Estimates & Projects: Oakland Foundation, Driveway Bridge, & Retaining Wall

We are out every day providing recommendations and estimates to homeowners in Berkeley, Piedmont, Orinda, and throughout the East Bay Area. Below we share some of our recent projects including an Oakland foundation repair proposal, a proposal for a driveway bridge replacement and an Oakland Hills retaining wall and drainage project in progress. Read More

Oakland Foundation Health Influences Earthquake Impact on Your Oakland Hills Home

oakland foundation contractor

San Francisco East Bay cities experience earthquakes on a regular basis. While it may not be possible to predict them, it is possible to plan strategically for them. You might be surprised to learn that you can actually affect an earthquake’s impact on your property by taking the proper steps to bring your Oakland foundation up to standards, and fix underlying age-related issues that may cause the foundation to fail during a sharp quake. Read More

How Do I Know If I Need A New Foundation? – Some Key Indicators

Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda Foundation Repair – Signs of a Problem

As seen in the Piedmont Post

When I am evaluating whether or not there are foundation problems in your home in Alameda, Berkeley, Oakland, or other areas of the Bay Area there are several key indicators I am looking at. Some are more important than others, but taken as a whole they paint a fairly good picture as to the current and future health of the material that is holding up your home. Read More

10 Signs Your Hillside Home Foundation Has a Problem

The foundation of your home can develop various issues over time. In some cases, the visual signs of such issues are not a cause for worry. However, if they move past cosmetic issues (if a hairline crack widens, for instance) they may indicate serious problems that require professional help. If you notice any of the following signs of foundation flaws, you should contact an experienced East Bay and Oakland foundation expert to find out whether repairs are needed. Read More

Climate Change: How It Affects Your Older Home and What You Can Do About It

climate change older homesI moved to the Bay Area in 1978 to go to school at Cal.  

The weather back in those days was very different. Summers were foggy days until the afternoon when the sun popped out. The fog went away in the Fall and we had Indian Summers and that was usually our hottest weather. Winter started in October and lasted until March or April with off and on rain with mild temperatures. Read More

Why There Are Cracks in Your House (and What You Can Do About It)

One of the most frequent questions we get at Jim Gardner Construction is some variation of the following:

Why are there cracks in my house?  Why are my floors not level? What should I do about it? 

In this post we’ll break down typical causes and solutions for interior and exterior cracks so you can make an informed decision about how to take care of these issues the right way. Read More

Do I Need a New Foundation?

Most clients have no knowledge about their foundation and its condition until they begin to notice problems inside their homes- generally settlement cracks, sticking doors and sloping floors are indicators that something is amiss.

Though there is no cut and dry formula to show when a foundation needs to be replaced, there are a number of indicators which when looked at together should point the direction one way or another.

1. Are there drainage issues?

Drainage is the #1 culprit, and leads to settlement, cracking, and deterioration of concrete. Older concrete is somewhat porous, and water will soak into the material causing it to deteriorate. Since most older homes have nonexistent or improperly installed drainage systems, it is important to have the drainage issues addressed- either as part of the foundation work, or if the foundation is in decent condition to avoid an expensive foundation replacement project in the short term.

2. Is the concrete deteriorating?

By poking around with a screwdriver, we can see how intact the concrete is. Often concrete with lots of sand in the mix that has been subjected to drainage issues will be so soft it can be pulled apart with your fingers. This condition can be of major concern, as this concrete has very little strength and could liquefy in an earthquake. The harder the material the better. Appearances can be deceiving. Some of the ugliest concrete with lots of rocks and voids can be quite strong and is less of a concern.

3. Are there cracks?

A few cracks in older foundations is expected, but lots of cracks, especially one’s that are ¼” or larger can be problematic. Since older foundations typically do not have rebar in them, once large cracks occur the concrete can separate into sections that can rotate or settle independently from one another, causing settlement or shifting in the house above.

4. Is there rebar?

Most homes built before 1930 or so do not have steel reinforcement in them. Rebar helps to strengthen the concrete and hold it together in the event of cracking from settlement or earthquakes- cracks can still develop, but they remain hairline and don’t pull apart. The modern foundations we build have at least 5 pieces of rebar running horizontally, and verticals every 12” so they are heavily reinforced.

5. Depth and location of the concrete.

Often older foundations are not of sufficient dimensions to work effectively. If the footings are not at least a foot or more below the grade level they will be subject more to movement in expansive soils and drainage issues. If they are not 6” or more above grade there can be water issues at the framing level causing dry rot issues above. And if the soil is excavated on the interior of the basement or crawlspace too close to the foundations or if the footings are functioning as retaining walls and they are not designed properly they may settle or move, and they may create drainage issues leading to more settlement.

6. How old is the concrete?

Concrete from the early 1900’s that is still in place in older foundations is often in poor condition. Since most of the homes we work on in the East Bay were built between 1900 and 1930 this would definitely apply to them. Again, drainage, lack of rebar, improper dimensions, cracks etc. are much more pronounced in older foundations.

When all of these elements are looked at together, it is easier to get a sense of how your foundation is performing in these key areas. In many situations, where I give the foundation an overall score of 1-3 on a scale of 1-10 the need to replace is fairly obvious. In the 4-5 area it often becomes a more difficult question, where the client needs to consider their resources, how long they plan on remaining in the home, etc. If the foundation is in fair condition but in need of drainage work which might add another 20-30 years to its lifespan, that is often a reasonable alternative course of work. When the condition is poor, however, it generally does not make sense to do a drainage only project, since that work would need to be torn out and redone sooner rather than later as part of an inevitable foundation replacement.

Water is the REAL ENEMY for most homeowners!

The bottom line is that water is the main culprit implicated in most of the damage created to the exterior of your home, and can lead to interior damage as well. Maintenance problems such as chipping paint and damaged trim, poor flashing details around windows, decks, porches and doors, a roof which is leaking or needs replacement, or the lack of a proper drainage system around the home will all lead to potential problems when water comes into contact with your residence. Rainfall and underground water sources such as creeks and springs, a high water table, irrigation systems, leaking water lines or broken or disconnected drain lines- all of these water sources can wreck havoc on your home. Lets discuss how the different components of your homes exterior are affected. Read More