Archive for the ‘Walls and Interiors’ Category

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.

…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!

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.

Save Money on Foundation Repair Los Angeles CA

The best way to save money on your foundation is to properly maintain it.

A well-built foundation should last a long time as long as it is correctly maintained. On earlier blog postings we have given you a lot of information on the different things that could damage the foundation of your home so let’s look at what are some simple things that you can do to make the foundation of your house last a long time.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent damage to your home’s foundation and making it last:

  1. Keep the ground around your home foundation at a constant moisture level. The soil throughout Los Angeles is able to absorb (and lose) water. During rain season the soil is likely to swell as it retains water. During drier seasons the soil, being severely dry is likely to shrink. This creates significant stress on the concrete slab which is resting on top of the soil. Keeping the soil around your home moist during warm and dry periods and preventing water to accumulate next to your house during rain periods extends the life of your foundation.
  2. Keep a record of any cracks inside or outside your house. Write down the location and length of any cracks, then measure every few month. If the cracks are growing it is time to schedule an inspection. Even if the foundation is damaged we might be able to custom repair it without having to rebuild the whole foundation.
  3. If a large tree is getting too close to house barricade the roots to prevent roots-growth from damaging the foundation.

Over the years, I’ve inspected countless thousands of foundations and one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve heard from homeowners’ is this: “Do you think I should bolt the house?”  Well now being a foundation contractor, any answer from me could certainly be viewed as being biased by virtue of what would seem to be a distinct “conflict of interest” on my part, as seismic retrofitting (house bolting) is a service we offer!  It can present itself as somewhat of a “Catch-22” in that if I answer that “Yes, it is a good idea”, I look biased. If I answer that “No, it is not needed”, I may be doing them a great disservice in that there may be things that the house needs to better prepare it seismically. With that dilemma in mind, I have evolved a simple analogy that educates them such that they can then participate in the decision process. Quite simply, the most logical analogy I’ve found and the one that resonates with the majority of homeowners is simply this: house bolting is similar to putting on a seatbelt when you’re in a car; in the event that the car is in an accident, the chances of injury are much less than if one were not wearing a seatbelt and yet even a seatbelt cannot ensure that one will walk away injury-free. Well house bolting is essentially the same thing; a house that has had proper seismic retrofitting done to it has a much better chance of performing well during an earthquake, but also does not fully eliminate the potential of damage to the home.

The other key factor to consider, holding to the analogy above, is that technology evolves. The safety features in say a 1960’s car versus the safety features in a new car have very little in common; the “lap belt” has been replaced with shoulder restraints, air-bags, side impact protection, anti-lock brakes, crumple zones, etc, etc, etc.  As that relates to house bolting, the same is true of how well an older structure is secured versus a newer one.  Cars from the teens, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s primarily had nearly nothing that we have today in terms of safety!  Seismic retrofitting has been on a similar evolutionary journey, with the latest technology offering the most benefit.

It is most often true that the older the home, the more it will benefit from seismic retrofitting.  The only real reason to have house bolting done to a house is to prepare it for an earthquake; no earthquake, no house bolting needed. No car wreck, no safety features needed…  Though it is a personal decision, most people realize that just as driving around without contemporary safety features is not ideal, neither is hoping that their house is able to withstand the forces of Mother Nature should the time ever come.

Cracks in the Walls

Author: Tom

Walls crackingCracks in the walls? There is darn near only one reason why that happens. Water!  The photo below shows multiple effects of water. Notice the water lines on the rear wall. Notice the supports that are now leaning. Notice the crack in the foundation. Notice the expansive soil. All of this could have been avoided if the soil had not gotten wet.  This is the time of year when properties without proper provisions for rain water runoff end up getting over-saturated and cracks start appearing in the walls. Inadequate drainage is far and away the chief cause of foundation settlement in older buildings and is often a very simple correction. The longer one waits to do it, the more exposed the foundation is to damage though.

We specialize in correcting all types of foundation issues and in most cases, these needed repairs come from a lack of a good drainage plan long-term.  You’ll often hear us calling for foundation corrections but then also reminding of the importance of drainage at the perimeter.  We’ve sent out similar messages before, and others may come in the future. In that for most of us, our home is our largest investment, this is a simple way to help you really protect yours well into the future!


Author: The Editor

Sinking Floors and foundation ProblemsWhat is it that makes a floor slowly drop out from under the wall it’s supposed to be holding up?

A thorough inspection of the foundation of this home revealed this simple but harmful chain of events:

  1. Water was being collected from the roof by a set of rain gutters
  2. The gutters were directing all of that water into downspouts which were in turn dumping it next to the rear of this house
  3. The water was then flowing under the foundation and into the crawl space
  4. The lowest spot of this flat lot property was under the floor heater
  5. Once water began accumulating under the heater, the girder supports began to sink into the now muddy soil
  6. That left a key piece of framing hanging in the air above the sunken support
  7. The strain created by that missing support allowed the main girder to crack
  8. The floor above it sank in accordance with the lack of support now present at that spot
  9. The wall is actually now being held up by the ceiling framing above it

If your walls are cracking, doors are sticking, floors are shifting, house is creaking, or any similar event is unfolding at your home, have us come out and take the mystery out of it for you!

Water Damage and Foundations sinkingAs many of you have no doubt heard me preach repeatedly, water is far and away the number one enemy of foundations in terms of the cumulative damage that it indiscriminately does to so many homes.  For that reason, I wanted to send out this timely reminder – as winter is again upon us – that any drainage corrections that can be done to your home are best done prior to the soil under the house getting wet again.

The photo above is a fine illustration of how much effect Mother Nature can create under a house.  In this particular home, and this is all too common, the expansive quality of the soil has heaved up when wet and contracted when dry and in so doing, left a large enough gap for a hand to easily fit into. This is meant to be a load bearing structural support and yet it is simply hanging in the air.  With the soil in the currently dry condition, this would be an appropriate time to adjust this support to fill the gap.  However, one must also then take care of whatever drainage issues led to the expansion and contraction in the first place.

If the walls of your house are cracking, it’s not “because they’re old”, they’re cracking because there is some moisture related issue still creating effect in the foundation area.  Our interest is in protecting your foundation well into the future and for that reason, this reminder comes to you to be sure that you follow through with any needed drainage corrections in order to accomplish that. We can recommend companies who perform such services or you can locate a competent one of your choosing, either way your house will thank you!