Posts Tagged ‘Foundation Upgrade’

foundation plate with no nails in Los Angelesnail

noun

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.

verb  

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!

…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!

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.

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.

sinking-floors-walls

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!