring the home up to code and make it habitable as a residence. There was a lot of work that needed to be done – ranging from replacing old electrical and plumbing work to repairing some damage to the structure that was a result of age and unstable land.
At one point, I was asked what I thought should be done about the structural issues due to the unstable land beneath the home? He was very concerned about what the city’s building department might require to repair the structure in order to sell it. Since Helfrich-Associates has performed many investigations of structures that were built on unstable property, I knew he was probably dealing with issues that could range anywhere from minor cracks in the floors, walls, and ceilings, to difficulty operating doors and windows, to significant and serious foundation movement. If not repaired, these issues could discount the property value. Continue reading
Concrete cracking due to tree roots.
If you’ve ever bought an older property with trees on it, you may have run into problems with tree roots. Often you’ll find that tree roots can damage both your foundation and your plumbing.
If there’s a problem with your tree’s roots invading your plumbing, its usually an easy fix involving scraping the pipe lines and then flushing some chemicals down the toilets to keep the roots at bay.
If you have a problem with tree roots disrupting your foundation it can be a little more difficult to deal with.
One of our projects in San Marino, California dealt with tree roots from two trees that had grown under the house. Continue reading
When you’re a kid, some things – like stairs and heights, can be really scary. As an adult, perhaps not so much. Yet there are few things scarier than stairs that have not been properly maintained and are on the verge of collapse.
We recently had a project in Central California’s Salinas Valley that involved rusted stairs. These stairs led up to the second story of a large apartment complex.
The stairs were very wobbly, and possibly close to collapse, which was of major concern. A collapse would almost certainly cause serious injury to any tenants that were on or near them. A collapse could also affect access to the upper floors of the building. Continue reading
Start with a Structural Engineer to evaluate a property before you buy. It could save you money in the long run. Image courtesy pixabay.com
Whether you’re buying a property as an investment opportunity or as a property you plan to use as a home or place of business, there’s always a lot to consider.
Here’s a quick checklist:
- Check comparable property values
- Make sure you look at the crime statistics.
- Check on the quality of the schools in the area. This can tell you a lot about the neighborhood.
- Find out about any HOA dues, taxes and insurance costs.
- Talk to the sellers about their experience with the property.
- Schedule an inspection.
When you schedule the inspection, make sure you contact a specialist to look over each major part of the property. It’s a good idea to hire an electrician to check out the wiring, a plumber to review the pipes, and a structural engineer to look for any structural issues. Continue reading
As a property owner, an issue with your foundation stabilization can be an expensive process, and the process of correcting the issues can often be frustrating and disruptive.
When one door closes, another one opens – unless of course your property is suffering foundation issues, in which case getting those doors to behave might be harder than it should be.
As a property owner, an issue with your foundation can be an expensive process, and the process of correcting the issues can often be frustrating and disruptive. You’re going to need professional help to make sure it’s done right the first time.
Evaluating a property and getting a business or residence repaired, safe and usable is our specialty. Our team has successfully completed over 200 foundation repair projects – giving us the experience and the know-how for getting property owners back into their buildings with fewer headaches.
The team at Helfrich-Associates, a one-stop shop that handles all aspects of soils engineering, geology, and structural engineering services, can help. We’re a premier engineering and construction consulting firm in Southern California and throughout the Southwest United States.
First, let’s talk about what causes foundation problems. Continue reading
Hurricane image courtesy pixabay.com
As we get closer to California’s rainy season, which is usually between November and March, meteorologists are warning of a record-breaking El Niño. El Niño is a warm weather pattern that can cause heavy rain in the Pacific Ocean and surrounding land masses, such as the Pacific Rim countries, including portions of the Western United States.
Over the last six months, California has experienced several major rainstorms. While this has been great for our rain-deprived residents, it’s wreaked havoc on the parched landscape created by the state’s record drought. In fact, the drought has caused the soils to dry out, leading to surface cracks that will fill with rainwater. Continue reading
HOA Maintenance Image Courtesy Pixabay.com
When you live in a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), you get some great perks, such as an HOA maintenance team. Some associations also boast parks and pools, full-service yard care. The maintenance teams usually keep those facilities in great condition. If you’re not familiar with how these associations can afford offer these benefits, they typically collect a monthly fee from all residents within the association. Usually agreement to pay these fees is a prerequisite to purchasing a home within the association’s communities.
HOA’s often include homes or condominiums in their communities. We’ve recently been working with condo-based associations that are having difficulties with keeping up their HOA maintenance programs. Continue reading