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

Now You’re in Hot Water . . . Let’s Keep it That Way!

Water heaters are like many appliances, and they need to be maintained regularly to extend their life.  Minerals in our hard water, as well asnormal corrosion, can shorten the life of your water heater by years without annual maintenance. Otherwise, you might be in for a rude, cold surprise!

If it has been awhile since you purchased a new water heater, the prices have gone up quite a bit.  You can easily spend $500.00 to $1,000.00 for a simple, natural gas entry level small family water heater that serves up to four people.  

Labor is extra and typically adds up to another $1,000.00 or more.  In Southern California, earthquake strapping is necessary too.  With natural gas, the services of trained, licensed plumber are needed to ensure safety during installation and that the installation will meet local fire codes. 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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June Maintenance: Drainage Assessments

Hint: Water Always Flows Downhill …

Assessing drainage conditions around properties and how to improve them are both simple and at times complicated. Simple because everyone knows that water flows downhill; so you start out knowing generally what direction it is likely to go. Far more complicated, however, are designing commercial or residential property lot drainage systems based on technical analyses of how much water flow to expect, where it will go and what needs to be done to prevent damage. At Helfrich Associates, we are most often called in when drainage conditions have been long neglected and/or when there is real damage to property and structures. In Southern California with our abundant sunshine, it is tempting to put off addressing drainage problems until after our relatively short, but sometimes intense rainy season. Those fast-moving thunderstorms in August or that first gentle rain in the fall disappears and then nothing happens until January or February when the bulk of our seasonal rain arrives (sometimes in buckets). Continue reading

Double Trouble: Termites & Water

Dark staining means that the roof sheathing has been wet in the past from leaks. In this case, the insulation covers the evidence of the roof leak.

You may not think about it much, seeing as how it’s over your head most of the time, but the roof is an important part of every building.  The roof provides shelter from the sun, from hot and cold temperatures, and from water leaks.  A roof also provides large interior spaces for warehouses and other large buildings with walls and columns.  Roof structures also support important building safety systems such as interior lighting, utilities, fire-proofing assemblies, insulation, roof-mounted air-handling equipment, and fire-suppression systems.   

When things get tough it’s easy to start down the path of deferred maintenance (that’s putting off fixing that leaky roof until you “have more” money to fix it) but it’s important to make sure that your building’s roof is properly maintained – otherwise you could be looking at more costly repairs than if you’d fixed it sooner.

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Building Permits and Professional Relationships

Most of the projects that we are involved in require permits from the local Building Departments.  Although many cities have their own building departments, some cities rely on the County to review and process permits.  Other cities contract out the plan review process to specialty engineering and construction consulting firms.  Having a professional engineering submit your plans for approval is often helpful.

No matter who is in charge, having a professional engineering firm present your permit request and when necessary answering questions about your building plans can be extremely helpful.  More often than not, the person who will review and approve your building plan is also a professional engineer.  Based on our experience, we know what questions to expect and how to answer them for first-time right success in securing your building permit.  We won’t let you attempt to build something that we know will be problematic from the start and delay your project. Continue reading

Maintenance Series: Keep Your Cool All Summer

Now is a great time to perform the semi-annual maintenance of your HVAC system to make sure that your system is ready for the upcoming summer months.  I recommend that you obtain a contract with an HVAC specialist for this maintenance, which is generally done in March/April (to prepare for the summer months) and then again inAugust/September (to prepare for the winter months).  Take care of your HVAC and it will take care of you when you need it most. Continue reading

COVID in Retrospect: Positive Changes Come To Construction Industry

The past year has been a remarkably interesting one for sure. In March 2020, when we were informed of the COVID quarantine, our initial question was, “How is the construction industry supposed to deal with this situation?” We soon found out, to our great relief, that construction was considered an essential service, and that the operation of our business would not be affected. Unless, of course, our clients decided to stop their projects.

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Making all the Right Moves in Southern California

When the iconic 1960’s surf band the Beach Boys sang their hit song “Good Vibrations,” they definitely had romance on their minds and not earthquakes, slope movement, or landslides, etc.  Falling in love and that unsteady feeling you get during an earthquake are different to be sure, but, they both can rock your world and leave you as Elvis would say, “All Shook Up!”

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