Seismic Retrofitting Facts

Author: The Editor

Seismic RetrofittingSomeone tell me – what exactly IS a “retrofit” – does it make my home safer? Why should I bother? Isn’t my house already “bolted”. . . ?


Merriam-Webster’s definition: “retrofit” – to provide (something) with new parts that were not available when it was originally built.

– To furnish (as a computer, airplane, or building) with new or modified parts or equipment not available or considered necessary at the time of manufacture. definition: – “Retrofitting” – to install, fit or adapt (a device or system) for use with something older: “To retrofit solar heating to a poorly insulated house”.

So what is seismic retrofitting for your home?

Seismic retrofitting is the process of adding additional hardware, plywood and framing lumber to the foundation area of a building in a way that heightens its readiness and helps protect it during seismic activity. There are very specific methods of how this is to be done and unfortunately many wrong ways to do it as well! If your house is built later than 1936, it almost certainly has some level of “bolting” in place from when it was first built. Standards have of course evolved tremendously since then (imagine the lack of safety features in a 1936 car compared to a current one!) and this is where seismic retrofitting (bolting) comes in. It is employing current structural knowledge into an otherwise antiquated situation to improve its overall ability to help withstand earthquakes and to help protect you from catastrophic loss.

We perform full seismic retrofitting (“house bolting”) to current standards. The exact specifications of this work can be viewed directly via the City of Los Angeles website at Even if you do not live in Los Angeles itself, all cities that we work in recognize the Los Angeles standards and accept them. This includes, but is not limited to Glendale, Burbank, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Santa Monica, Culver City and the list goes on.

We also perform corrections of incorrectly performed or antiquated bolting jobs in order to help protect those homes from future earthquakes. (Statistic: 85% of homes within various cities of Los Angeles county that have been “bolted” since the 1994 Northridge earthquake had the work performed sub-standardly when it was done.) Therefore, only about 15% of the inspections we perform find houses to be properly and fully retrofitted. This includes houses that have been “retrofitted” after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. If your foundation retrofit is sub-standard in some way, we will be able to provide you a recipe for correction to resolve that deficiency and help protect your home from loss in any future earthquakes.

If you’ve not already done so, feel free to call for a complimentary

inspection of your primary residence and at the same time, we would let you know specifically (if anything) is lacking when compared to the current standards that are available!


new tfwLos Angeles, California – Industry leader “The Foundation Works”, best known for having raised the bar in their sector of the construction industry, this week announced arrival at its new Burbank corporate headquarters.

In a move that aligns with their unprecedented growth, what has quickly become the most sought-after foundation improvement company in Southern California has pulled up roots after more than a decade in the City of Los Angeles and relocated to its newer, larger, more accommodating facility in the City of Burbank. The new location, which was recently purchased and re-designed by the firm’s own teams specifically to accommodate the corporate operations of the specialty firm, is neighbored in the Burbank Empire Center by the likes of such giants as Courtyard by Marriott, Modern Film, Allianz, Playboy, and Deluxe.

Despite industry rumblings in the construction sector in recent years, The Foundation Works places the reasoning for its steady upward growth on the concept of not just trying to “out due the competition”, but rather on being sure that the competition is actually delivering a high quality product as well. Whereas policing their own industry may not have won them any praises from other companies that had previously gone unchecked, the consumers have spoken and brought this once small start-up into the limelight in the SoCal market as evidenced by their overwhelmingly 5-star level of review sites such as YELP, Angie’s List, Google reviews, etc.

Executive Director Marie Bilheimer, when asked to comment on the new facility, had this to say: “We are all just delighted with the new corporate location; it was built out and designed with our operation in mind. It has provided more of everything we needed to handle our growth, manage our existing operations as well as accommodate our growth strategy for the future. To really make it conducive in the day-to-day activities, the company even went so far as to include some extra touches such as integrated air-filtration systems, a high concentration of indoor plantings and on-site child care facilities such that overall, the feeling in the new space is tremendous! We’re all very excited to have seen it all come together as it has but of course are even more excited to watch it grow from here!”.

The headquarters move will in no way reduce the cities The Foundation Works can accommodate, in fact the innovative foundation repair company will still provide foundation repair and inspection services for the whole greater Los Angeles area and shortly expand their reach to all of southern California.



Original Series Starring Adam Carolla to Expose Crooked Contractors

We here at The Foundation Works are proud to have been selected to assist Spike TV’s new, non-scripted original series, “Catch A Contractor,” aimed at finally turning the tables on shady contractors. Host Adam Carolla serves as a vigilant watchdog to homeowners who have been cheated by contractors and left with unfinished disasters. Of the various opinion leaders representing specialized trades, THE FOUNDATION WORKS has been selected to weigh in on any matters pertaining to foundations.

