sagging floor in berkeley


I'm looking for recommendations for a structural engineer to evaluate sinking floors in my 100-year-old Berkeley (Calif.) flatlands home - you know, land of foundation-rattling quakes and soil-saturating winter rains. i've read through all the threads here, and am ready to start calling but would appreciate hearing about good experiences - or bad ones, for that matter. thanks and happy new year.
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vj spake thus:

Don't know any, but here's my suggestion: call Matt Cantor, who runs a home inspection business here. (You can find his ad, as well as his weekly column, in the /Berkeley Daily Planet/.) He's a good guy and can point you in the right direction, as well as maybe answering other questions you might have.
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thank you!. i appreciate it - the hardest part is having no clue who to call.
David Nebenzahl wrote:

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vj spake thus:

>

Tell me about it: like how do you find a decent mechanic if your car suddenly breaks down?
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- Posted and emailed-
On Sat, 30 Dec 2006 22:44:58 -0800, David Nebenzahl
:vj spake thus: : :> David Nebenzahl wrote: :> :>>vj spake thus: :>> :>>>I'm looking for recommendations for a structural engineer to evaluate :>>>sinking floors in my 100-year-old Berkeley (Calif.) flatlands home - :>>>you know, land of foundation-rattling quakes and soil-saturating winter :>>>rains. i've read through all the threads here, and am ready to start :>>>calling but would appreciate hearing about good experiences - or bad :>>>ones, for that matter. :>> :>>Don't know any, but here's my suggestion: call Matt Cantor, who runs a :>>home inspection business here. (You can find his ad, as well as his :>>weekly column, in the /Berkeley Daily Planet/.) He's a good guy and can :>>point you in the right direction, as well as maybe answering other :>>questions you might have. : > :> thank you!. i appreciate it - the hardest part is having no clue who :> to call. : :Tell me about it: like how do you find a decent mechanic if your car :suddenly breaks down?
To answer the last question, I would consider going to www.cars.com and checking out customer recommendations for car mechanics in your area.
The first question: I think I can help some here -- I also own a house in the Berkeley flatlands and it was built between 1910 and 1915 (not sure exactly when). It also has a sunken floors problem, in particular near the middle of the house.
I've had a number of contractors come over here and evaluate, several of these guys are foundation specialists. In fact, one is scheduled to come over in a week or so. They came recommended by one local city official, for what that's worth: Live Oak Structural. The official also recommended I call Winfield Construction. Dave Winfield came over and gave me a bid. He's quite experienced.
Probably the most experienced pro I had check this place out (two different occasions) is George Walton of Alameda Structural. George gave me 14 pages of typed recommendations!! I have a friend (who I met by virtue of this newsgroup) whose Berkeley house's foundation was rebuilt by George and he recommends him highly.
Beyond that, here's a site that should give you much useful information:
http://parents.berkeley.edu/recommend/home/foundation.html
Good luck!
Dan
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Thanks Dan, I've made an appointment with a structural engineer who was recommended to me. I'm interested in your decision to go straight to a contractor. My problem sounds remarkably similar to yours - the sinking is in the middle. I'd love to hear more about what your diagnosis is - and what you're doing. Did all the contractors agree on the basics? I've read everything on the Berkeley Parents site and it's been very useful, but sometimes contradictory - esp on this point about consulting with an engineer before going to the contractors. I still have time to cancel or change my appointment with the engineer. vj
Dan_Musicant wrote:

