Archived Q&A and Reviews
Consulting Engineer to Check Foundation Bolting
I'm looking for a recommendation for a consulting engineer to check the work of a contractor who bolted my house to the foundation. The contractor did other work on my house that turned out to be of very poor quality so I want his retrofitting work checked. I've already contacted two engineers who were recommended to me by Wayne Harrison at Earthquake Safety, neither of these individuals responded to my calls, they are Monte Stott and Dan Szumski. Thanks! Rebecca
Dan Szumski is a good, reasonably priced, engineer who draw plans for earthquake retrofits but he is not local which is probably why he didn't respond. He designed our earthquake retrofit, which is much more complicated than just bolts. Dave Ford is a great contractor, the nuts and bolts guy, who will do the actual retrofit construction. He is very thorough,really knows his stuff, is totally honest and open, and his charges are very reasonable. I got his name through BPN. He also has great reviews on YELP. I suggest contacting him about your bolts David Ford jdavidford [at] gmail.com 510-845-9076 http://www.eastbayretrofit.com/ Reva
Dan Szumski did our foundation inspection and drew up the retrofitting design, including bolting the foundation. He was excellent. Personable and responsive to our questions. However, he lives in Davis and comes to the Bay Area I think only 2 or 3 times a week, so it may take him a little time to respond to your query. (If he doesn't, then obviously you'll have to look elsewhere.) He's worth it. Don Tyson
Jay Marlette is who you need. He is actually a home inspector, but he has the skills you to assess your retrofitting. More importantly, he is honest and will tell you bluntly what was done right or wrong. Ever since he did our home inspection for purchasing our house 6 years ago, I have called him for numerous reasons and he has never let me down! His phone number is 510-847-2171 (http://houseman.org/) Camille
I saw a few of the replies you got and felt compelled to chime in. Please don't waste your time running after Dan Szumski. We hired him to design our foundation and seismic work a few years ago. We paid him $900 to provide plans and a written report on the state of our then-existing foundation. He gave us the plans only, and when we followed up and asked for the report, he couldn't find it and never provided it. Furthermore, the plans he DID give us had his calculations on them, featuring basic arithmetic errors. (i.e., he calculated the number of bolts needed, etc based on a mistaken calculation of the weight of our house.) In sum: biggest waste of $900 ever.
We later had occasion to hire a structural engineer to consult on a retrofit of a detached garage on our property. We hired Josh Kardon and were very satisfied.
We also later unfortunately needed to hire someone to inspect our contractor's foundation work. It's a long story, but we had filed a complaint with the contractors state license board (cslb) and the contractor had gotten his lawyer involved (and later wound up frivolously suing us in an attempt to make our lives miserable enough that we would withdraw our complaint w/ the cslb.) In that situation, we hired home inspector John Brogan to inspect the contractor's work. We hired him because he sometimes works for the cslb's arbitration program, so he was thorough, careful, and totally on top of building codes (and spent time researching anything he didn't know off the top of his head). I couldn't tell from your message, but if there is any possibility of this turning into any kind of legal action, John Brogan might be a good person to call. He's not an engineer, but he can help you identify building code violations and shoddy workmanship. In our case, Brogan identified loads of problems we had missed. Showing the contractor Brogan's report got the contractor to back off. He went from suing us to writing us a big check. And of course Brogan's inspection helped tremendously when the time came to fix the contractor's shoddy work. A Rockridge Mom
Contractor who specializes in earthquake retrofitting?