Carolla, a renowned television, radio and internet personality with one of the most downloaded podcasts in the world, has a potential viewing audience via Spike TV of some 98.7 million homes. His message is long overdue, so we are certainly excited at the prospect of backing him up as he cleans up the field of construction in the name of giving the consumer the much deserved upper hand!

Adam himself is also a passionate master carpenter who easily identifies shoddy, inferior work, so the invitation for us to take part in this undertaking was a natural fit! Just as we do here, he takes it personally when contractors pass off their subpar work on average citizens and leave homeowners holding the bag.

Each episode will follow Carolla, along with no-nonsense contractor Skip Bedell and his wife, investigator Alison Bedell, as they seek retribution for wronged homeowners, whose construction nightmares range from the laughably incompetent to frighteningly hazardous homes that have been left completely torn apart. Carolla and the Bedells hunt down and confront unscrupulous builders, drag them back to their construction disasters, and make them finish the job right. Carolla and his expert team share their knowledge and ingenuity with the builders – not only in an effort to deliver homeowners the job they paid for, but also to give these suspect contractors the opportunity to redeem themselves.

We love sharing good news like this with all of you, it is simply the latest chapter in our continuing quest to be the best we can be, and to continually strive to surpass even that!

Sloping Floors

Author: The Editor

sloping floor foundationSometimes it is obvious to the homeowner, that he, (or she), has a foundation issue and needs to get it repaired.   But there are also many times when the homeowner just isn’t sure if there is a problem or not.

For example, many homes, (especially older ones), have floors that begin to slope.  Now here, in the Los Angeles area, where so many homes are built on hills, this could prove to be quite critical, if indeed a foundation issue is causing the sloping floor.

Sloping floors are not always caused by a foundation problem.  Occasionally, a floor may begin to slant because of rotted sills or an inadequate deflecting support beam.   In the majority of cases, however,  the  foundation is the cause.

A lot of people just live with sloping floors thinking that this is just part of the process as the structure ages.   This is not a wise course to embark on.  Unhandled, sloping floors could lead to further structural issues by causing strain in other areas.

If you are concerned you have a problem with your foundation, give us a call and we will come out and look at it for you.   One of our highly trained inspectors will walk the interior and perimeter of your home.  Then, they will crawl under it, to make a complete evaluation of the condition of the foundation.

Why can’t we give you a quote over the phone?  It is just impossible to give a professional “diagnosis”, without an on-site inspection.  Even if you have had someone else inspect it, we definitely want to make our own analysis.  You wouldn’t phone your doctor and say, hey doc, last week I saw someone who said my rash was psoriasis, what do you think?  No doctor would agree with the diagnosis over the phone (we hope, that is), without personally examining you.

Think of us as your foundation “doctors”.  Our “exam” is very thorough, at the end of the inspection we provide you with a full report. If the foundation is healthy we will let you know. Also in many cases we find problems that can be fixed with a foundation “tune up”, without having to overhaul the whole foundation and no matter what we find there is no obligation to have us perform the repair.

foundation plate with no nails in Los Angelesnail


1. a slender, typically rod-shaped rigid piece of metal, usually in any of numerous standard lengths from a fraction of an inch to several inches and having one end pointed and the other enlarged and flattened, for hammering into or through wood, other building materials, etc., as used in building, in fastening, or in holding separate pieces together.


1. to fasten with a nail or nails: to nail the steel plate to the wood framing.

2. to make fast or keep firmly in one place or position: Surprise nailed him to the spot.


Hiding in the darker recesses of a great Spanish duplex in Silverlake, we recently found multiple examples of these steel foundation plates that had the right bolts…but no nails attaching them to anything! During seismic activity, this building will not perform as it would had it been properly secured. Unfortunately, there were whole sections of the tougher to reach spots that had been completely omitted, so the picture here is actually not even the worst of it!


As we see this kind of unacceptable error on a fairly regular basis, we again here remind you of the importance of only having specialists perform specialty tasks; be it roofing, plumbing, electrical, foundation, or any other relevant trade, always spend the time to research out the people who will be entrusted to do things right for your house!

It may be true that one termite can only eat so much, but if he and his troops are lunching on a main support girder that holds up your house, every bite is leading towards an eventual problem!

Here we see an example of this where a main support girder under a 1921 house has been hollowed out and the floor joists that are meant to rest on it are now crushing what is left of it. This of course translated through to the interior of the home in the form of sloping floors and growing plaster cracks in the walls.

Whereas we here at The Foundation Works are not providing the same service as a pest control company does, we are yet quite aware of the amount of damage that termites can do to a home if left unchecked.

As it is fairly an “out of sight and out of mind” issue, I wanted to send out a reminder that having a termite inspection performed on occasion is good “preventative care” for your home. Whereas we do not perform termite inspections, there are many companies that specialize in that line of work. Utilizing on-line resources such as Yelp and Angie’s List as well as asking your real estate agents and/or home inspectors for the best choices is a great place to start!

