Foundation Photos
A foundation is... Well, by general definition, it is the basis upon which something stands or is supported.  In this case, a structure.  Most of us would like to believe that a foundation will last forever, or nearly.  Unfortunately, while a foundation will last a good long time, it will not be eternal.  Some older concrete foundations are crumbling and in poor condition.  Unwashed sand, excessive water used in the mix, and inadequate amounts of cement can all contribute to the premature failure of a foundation.  Another consideration would be seismic resistance.  Homes constructed in the last 20 years are much more able to withstand an earthquake than homes constructed prior to the Loma Prieta and Northridge earthquakes.  If your home was constructed prior to the mid 1990s, consideration should be given to retrofit your home with seismic upgrades.  A licensed structural engineer can design upgrades that will help to preserve your investment from seismic damage.  With a huge amount of structural information, a great place to start is the Simpson Strong-Tie website.
These two photos are from an older home in Petaluma.  A really cute little place.  The problem was that the concrete was crumbling.  I even broke off a piece and brought it out to my clients.As you can see, the concrete was so soft that I could push the blade of my screwdriver into the foundation stemwall.  Needless to say, when concrete is this soft, it will not be able to hold anchor bolts or function as the primary support for a building.  This foundation should be replaced.Unbraced cripple walls.  Cripple walls are used between the concrete foundation stemwall and the floor system.  We are in earthquake country and these supports are more likely to "domino" when the earth moves.  Any unbraced wall should be reinforced.  The wall framing is a bit goofy as well.  Some mid-span supports are provided by adjustable metal jacks.  These are essentially a hollow pipe, into which a threaded rod is inserted.  Adjustment is made by tightening or loosening a nut on the threaded rod.  Needless to say, any water will tend to rust the metal.  This jack should be replacedI wasn't sure if I should put this in plumbing or foundation.  Since it is the floor support system that is the most concern, I put it here.  That piece of wood is not going to do that much good when there is so little of it left.  In addition, it is trying to hold up a tub full of water.  I am not really sure what is going on here.  The black line is asphalt or tar that was placed between the lower and upper layers of concrete.  This effectively separates the two sections of this stemwall.  I believe that it will reduce the seismic resistance of the foundation and structure.Another old foundation image.  This one is pretty heavily cracked and the concrete was soft as well.  Inadequate ventilation in the foundation area can allow water to condense on the wood framing and sheathing at the perimeter.  This can set-up conditions conducive to wood destroying organisms, such as fungus/rot.  As you can see in this image from the same foundation area, there is already growth on the wood framed walls.  This home in Petaluma was only a year or so old.  If it had gone on too much longer, there would have been some serious damage.Critters got into the foundation crawlspace of this Rohnert Park home and managed to pull down pretty much all of the insulation.  Not only was it a mess, but the majority of the insulation will have to be discarded and replaced.  This and the next photo are from an east side Santa Rosa home.  The ventilation under the house was poor, resulting in some fairly significant damage to the floor joists.  While this type of damage is actually the responsibility of a pest inspector, I try to give buyers as much information as I can.Unfortunately, some builders do not like the look of foundation vent openings and do not put them across the front of the house.  As a result, exess humidity in the foundation crawlspace area will condense on wood framing, resulting in expensive damage that could have been avoided.Sometimes it is difficult to describe a condition without a picture.  In this case, the floor system under a home in the River area is supported by 2x8 members laid flat.  For a joist to do its job properly, it really should be set on edge, otherwise it will sag and deflect.  In addition to the joists laid flat, the supporting girder is undersized.  Minimum size for a mid-span girder is typically 4x6, but this depends on load and span.  You also may notice a pier block that isn't doing much good as well.  Properly engineered seismic bracing, including shear wall panels and hold-down hardware will help a structure withstand an earthquake.  Once again, poor ventilation created a condition that damaged most of the joists under this home in Cotati.  Cotati home, continued:  Difficult to tell from these photos, but the amount of damage was significant.  Most of the joists under this home will need to be removed and replaced with new.  I have no idea how much that will cost.  Cotati home, continued:  A real shame, as adequate ventilation would have prevented this.  This home in Petaluma clearly had signifcant foundation problems.  These two photos show just how soft the concrete was.  I managed to bury my screwdriver into the concrete stemwall in the first pic.  This is some of the worst spalling that I have seen.  The entire face of this pier just fell off.
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