Archive for the ‘House Maintenance’ Category

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!


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!

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!

Think this cracking is from an earthquake? Well it’s not, it’s from bad drainage around the outside of the house!
Having crawled under 1000’s of houses, poor drainage still remains the far and away most common reason for foundation problems needing correction.
If the walls in your house are cracking, it is not because your house is old, it is because moisture is getting too close to it.
Countless people call us each year with cracking interior walls and with a very rare exception, it almost always turns out to be caused by or continued by a drainage issue.

Home Foundation Care Tip

Author: The Editor

With Summer right around the corner warm weather is coming soon so don’t forget to water the soil around your home.

The main issue that can cause foundation problems is moisture in the soil next to the house.

To avoid costly repair keep the soil surrounding the house evenly watered during dry seasons. To just water the front and not the back for example could cause problems as the front soil would expand with water and the back one would contract due to dryness.

The Forces of Mother Nature

Author: The Editor

 The forces of Mother Nature are indisputable; given time, she can create some amazing effects by way of water.  However, there is a time and a place for “amazing effects” and the crawl space under your house needs to be kept out of this category!

The photo above shows a house in Mt. Washington that, due to an easily correctable issue outside the rear of the building, has resulted in a water flow path right through the foundation. This is undermining the supports under this otherwise perfectly good foundation. Notice the similarity between it and a similar occurrence in an undeveloped area…

Possibly the biggest single enemy of foundations is water. One of the wisest things you can do to help protect your home well into the future is to have the property drainage controlled such that no water reaches the foundation of the home. This is just good old-fashioned common sense that may save your home from problems it need not ever develop!

If you’ve not already done so, have a competent drainage specialist take care of any potential sources of moisture intrusion to help extend the useful life of your home’s foundation!