Does anyone have a recommendation for a good Contractor who specializes in earthquake retrofitting? Also, hoping to find someone who knows how Berkeley's seismic rebate program works and can help me with the process to get money back from the program. Thanks, all recommendations really appreciated! Berkeley resident
Alameda Structural without reservation. Fair pricing, reliability, courtesy and clean-up. They capped our foundation and constructed shear-walls about four years ago. No great shakes to test them, but I feel confident in their work. Carol
Steve Egloff and his company Bay Area Underpinning steveegloff [at] att.net Steve and his crew replaced a partial foundation for me that included removing the old foundation, building a new foundation, removal and reconstruction of a concrete floor in a basement area, sesmic retrofitting, French drain and sump pump. I am not sure if you are looking for someone who only does seismic work, but my house was certainly a lot stronger after they worked on it. The bus that goes by every 10 minutes no longer shakes it like an earthquake like it did before the foundation replacement. They were really great to work with, to have around my house, had an excellent work ethic, did beautiful work, earned the admiration of my neighbors with whom I share the property boundary where they were working, were timely and communicative, always keeping me informed about the various stages of work and were also the lowest bidders. I know they have done numerous types of foundation stuff including deep piles for houses on steep slopes. Steve seemed to be very knowlegable about his craft. highly recommended. Don't know about their ability to handle rebate programs, you'll have to ask. phone 707-310-0602 kl
FIRST, before you even think about hiring a contractor, you need to hire and work with a structural engineer and, most likely, a soils engineer ! Structural engineers and soils engineers will provide a structural design (plans and specifications) to repair / strengthen / replace parts of the structure of your house. Then, those plans and specifications will have to be reviewed and commented-on by the Building and Codes department of the city where this property is. Sometimes this can take months, but, if you have hired respected structural engineers and soils engineers, the city building officials will know to do an over-all general review and stamp the drawings and specifications as ''OK''. (Note: Building permits are expensive ! - - - but building without a permit can end you up in very hot water ! Do not let some schnook talk you into doing any structural work on your house without a fully ratified building permit !) Then and only then, are you ready to interview contractors. Usually, the structural engineers and soils engineers you've been working with will have good information about which contractors are knowledgeable and careful about the type of work that needs to be done. With a full set of plans and specifications, all of the contractors you interview will be bidding to do the same work so your bids will be ''apples-to-apples'' and not dependent on what you thought you heard during an interview with a contractor.
Our family has worked for the last twenty years with Joshua Kardon on a variety of projects, big and small. Josh has years of experience, is licensed as a professional engineer, is licensed as a structural engineer, and has a PhD in engineering. Josh has a tiny office in Berkeley and a knowledgeable and experienced staff that has been working with him for years. When our home burned in 2007, the very first thing we did was hire Josh, again.
Hiring Josh made all of the difference in the world: - wrestling with the corporately-planned lies of a nasty insurance company, - getting City of Berkeley permits, appropriately, and - getting work of a variety of contractors inspected.
Josh's website is http://jbkse.com/ If you'd like to see the results of Josh's good work to rebuild our home, please contact me: Anne
AMJ Swan Construction is a great local construction company. Based out of Oakland. They specialize in kitchens, baths and additions but can pretty much handle any type of remodel or repair, interior and exterior; including earthquake retrofitting. Their bids are very reasonable due to the 2 owners doing all of the work themselves. They are also licensed, bonded and insured. www.amjswan.com Stacey
In the nebulous world of earthquake retrofit where a surprisingly high percentage of companies do substandard work, you would be very lucky if you get Gary with Gatterman Construction to take your job. He doesn't send a crew out - he's there on site doing most of the work himself with helpers so that he's in control of how it's done. He mainly works in the Berkeley/Oakland hills so is familiar with both city's laws and programs. He's constantly busy, but if you keep trying you can get through. He did my drainage, earthquake retrofit and fixed the shoddy work that was done on my foundation earlier. He's at (510) 427-2465 Rita
J. David Ford replaced part of our foundation and did the earthquake retrofitting. We were impressed with Dave and his crew from the beginning of the process to the end of the job. Our work needed to be designed by an engineer because the house is 3 stories high. Dave referred us to an engineer and handled all of the details- he really made it so much easier for us. He was the only contractor who was willing to take care of all of the paperwork required for us to get Berkeley's rebate. Even after the job was finished, Dave followed up with the City until we received our rebate money. Dave's prices were reasonable and he doesn't cut any corners. After interviewing several contractors it was clear that Dave knew more about seismic retrofitting and foundations than anyone else, and it shows in the quality of his work. I highly recommend him. Dave can be reached at 510-715-4801 or jdfordco [at] yahoo.com. anon
I recommend Bay Area Retrofit. Over the past few years I have done hundreds of in-home consultations, which include inspection of previous retrofits. I can tell you that there are retrofit companies in the Bay area which are doing incomplete and/or incorrect retrofits. I see them repeatedly. Bay Area Retrofit (510-548-1111) is the leader in the field and you can't go wrong with them. I'm happy to answer any questions from you and other BPN folks. Larry
