Damage Done By Plumber

DSCN1096Plumbers are not known for their careful consideration of the structural implications of what they remove from a floor. By which I mean, some have a tendency (regardless of the effect on the safety of the mutilated floor joists) to hack away whatever gets in the way of the plumbing they are installing. It does not surprise me how often CSES is asked to provide fixes for the damage done.

This is an especially bad (or good?) example. The plumber removed about 90% of two floor joists, not much in the grand scheme of things, but enough to lead to cracking in the bathroom tile, even if the residents do not fall through the floor. Still, it is kind of interesting to come up with repairs that don’t break the bank. Oh, the glamour of this job….

Open Basement Space

DSCN1179My previous blog notwithstanding, many people like their homes to be perfect. I can respect that, and in fact much of my design work is intended to facilitate that desire. The gentleman who owns this neat suburban home was looking to improve and finish his basement to be used by his growing family as more living/playing/working space.

Simple things can make a large difference and make the improvement process easier. In this case, the removal of a couple of existing posts was needed in order to open up the basement space and make it more useable. CSES provided the design needed. Neat and precise.


Location Of New Posts And Bearing Walls

DSCN1172A number of contractors keep the CSES number at hand when they undertake a remodel which involves moving or relocating a wall or post. If the wall is a bearing wall, we can replace that with a new wood beam; however, then the post loads at the beam ends must be accounted for. Frequently, the posts do not land anywhere convenient, and we have to provide additional structure (such as another beam or post on the floor below) and to do that we have to know where the new post loads are to be supported.

The blue tape in the photos is intended to document where new posts or bearing walls are located, on the floor above. Thus both the engineer and the builder can more easily visualize, and thus discuss, the changes in the structure necessary to achieve the goal of removing a wall or moving a post. It’s all part of the process.


Earthquake Safety For Second Story Deck

Earthquake Safety For Second Story Deck

Earthquake Safety For Second Story Deck

Most of us love to barbeque on the deck on a warm summer evening, especially if the deck is high and the view is good. Modern decks are, in general, well constructed and safe, but even in newer homes, constructed to modern standards, there are decks which are just a little scary. Such as this one.

The new owners of this house called me out to evaluate their deck, which is about 20 feet in the air. Although the basic construction of the deck framing (joists and beams) is sound, it was not adequately braced against lateral forces such as earthquake. In recent years, there have been a number of failures of decks, some resulting in injury. Invariably these failures were caused by inadequate connection of the deck to the building it serves.

CSES provide design calculations and documents necessary for obtaining the building permit needed to bring this deck into code compliance – an more important by far, to make it safer.

So, happy barbequing!

Poorly Located Deck Footings


Poorly Located Deck Footings

This young couple recently bought a home, and wanted to stabilize an upper floor deck, which was sloping due to settlement of the supporting footings.  The house is located adjacent to a fairly steep slope, and each time heavy rains occurred, the hillside supporting the footings shifted very slightly, so that the settlement was gradual but continuous.  The footings were located too close to the top of the slope.  Just looking at the hillside, it was obvious to me that eventually the footings will slip too far and the deck will fall.  It might take years, but in the end that is inevitable.

The previous owners had, over the years, tried many sorts of fixes, some of which were not exactly sensible.  In any event, we provided recommendations on how to fix the problem permanently.  Two options included using diagonal braces back to the homes foundation, and using driven pipe pile foundations.  Both of those will let the hillside do what it will, without affecting the deck. DSCN0909DSCN0910DSCN0915

Cracked Foundations In Seattle

photo4Lots of Seattle homes have cracked foundations, especially the older homes, many of which are 100 years old or more.  For many of those homes, these cracks are not a serious problem.  The cause of the cracks is usually a combination of poor quality, unreinforced concrete, along with soil that was not adequately prepared to support the weight of the foundation.  Often the cracks I might observe are nearly as old as those foundations.

In this instance, it is the sloping terrain that causes the problem.  And also in this case, some shoring up of the foundation is prudent.  The soil this home sits on is gradually moving down the hill, and cracks like the one shown here develop and widen.  There are a number of possible fixes that will stabilize the foundation, including retaining walls, or retrofitted pipe piles to prevent further damage.  In this case, we determined that the most economical solution was installation of piles.


Hodge-Podge Of Additions & Remodels

DSCN1258Many of us love the older homes in and around Seattle, despite their often all-too-obvious flaws.  Case in point, this engineer’s home is, in some ways, a hodge-podge of additions and remodels.  There is almost nowhere where the walls are perfectly plumb, or the floors completely level.  Even so, the home is unique and personal to me.  Earlier this year, this young couple purchased their own dream house, complete with seriously sloping floors and cracked lath and plaster.  They called CSES to meet them at the home and provide guidance regarding how to make their palace as livable as possible within the budget they had allotted.

There are many ways to remedy the sloping floor condition, and I make my recommendations based on a number of factors, such as the condition of the foundation, the degree of out-of-whackness, future plans for additions or remodels, the budget, the final goal, and many more.

You can see the retaining wall below the house.  Movement of this wall over time is a primary contributor to the foundation settlement that resulted in the sloping floors.  I recommended that the owners first determine if the settlement is on-going, and then decide on a fix.  As you may deduce from the interior shots, the couple puts time and energy into making the home unique and beautiful.  I feel sure the end result will be terrific.


Bridge Safe For Fire Trucks

Private Bridge Access To HOme

Private Bridge Access To HOme

This is a fairly interesting piece of design we encountered. The owner of a home near Carnation has a 50 foot long bridge crossing a stream as a part of the driveway leading to his house. It’s a private bridge, not owned by the state, and as such, has not been inspected or maintained in some time. During that time, like much else, fire trucks have become bigger and heavier. Recently the local fire department noticed the bridge, and asked the owner for documents showing that the bridge will safely support a modern fire truck, which means the structure is good for a standard HS-20 truck loading. Otherwise, if this fellow’s house caught fire, the truck would not be able to cross the bridge.

So they called us. We sent an engineer to the site to measure the bridge and to sketch details of how it is constructed. Based on this information, we made calculations that showed the bridge required both some maintenance (lots of rust, undermined bridge abutments, etc.) and some upgrades to the main steel supporting beams.

We prepared details showing how to make the upgrades. We have not heard yet if the work is underway….

Couple’s Home Had Nothing Wrong

100_0809We originally visited this fine family home, about a month ago, to help them with problems that a plumber had created in an upstairs bathroom. Plumbers do tend to hack away at floor and wall framing to fit their pipes, often to the detriment of the floor’s serviceability. At any rate, we helped the owner solve that problem.

Well, they decided to finally go ahead with an extensive remodel they had been considering for some time. After all, the repairs would cause a mess in their kitchen below anyway. We are now in process of preparing design drawings and calculations for them. The result will be a beautiful open space on the main floor, as well as a structurally improved bathroom floor.

The four kids are looking forward to less obstruction of their antics. The mom is looking forward to a really fine living space.

100_0760 100_0766

Beams To Replace Bearing Walls

DSCN0837This gentleman was in process of doing some DIY remodeling, and desired to remove some walls, and in some locations, to remove ceilings as well, to create vaulted space. The walls were structural bearing walls for the most part. CSES provided design and detailing for new beams to replace the bearing walls, and were able to direct him concerning how to address a couple of tricky situations. In the end, all problems solved.