…and yet another lovely travel destination brought to you courtesy of the inspectors at The Foundation Works!

This is the scenic view under a 1917 Craftsman in South Pasadena, a charming house in a quaint neighborhood but you wouldn’t know it by this photo!

Yes, there is water dripping through the electrical conduit in the foreground; yes, there is debris left by past tradesmen…

But the focus of our concern is the fact that this leaking bathroom is essentially being supported at its primary girder at the center of the bath by that one piece of 2 inch by 4 inch lumber in the center of the photo, the one that is at a severely shifted angle and which termites have (also due to the water) made a smorgasbord of!

We were called out to find out why the beautiful period tile in the bathroom of this home was cracking. Turned out to be, as is so often the case, a very limited problem and a very limited repair.  We had the client get a plumber to stop the leakage, then we cleared out the debris and brought in new structural lumber to restore the structural status such that the bathroom would then hold still.

In this case, the plumbing leak had been there long-term, it was not recent; this saturated the soil under the bathroom which caused the concrete support pier to shift. The wet wood also acted as an invite to subterranean termites, who came in and contributed by eating right through this main support post.  Next thing you know, the bathroom tiles are “mysteriously” cracking…

The moral of the story is simply this: Old houses do not crack and sink and shift and settle just by virtue of age; there is always a cause prior to an effect, and this is just one more instance of that.

Don’t be afraid of your house, if it is doing something non-optimal, have it looked at. You may find that what you worried about is actually a simple fix!

Is That Holding my House Up?

Author: The Editor

Yes, this is yet another “double-take” moment under a house where just when I was sure I’d seen it all, this…”assembly” came into view! As is often the case, the homeowner had no idea that this was underfoot and in fact this pile of scrap wood is in a location that made it very relevant to the two-story weight load above it!

Now, the good thing is that this is a very limited problem and a very limited repair, but the bad thing is that this makes this home very vulnerable seismically and so many such simple fixes (this is a few hundred dollar type repair) can be eliminated quite easily.

We pride ourselves on finding and eliminating the worst offenses as a means of adding stability to a building as well as helping to extend its overall useful life. In that we offer a free foundation inspection for an owner occupied primary residence, feel free to pass this e-mail on to anyone who may have questions about the foundation of their home. Hopefully we can give it a clean bill of health but if there are issues to correct, we can let them know the best way to go about taking care of them as well!

Thanks again so much, to all who helped make 2011 another banner year here at The Foundation Works!

Your confidence in us, all of your kind words, your recommendations to friends to reach out to us, these have culminated in a wonderful acknowledgement of our service (see below). This came to us from Angie’s List, an on-line contractor referral service we’ve been associated with for the last four years and it seemed right to share the good news!

All our thanks to you.  We are only as valuable as we can serve our clients,
so thanks again for the opportunity to have done so!

At your service,

Tom Pelletier, Owner
The Foundation Works

Angie’s List Super Service Award
for 4th consecutive year
Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

THE FOUNDATION WORKS has been awarded the prestigious 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually only on approximately 5 percent of all the companies rated.

“Our Super Service Award winners are the cream of the crop when it comes to providing consistently high quality customer service, as judged by the customers who hired them,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.

THE FOUNDATION WORKS, a southern California based firm specializing exclusively in the care of foundations, has been bestowed this award every year since it became a part of the Angie’s List service, a feat accomplished by very few companies in any trade.

The Foundation Works has again met strict eligibility requirements including earning a minimum number of reports, an exemplary rating from their customers and abiding by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List, but members can find the 2011 Super Service Award logo next to company names in search results on

Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service.

Should a Sidewalk Crack?

Author: The Editor

Well once again, and yes you’ve heard me say it many times before, there is a water issue causing this otherwise perfectly good house to have foundation issues that it need not have ever had!

Here are the indicators that the picture contains, if you look closely it will be quite clear:

1.  The sidewalk is sloped toward the house not away from it, and this is more evident in relation to the sections of it that are actually correctly sloped (foreground and background portions of it).
2.  There is water staining along the sidewalk adjacent to the house that shows where the water wants to go.
3.  There is past caulking repair attempts (grey color) right where the sidewalk and the house meet, but the repair is not working…
4.  There is a downspout in coming from the roof that supplies this “problem area” with 100’s of gallons of water on any given rainy day.
5.  And unfortunately, there are significant issues under the house directly in the line of flow of this water that has been flowing, unchecked, for several years.

This damage could have been easily corrected and would have saved this property owner from some pretty big foundation fixes. Now, as a hot summer draws to a close, is a great time to take a pre-emptive look around your house and see if there are any similar “recipes” that could be easily corrected now, before another winter gets to them!

Though we do not provide drainage corrections, having a drainage specialist come out and correct any such instances can help further protect your home’s foundation well into the future, which is our primary objective and I’m sure it’s yours as well!