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The “Golden Age” of the Foundation

Recently, I have been involved in the sale of a property requiring a full foundation replacement.  Local expert Paul McGrath of McGrath Contracting shared a few trends which I found interesting and helpful.

  • Some of the homes built in the 1920s are nearing the end of their useful lives.  Why?  The 1920s  represented boom in the development of housing in Los Angeles.  Contractors built many homes and mixed their own concrete.  Remember they did not have Home Depot 80 years ago – instead there were two dozen or so lumber yards between Hancock Park and Santa Monica.  Some contractors used sand from the ocean which was high salt content and begins to breakdown over time.  This is why on a given street a handful of homes will have foundation problems and many will not have issues despite seemingly similar conditions in topography, soil, etc.
  • LA City building safety codes are far more stringent today than they were in the past.  We have more knowledge  and more is at risk with escalating property values.  Engineers must be hired, permits must be pulled and concrete is mixed by computer.
  • Water is usually the source of most foundation problems as drainage systems were not common or required for homes built in the 1920s.  Some homes did not even have gutter systems.
  • Replacements are costly.  In fact, cost have more than doubled in the last 3 years.  This includes everything from building materials such as concrete and re-barb to insurance, permits and labor.

As a homeowner the smartest money you can spend is on gutters and drainage to make sure that all water is diverted away from the foundation to the street.  This will reduce the likelihood of foundation damage or mold growth requiring replacement.  Proper maintenance is an attractive feature to market to prospective buyers when you sell.  As a property buyer, you will want to understand the current condition of your foundation and whether it has been it has been upgraded to include earthquake bolting which is required if you chose to have earthquake insurance.  If there is no gutter or drainage system you may want to consider budgeting for one to protect your asset.

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