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- Posted and emailed-
:Thanks Dan, :I've made an appointment with a structural engineer who was recommended :to me. I'm interested in your decision to go straight to a contractor. :My problem sounds remarkably similar to yours - the sinking is in the :middle. I'd love to hear more about what your diagnosis is - and what :you're doing. Did all the contractors agree on the basics? I've read :everything on the Berkeley Parents site and it's been very useful, but :sometimes contradictory - esp on this point about consulting with an :engineer before going to the contractors. I still have time to cancel :or change my appointment with the engineer. :vj
It shouldn't hurt to talk to an engineer. I did have one over here back when I bought the house in 2000. Before he determined a plan for the new foundation he wanted more information. He crawled under the house with a flashlight in the crawl space, as did a few of the contractors I've had over here, and he said he wanted to know more about the existing piers. He suggested I crawl under and dig down to evaluate the footings on a few of the piers so we'd know more before he designed plans for fixing the foundation. He (and the contractor who'd recommended him) didn't envision a complete foundation replacement, but rather replacing certain sections, and probably certain interior piers. It seems that everybody has different ideas.
Most of the foundation contractors envision doing some leveling as part of the process. Most all of them tell me to be aware that in the process of leveling things there will be problems. Firstly, you can't expect the house to be perfectly level by virtue of the adjustments. You also have to be fully aware that in the process of leveling, many things are likely to be made out of whack. That is to say, some doors, cabinets, windows, etc. that used to open and close OK will suddenly not close OK. Thus, certain adjustments and fixes will have to be made to them or possibly you will want to replace some, depending. So, it's generally considered wise to do your foundation work prior to doing most if not all the other remodeling projects you have in mind.
In my case, well the house is old. Aside from that I suspect that the soil under the house may have at one time been a stream bed. It's possible, since a stream evidently flowed very close by - maps show it in the middle of the street in front of the house. Streams can meander, so it may at one time have been under the house! A stream bed would, I think, be alluvial soil and prone to adjustments over time, especially when the earth quakes. Also, I've discovered that my water main has leaks and the sewer system (also quite old) was leaking in a lot of places -- common things for old houses. I am having the sewer laterals replaced currently, and bidding a replacement of the water main. I think those problems likely have contributed to the house settling problems.
Foundation contractors have had differing opinions concerning the advisability or necessity to have the situation evaluated by an engineer. One guy said it wasn't worth the money. Other guys wanted an engineer's input. I'd suggest simply that you find an engineer who you are confident about in terms of competence and honesty and who has their feet on the ground and can give you practical advice and information. I don't think it will hurt to have foundation contractors inspect first, though. It might be good, if you are going to use an engineer, to ask the foundation guy what engineer he'd recommend. Obviously, they have to work well together.
Dan
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Dan_Musicant wrote:

