Property owners typically ask “I know that I have a foundation problem, but what do I do now, what are the steps I should take in getting it repaired”? The following is a basic outline which indicates the various steps necessary to effectively complete the often arduous, but necessary Building permit and contractor selection process:
Most foundation issues are the result of soils/geology issues such as expansive soil, hillside creep etc., rather then a structural issue such as concrete failure, etc., Therefore, the first step in the process is to retain the services of a Soils/Geotechnical Engineering firm. The Soils/Geotechnical Engineer will evaluate the project site above and below the surface of the ground. This investigation will include all or part of the following in addition to other information specific to the project:
1.). Manometer survey (floor level survey to determine foundation/slab movement)
2.). Test pits - commonly hand dug to determine footing size and depth, or to determine depth of fill soils, etc.
3.). Borings - Typically performed with portable drill equipment to deeper depths to determine underlying geological formation of the site, depth of water table, angle of bedding plains which might effect lateral stability of the structure etc.,
4.). Corrosion Potential - Necessary to determine if concrete and/or steel could be adversely effected by highly corrosive soils.
Once the Soils/Geology Report has been completed, a copy of the report is provided to the project Civil/Structural Engineer for use in preparation of the actual “plan of repair”. The Soils/Geology report outlines what caused the foundation issues, as well as providing options for repairing them. Most Geotechnical firms will offer more then one option if they feel that the desired end result can be accomplished by more then a single approach. In this regard, the property owner needs to realize that many foundation contractors only offer a single specific method of repair which may or may not be the best approach for your particular project. These firms generally employ either “Resistance” or “helical” Pile systems only. Both systems have a purpose when used appropriately, but not all such mechanical systems are an appropriate alternative to conventional concrete pile and grade beam systems depending on the situation. The structural engineer’s job is to weigh the various options based upon cost, site access for equipment, Building Department approvals, Soils Engineers approval and completes his design and calculations.
Once completed, this “plan of repair” is then sent back to be reviewed by the project Soil/Geotechnical Engineer for the purpose of verifying that all of the recommendations outlined in their soils/geology report have been complied with.
Now, the LAST STEP step in the process is to engage foundation repair contractors to provide you with itemized, apples to apples repair estimates which are all equally based upon the same “plan of repair”.
However, we find that most property owners tend to reverse the entire process by soliciting contractor's repair quotes from advertisements on the internet, generally based upon how high up on the page their company is listed which is in no way an indicator of a contractor's competence. Soliciting contractors for estimate’s of repair prior to having a complete set of repair plans and specifications does nothing more than complicate the process. Without a proper set of plans the owner will generally get a vastly different scope of work and cost from every contractor called to bid leaving them completely confused. Further, owners tend to lose trust in the contractors who are all selling something different.
Owners should keep In mind that the contractor’s role in foundation repair is limited to “implementing” the repair plan which was designed by the owner's project engineers only, it is not their role to provide recommendations for such repairs, as most are not licensed to do so. Further, when soliciting contractors for your foundation repair project search out those firms that specialize in “Foundation Repair” , meaning those who are experienced in all types and methods of foundation construction and remediation, not simply one or two methods.
The science and methodologies employed in the repair of a distressed foundation vary greatly from those of new building design and construction. As in many fields, repairing of damaged structures requires a much wider field of experience and expertise then that of building a new structure.
The following lists of engineers include only those firms and individuals that I have had the pleasure of working with and can personally contest to their competence:
Grover Hollingsworth & Associates - Mr. Bob Hollingsworth - 818-889-0844
Hamilton Geotechnical - Mr. Richard Martin - 310-618-2190
Steven Helfrich & Associates - Mr. Steve Helfrich - 909-389-7316
Subsurface Designs - Mr. Jon Mann - 818-898-1595
Bay City Geology - Mr. Jonathan Miller - 310-429-6681
Geosoils Inc. - Ms.Karen Miller - 818-785-2158
Associated Soils Engineering, Inc. - 562-426-7990
RMA Geoscience - Mr. Mark Swiatek - 818-262-4527
Wahba F. Wahba Inc. - Mr. Wahba F. Wahba - 818-974-4096
Albert Avila & Associates - Mr. Albert Avila - 818-489-4076
Ashley & Vance - Mr. Sean Galbreath - 323-744-0010’
Joe Podegracz Engineering - Mr. Joe Podegracz - 818-235-9224
Palos Verdes Engineer - Mr. John Schruich - 31-541-5055
Parker Resnick & Associates - Mr. Leo Parker - 310-478-8372
NCE Structural - Mr. Bill Nelson - 714-322-0982
Palos Verdes Engineering - Mr. Rick Moralis - 310-541-5055
David C. Weiss & Associates - 818-227-8040
Greg Riley P.E. - 805-630-6619