As an architect with over a decade of experience, I’ve come to recognize and respect the outstanding reputation of Alpha Structural, Inc. in the Los Angeles area. They are widely acknowledged as the premier contractor for foundation engineering and repair, landslide repair, and earthquake and structural rehabilitation.
Their team, enriched with more than 400 years of combined technical experience, impresses me with their hands-on, in-the-field approach. This hands-on expertise is a stark contrast to the more theoretical, computer-managed side of architecture that I often encounter.
But what truly sets Alpha Structural, Inc. apart is their engagement with the community. They regularly share insights from their engineers’ day-to-day experiences, showcasing everything from amusing anecdotes to the most bizarre and sometimes hazardous situations they encounter. Here’s a look at some of the interesting stories they’ve shared recently.
1. These posts are waiting to fall over any day now.
2. The foundation of this home has literally snapped in half resulting in extreme shifting throughout the structure.
3. Jenga? Who wants to play?
4. This Rancho Palos Verdes home is experiencing extreme settlement and shifting which is evident in the huge cracks along the exterior. Let’s just say the bend in the roof is not architectural.
5. This 7-inch crack is showing severe signs of differential settlement, meaning portions of the foundation are sinking at a greater rate. Foot added for reference.
6. This home is suffering from a severe case of fungus growth inside the crawlspace. The amount of fungus that has spread across the joists and girder can potentially be a serious issue for the homeowners.
7. The Los Angeles hillside communities were some of the hardest hit during the storm. Hillsides all over SoCal failed and our assessors were quickly dispatched out on emergency calls. Don’t underestimate the power of water.
8. The main support beams for this stilt home are suffering from extreme wood rot.
9. These homeowners were out of town when their pool service technician left the water running. As a result, the pool overflowed and contributed to the failure of this deck.
10. An unstable slope will show indications of movement by the presence of geotropism, which refers to the growth of plants against gravity. The way the trees bend towards the bottom of the slope lets us know the hillside is unstable and is constantly moving.
11. This beach house was not spared from issues. The water has extremely eroded the footings and there is now concern for the support of the home. Also, do not get us started on the beams.
12. Due to the wood rot, they are now rendered ineffective and unable to provide adequate support, posing a serious threat to the structural stability of the entire structure.
13. Artificial fill was placed behind this wall. When the hillside began to erode, the fill began to come down and bring the wall down with it. The wall has already dropped about a foot down.
14. This is an alarming case of spall damage. When it comes to extensive damage to the structural support of a building, it is necessary to act quickly. The South Champlain Tower that collapsed in Miami reportedly had extensive spall damage in their basement-level parking garage. The longer the damage is left untreated, the greater the risk of a catastrophic failure.
15. This parking garage showcases an extremely concerning issue with its vehicle barrier wall, which is visibly disconnected from the structure and leaning over with a noticeable tilt. This is undeniably one of the more alarming instances we’ve seen, as the wall of the parking garage is at significant risk of collapsing. We wouldn’t want this to fall on anybody.
16. A retaining wall is at risk of failure when it can no longer withstand the pressure from the soil behind it. Poor drainage is a common culprit, leading to saturated soil and increased weight. This excess load can result in the wall leaning outward and, ultimately, collapsing.
17. This pier’s lack of stability was evident since we could easily slide our entire hand underneath and lift it. This should not be possible with properly installed post and piers.
18. Massive roots have infiltrated this crawlspace, a testament to the relentless force of nature always finding a way to shake things up a bit.
19. Another picture of the previous house. Foundation issues can lead to a cascade of problems, impacting the entire structure over time. This is why proper construction and constant maintenance are so important.
20. This cosmetic block wall has begun to fail due to the builder choosing not to fill the holes in the cinder blocks. This is why taking shortcuts is never recommended.
21. The underside of the leaking hot tub reveals the true extent of the damage, with more spalling and exposed rebar. We will need to demolish this entire area and start fresh.
22. During our assessment of this property, we discovered a substantial opening beneath the deck. Interestingly, the homeowners had been concerned about a rodent issue and were unaware of the potential entry point—ding, ding, ding!
23. This DIY job involves the use of bolts and nuts as makeshift jacks between the girders and posts and piers in an attempt to level out the home. This is not a recommended or safe solution.
24. No. Just no.
25. This retaining wall is gradually being pushed out of position by the growing roots of the tree behind it, leading to visible signs of failure.
26. During the storms from the beginning of the year, a tree fell on top of this home. Luckily, no one was seriously injured, though the homeowner was sitting on their couch when their ceiling came crashing down.
27. Daylight should not be visible in an ideal crawlspace. This suggests a compromised crawlspace, which can lead to various issues, including moisture intrusion, pest problems, and structural concerns.
28. This sidewalk was undermined by water. The big crack in the sidewalk allowed water to flow underneath and down the hillside, causing more erosion in the neighbor’s yard.
29. This home is experiencing severe settlement. Due to this, the front portion of the home and the stairs are now beginning to shift downslope.
30. How many pens do you think we could fit in between these bricks?
Stefanie is an architect with 15+ years of working both independently as well as on teams of some of the top Architectural Firms in the country located in Atlanta, Washington D.C. and New York. She currently runs BoardBatten.com a coastal architecture and design service in Port Aransas, Texas. She is also the wife of the dude who runs Pleated-Jeans.