Thanks Dan. I can't tell you how helpful this is. I have one other question, and I hope it's not rude on this site - but can you give me any idea about costs? As in, how much are a few new piers, partial foundation, full foundation? I know it's a ridiculous question, but I'm thinking ballpark. Getting real about this is actually helping get me past paralysis. In any case, I appreciate hearing your story. Mine's had a weakness at the center since I bought it 20 yrs ago (the previous owner said he "fixed" it); it's worsened over the last two years, i suspect because of those two wicked rain seasons we had - those months when it just never stopped and the ground got supersaturated. Water seeped in thru the foundation walls and floor for the first time, not a lot, but still. vj
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Posted and emailed
: :Dan_Musicant wrote: :> - Posted and emailed- :>
:> :> :Thanks Dan, :> :I've made an appointment with a structural engineer who was recommended :> :to me. I'm interested in your decision to go straight to a contractor. :> :My problem sounds remarkably similar to yours - the sinking is in the :> :middle. I'd love to hear more about what your diagnosis is - and what :> :you're doing. Did all the contractors agree on the basics? I've read :> :everything on the Berkeley Parents site and it's been very useful, but :> :sometimes contradictory - esp on this point about consulting with an :> :engineer before going to the contractors. I still have time to cancel :> :or change my appointment with the engineer. :> :vj :> :> It shouldn't hurt to talk to an engineer. I did have one over here back :> when I bought the house in 2000. Before he determined a plan for the new :> foundation he wanted more information. He crawled under the house with a :> flashlight in the crawl space, as did a few of the contractors I've had :> over here, and he said he wanted to know more about the existing piers. :> He suggested I crawl under and dig down to evaluate the footings on a :> few of the piers so we'd know more before he designed plans for fixing :> the foundation. He (and the contractor who'd recommended him) didn't :> envision a complete foundation replacement, but rather replacing certain :> sections, and probably certain interior piers. It seems that everybody :> has different ideas. :> :> Most of the foundation contractors envision doing some leveling as part :> of the process. Most all of them tell me to be aware that in the process :> of leveling things there will be problems. Firstly, you can't expect the :> house to be perfectly level by virtue of the adjustments. You also have :> to be fully aware that in the process of leveling, many things are :> likely to be made out of whack. That is to say, some doors, cabinets, :> windows, etc. that used to open and close OK will suddenly not close OK. :> Thus, certain adjustments and fixes will have to be made to them or :> possibly you will want to replace some, depending. So, it's generally :> considered wise to do your foundation work prior to doing most if not :> all the other remodeling projects you have in mind. :> :> In my case, well the house is old. Aside from that I suspect that the :> soil under the house may have at one time been a stream bed. It's :> possible, since a stream evidently flowed very close by - maps show it :> in the middle of the street in front of the house. Streams can meander, :> so it may at one time have been under the house! A stream bed would, I :> think, be alluvial soil and prone to adjustments over time, especially :> when the earth quakes. Also, I've discovered that my water main has :> leaks and the sewer system (also quite old) was leaking in a lot of :> places -- common things for old houses. I am having the sewer laterals :> replaced currently, and bidding a replacement of the water main. I think :> those problems likely have contributed to the house settling problems. :> :> Foundation contractors have had differing opinions concerning the :> advisability or necessity to have the situation evaluated by an :> engineer. One guy said it wasn't worth the money. Other guys wanted an :> engineer's input. I'd suggest simply that you find an engineer who you :> are confident about in terms of competence and honesty and who has their :> feet on the ground and can give you practical advice and information. I :> don't think it will hurt to have foundation contractors inspect first, :> though. It might be good, if you are going to use an engineer, to ask :> the foundation guy what engineer he'd recommend. Obviously, they have to :> work well together. :> :> Dan : :Thanks Dan. I can't tell you how helpful this is. I have one other :question, and I hope it's not rude on this site - but can you give me :any idea about costs? As in, how much are a few new piers, partial :foundation, full foundation? I know it's a ridiculous question, but I'm :thinking ballpark. Getting real about this is actually helping get me :past paralysis. :In any case, I appreciate hearing your story. Mine's had a weakness at :the center since I bought it 20 yrs ago (the previous owner said he :"fixed" it); it's worsened over the last two years, i suspect because :of those two wicked rain seasons we had - those months when it just :never stopped and the ground got supersaturated. Water seeped in thru :the foundation walls and floor for the first time, not a lot, but :still. :vj
I should have given you my email address in case you prefer to just email me. It's dmusicant@pacbell dot net
People do talk about costs in this newsgroup and it's not inappropriate to discuss them. I don't know the size of your house or the extent of the work you need done. I suggest you have several bids. May I suggest you check out a video I encountered at the Berkeley Public Library. It's entitled Hiring a Home Contractor and was produced by the Better Business Bureau Video Series in 2003. You can request it at any branch or at the library's website and they will deliver it to your preferred (i.e. closest) branch.
A friend of mine said he thinks foundation stem walls currently cost in the neighborhood of $160 to $200 per foot. Totally replacing the foundation on my 40 foot by 25 foot house would cost between $35,000 and $50,000 I believe. From what you say it appears you may not need a total replacement.
Let me suggest a few contractors you can call for inspections and estimates. These guys should provide that without cost.
1. George Walton of Alameda Structural. George gave me 14 pages of references!
2. Yanay Shik of Y S Construction. 527-7456, cell: 506-5670. I was referred to Yanay by David Sakurai, who is also a very good experienced general contractor (301-5735). David told me that having Yanay do my foundation work could save me a lot of money. Indeed, he has given me the lowest bid and I may have him do my house at some point.
Beyond that, and the Berkeley Parents Network I don't know much.
In the case of my house there's an additional problem with foundation work. I have brick and stone around the whole building and almost every contractor I've talked to said that all has to be removed and replaced, so doing the foundation on my house is going to be more expensive than for most houses.
You may qualify for zero interest loans through the City of Berkeley. To see if you qualify, call 981-5400 and ask for Ener Cuevo. That could be a giant help in getting the work done.
Dan
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