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.
What Might Be Wrong With Your Foundation
If you’re experiencing doors that won’t close, uneven floors, or cracking in your walls you might have a problem with your property’s foundation.
Settlement and lateral soil movement that require repair can be the result of a building that was erected on poorly compacted fill soil or expansive clay. A property with poorly maintained areas around the foundation can also suffer from on-going foundation problems. Poor maintenance is often related to over-watering or under-watering of landscaping, but can also be caused by surface drainage ponding.
If you see (or suspect) any of these issues, contact a professional engineer, geologist or specialty contractor as soon as possible. The longer the issues remain unresolved, the worse the damage can be – resulting in costly damage.
Repairing Your Foundation
Foundation repairs can be accomplished through several means, depending on the nature and extent of damage, and the potential for future movement. Some common solutions include underpinning, slope stabilization, pressure grouting, and foundation and/or slab replacement.
Pressure grouting, sometimes called slab jacking or mud jacking, is the process of lifting a sunken concrete slab by pumping a sand-cement or chemical grout below the slab, effectively pushing it up from below. Holes as small as 5/8-inch diameter are drilled through the slab and grout is pumped into the space below the slab. Once the slab has been leveled, the holes are patched and the project is complete. This process of injecting grout into the soils can also be used to densify and strengthen soils at depth (up to 30 feet deep is common). One downside to pressure grouting is that the slabs and foundations may not lift back to level using grouting alone.
Foundation underpinning is accomplished by clearing away the areas around a property and then digging below the foundation. Foundation piers can be steel pipes that are hydraulically jacked into the ground, helical anchors that are screwed into the ground, or drilled, cast-in-place concrete piers. Each of these types of underpinning are structurally attached to the existing building foundations. Piers are generally driven or drilled to bedrock or competent soil, and the foundations can then be lifted and levelled. After the lifting is performed the space between the bottom of the foundation is then filled with structural grout.
The team at Helfrich-Associates has worked with more than forty building departments in the past three years on more than 200 foundation repair projects. If any of the following sounds familiar to you, rest assure you’re not alone.
The Berkeley Hotel
In early 2011 Helfrich-Associates was asked to examine The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at Berkeley Marina and evaluate the structural integrity of a portion of the hotel.
The hotel, built in the 1970s, had a building that was suffering from titling due to uneven soil conditions. The building in question, number three (3), was built on a 12-inch thick, reinforced mat foundation that was not sufficient to deal with the settling of soft soils. As a result, the building had tilted more than 20 inches.
During the initial phases of the project, we drilled a boring to about 75 feet depth, and performed laboratory testing on the samples. Helfrich-Associates determined the best way to level the building was to design and implement a deep underpinning solution to support the building on deeper, more uniform soils.
Once the lifting and stabilization was completed, Helfrich-Associates determined that the building is structurally sound.
Malibu Landslide Stabilization
In 2014 our team designed a slope retention system to stabilize two vacant properties so that custom homes overlooking the Pacific Ocean could be built. The Helfrich-Associates team of geologists, civil engineers, soils engineers and structural engineers analyzed the subsurface data and designed a unique combination steel and concrete system to withstand the landslide loads on the property.
This system consisted of drilled, cast-in-place concrete piers to about 40 feet depth that were laterally restrained by steel helical anchors that were screwed into the bedrock below the slide plane. Two, full-scale load tests to more than 100,000 pounds tension were performed to verify the design.
Our unique design saved the client significant costs compared to the cost of the original design, which consisted of much deeper, larger diameter concrete piers.
Downtown Los Angeles Foundation Retrofit
In addition to construction observation services, Helfrich-Associates is currently providing geotechnical and structural engineering services for a four story, unreinforced masonry apartment building near downtown Los Angeles. The building was constructed in the early 1920’s, and had been structurally retrofitted more than 20 years ago.
Continuing perimeter and interior foundation movement and water damage were causing uneven floors, and potentially dangerous floor framing conditions in the building. Extensive construction services engineering, based on conditions that have been discovered during construction, are being provided by our team.
The building has been affected by extensive rot to some of the floor framing, and we are removing several generations of inadequate and inappropriate attempts to repair damage to the building. The Helfrich-Associates team on this project consists of civil engineers and geotechnical engineers.
Ready to Start? You’ll Need A Permit
We recommend to all our clients that they obtain permits from the local building departments for foundation repair projects. The plans, structural calculations, and soils reports for the project are reviewed and approved by the building department before the contractor can begin the work. Most permits require that a certified inspector visits the site and verifies that the contractor is properly following the approved plans. The inspector will verify that all work is done to code and meets all safety requirements. A permit also requires that licensed and bonded contractors complete the work where applicable.
Let Us Help You Get Your Permits
Because Helfrich-Associates is a one-stop shop – providing soils engineering, geology, and structural engineering services – our projects are easier and take less time to complete. That’s because there’s less coordination between outside companies when it comes to in preparing the project plans, specifications, and reports.
Most building departments have licensed engineers who review our plans, details, and calculations to verify that our work complies with the Building Code.
Where interpretations of the Code are needed, building departments often come to differing conclusions about how to apply the Building Code (which is primarily written for new construction) to retrofit and repair projects. Many building departments have unique requirements for construction projects in their jurisdictions. The Helfrich-Associates team is experienced with these requirements, and we are comfortable explaining our plans and design concepts with the local building department reviewers.
Despite the different requirements across departments, we have the experience and knowledge to get you through the permit process and started on your projects.