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!

The Foundation Works Earns Coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award

Award reflects company’s consistently high level of customer service

The Foundation Works has been awarded the prestigious 2010 Angie’s List Super Service Award, an honor bestowed annually on approximately 5 percent of all the companies rated on the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies.

“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 provides affordable foundation inspection, foundation repair, foundation upgrades, earthquake retrofitting and house bolting services for the whole Los Angeles area.

Angie’s List Super Service Award winners have 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 2010 Super Service Award logo next to company names in search results on AngiesList.com.

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.

Having Good Drainage

Author: Tom

Water accumulating around your foundation can damage even newer foundations.

Surface water should never be allowed to collect right around your house outside walls. When raining season begins right after a rain storm inspect the ground surrounding your house. You want to make sure no ponds are forming within at least two yards from the outside walls.

If the water is not draining this can be easily corrected by grading the area to form a slight slope away from the house. Also downspouts should be directed away form the foundation of the house and discharge at least  3-4’ away from the house.

Dry Soil

Author: Tom

Dry Soil and Foundation Damage Los AngelesThis photo seems at first to have nothing to do with foundations, but in reality it shows a very significant cause of what goes on when a house is settling.

Please do yourself the favor of taking a few moments to read this. It is very important recent news that may affect your foundation… 

We took this photo just a few days ago, it shows what can happen when a yard does not get the amount of water it’s used to. This homeowner went looking for a foundation company when the walls in her house started showing new cracking in July. What she didn’t know until we got there and showed her was that having dialed her water usage back about a month ago, the soil of the yard had contracted as it dried out from lack of its usual watering schedule. This in turn created gapping at the ends of the landscaping not only next to the city sidewalk but also next to the house itself.

Recent water restrictions can damage your foundation! This is a word of advice, there is easily preventable damage that can be avoided by taking a few common sense steps that will allow you to follow the guidelines of water usage and yet do so in a way that keeps your house from being adversely affected by it.

As you are likely aware, recent water usage restrictions have been put into effect that drastically reduce the liberty to water your yard as you see fit.  There is a hidden downside to this that can create new foundation problems and it is for that reason that we are sending you this message.

Simply put, cared for landscaping adjacent to a house that is used to getting the correct amount of water includes the factor of having the soil in that area contain a relatively steady level of moisture in it. This tends to keep the soil from drying out too much which in some types of soil could otherwise allow for soil contraction to occur. Combined with the recent high humidity, greatly reducing or even eliminating the watering of landscaping near the home is causing issues to “activate” that until recently had not been present.  When the soil next to the outside of the house shrinks, it allows room for the soil next to it to contract and the foundation walls can then shift towards that newly created gapping. This is enough to cause the house to display new issues.  We typically inspect several foundations a day in various parts of Los Angeles county and over these past weeks, there has been a distinct rise in the amount of situations where new clients that are calling for inspections are speaking of things happening in houses that seem to have “suddenly started”. One for one, we have found altered watering schedules to be the single common denominator of all of these issues. Where this pertains to you is that if you have reduced the watering of the foliage areas adjacent to your home, new manifestations may begin to appear. These would be things in the home like cracks in walls, sticking doors, floor seams showing separation, etc.  We go from house to house, all day every day, looking at various occurrences and so are extremely in tune to why these things occur.  Having an external force such as the water municipality introduce a variable into the existing “recipe” of a workable watering schedule is a concern. This is a change that they do not likely even realize can cause foundation issues that would not otherwise have occurred.

We are not advocating that you ignore the restrictions but rather that you alter your watering scheduling to ensure that the landscaping closest to the house gets the closest to its “previously normal” watering program and that the further from the house an area of the yard is, the less relevant it is to the foundation.

We hope this information is helpful to you, please do pass it on to others you know who may otherwise experience similar issues. Specific recommendations can be found at www.bewaterwise.com as to how to go about tuning your particular yard watering to find a happy medium that both reduces water usage and keeps the house from damage. Our objective is to help your house have a healthy foundation and a big part of that objective is preventative care such as described above.

Bad Foundation BoltTRUE: All legally permitted houses built after 1936 in the City of Los Angeles and most surrounding cities are “bolted” to their foundations.

FALSE:  Those bolts are in the same condition now as they were when installed…

Having crawled under 1,000’s of houses and seeing many interesting sights during those “adventures”, above is a photo of something that we see all too often. This is one of a series of failed anchor bolts in a “bolted” house built in the late 1930’s.

There are several key points in the photo. First, and most obvious, the rusted anchor bolt was removed by simply lifting it out of the piece of wood that was originally anchoring it down to the foundation. No tools required, it just came right out. Secondly, notice the chunks of concrete lying in the dirt below. This is the cracked foundation created by the expansive pressure of the rusting metal over time. Why? Water coming through from the exterior over time.  Next you’ll notice the white chalkiness on the concrete, this is the mineral deposits that water has pulled out of the concrete foundation, further weakening it.  On the ground you can see the metal shards that once formed a perfectly good steel anchor bolt.

If you’re not sure of the status of what’s holding your house down, we can come out and perform a fast, honest, and accurate evaluation of your foundation system and can tailor a prescription to bring your home up to current standards seismically.

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!