Love Your Trees, But Keep Them Away … Please!

In hot, dry, crowded Southern California, many people are attracted by those resort style or park-like homes set on ocean-view or urban forest lots.  They tug at every nature lover’s heart.  You fall in love with statuesque Palms or the sculpted limbs of old California Oaks or evergreen Cedars or stately Sycamores or fragrant Eucalyptus surrounded by beautiful lawns and beds full of shrubs and flowers.

I love trees too.  Trees provide shade and are awesome to look at.  There is, however a big downside to trees placed too closely to homes. They look great when you buy the home or when you plant those stick-like saplings.  Years later, unfortunately, we are often asked by property owners and insurance companies to evaluate the structural damage after large trees fall or invasive tree roots cause harm. Continue reading

Dream Home: Pool Nightmare

The owners of a beautiful contemporary 7,000-square foot dream home with a forever view in Murrieta near the Temecula wine country of Southern California awoke to a disturbing pool disaster a few years ago. Shortly after construction, their new pool, surrounded by a resort-like patio deck suddenly started to slip tragically down the slope below.

The movement of the patio/pool structure with large, visible cracks left no doubt about the unstable nature of the lot and hillside below. With the region’s often weak, compressible soils, and a proclivity for earthquakes, hillside homes in Southern California are often unstable and subject to more than a little shaking. Continue reading

Property Inspections—Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Can a tennis ball really give you home-buying insight? Normally, when people are looking for properties to purchase, they worry about the roof or the walls or the plumbing or the appliances or the heating/ac system, but not many realize that inspecting the foundation is critical to the building’s structural integrity.

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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