We have had good luck on our hillside home's earthquake retrofit with a general contractor named Luca Adamache at 1 510-427-0585. He is knowledgeable as he has had previous experience with retrofitting. He is easy to work with. His workers were respectful of the neighbors, cleaned up well, and his work was reasonably priced. virginia
We just finished a sesimic retrofit of our basement and some replacement of rotten wood on the side of our house and back stairs, and Structural Renewal, Inc in Richmond did all the work. I am extremely pleased! My husband and I have found them to be reliable and responsible, with fair prices and outstanding quality of work. I have been here during the day so I've been able to watch the workmanship as well. I couldn't be any more pleased. SRI gets 5 stars from me. Maureen
Dave Ford has done 8 projects with me - for clients and my own personal residences over the past 8 years. One in particular was the largest residential foundation project the city of Berkeley building inspector has ever seen. While he may not be least expensive, the small difference is worth its weight in gold. He is reliable, efficient, the most honest, and the quality of work is exceptional. Furthermore, in all my work with him - some extremely complex - I have never had an issue with the building inspectors. I would use NO ONE else! JM
Reliable & reasonably priced seismic upgrade
Looking for a contractor for seismic upgrade of our house. We have a report from a structural engineer, and there are some quirky conditions- like we have a big hole in the crawl space that needs to be filled with concrete as part of the upgrade. We'd like a couple of reliable and reasonably priced contractors. Waiting to Shake
There are only a few contractors who know how to properly retrofit a house. Check out an investigation in the Contra Costa Times a few years back that determined that two-thirds of residential retrofits in the East Bay would not withstand a major earthquake. The most reliable contractor is J. David Ford. His contact info is: 510-251-9076 or jdfordco[at]yahoo.com. I could not recommend him more highly. A Ford fan
Don't 'wait to shake'! You should contact Ergowiz at yahoo.com. The owner is a general contractor who has a knack for figuring out quirky home repairs. He did the seismic retrofit on my house as well as a friend's, including pouring a concrete 'rat slab' to cover over the old dirt crawl space. He is very thorough and stands by his work. Safe & Secure
Steel Moment Frame for Earthquake Retrofit
We are planning on doing earthquake retrofitting and our contractor has said that it's not possible to do a ''normal'' retrofit with shear wall panels in the garage (which is under one of our rooms). So, the recommendation is to install a steel moment frame. This is going to cost a lot more but obviously will be very secure. What I wonder if how many of you have had this done to your house, what you paid, and did you have a choice? I guess we need to do this based on the engineer's report, but we have not gotten a second opinion. If we have to go this route, that's fine, but obviously if we don't need to and can do something more economical, we'd love to explore our options. Thanks! retrofit time
We had moment frames bolted to the front and back of our house 3 years ago. We had not planned to do this level of structural work. We were doing an attic conversion. But the architects we interviewed for the attic conversion all recommended it because of the lack of solid exterior walls on our ground floor (lots and lots of windows). The engineer should be able to explain to you why it's needed. In our case not only did we lack solid walls, but also the shape of our house, like an 'H', meant that the two ''wings'' could shake independently and collapse. And we live near the hayward fault. So yeah, it cost plenty. You don't have to do it; it's optional. But we are planning to stay in our house for a long time so we wanted to make it as safe as we could afford. The back moment frame is hidden by an arbor designed in by the architect, and on the front, they built the stucco wall out to conceal it. We were very happy with the results. Our architect was Gary Parsons who works with Juri Komendant, a structural engineer. Our contractor was McCutcheon. I'd be happy to answer any questions about the work we had done - just email me. Ginger
Seismic upgrade needed in Albany
Looking for seismic retrofit in Albany. Estimates I have gotten so far appear to be much higher than the actual amount of work would warrant. Any recommendations? Thanks! Albany resident
A few contractors who perform seismic retrofit measures on a home are; Bay Area Retrofit 510 548 1111 contacts are Howard Cook or Jeff, Quakebusters 510 763 6933 the contact is Gerome, and Gen Tech 510 774 6784 contacts are Dan Marzilli and Jason.
I've used Gen Tech for something personally and had a great experience with them. I happen to live in Albany and I am seismically retrofitting my house personally. Most homes in Albany are pretty straightforward in their 1920s design and are often understandable when it comes to retrofitting. If you want to consider doing it yourself, I found the planning department in the City of Albany extremely helpful. I went in saying I just want to bolt and shear my sub area. What do I do to get a permit. From there they were really helpful and the fee was low.
A few resources to learn about retrofitting can be found on the following websites. This page will lead you to information on Bolting and Shearing and other earthquake safety information.
The following site will lead you to a couple of articles that the City of Albany posted on how to do bolting and shearing. Go to this site, scroll down to Earthquake Safety and you can get two articles (Foundation Bolting) and (Shearwalls and Cripple Walls).
Recently Ward Construction Inc. earthquake retrofitted my house. The owner, Art Ward, told me in advance how much the job would cost. The foreman, Greg Tobias, and his workers came on time every day. They cleaned up all debris periodically and at the end of the job. The trouble-shooter, Eric Forsman, checked to make sure all was going well. Everyone was courteous & friendly. Greg Tobias came up with a creative solution to a problem that developed. Part of the retrofit was to dig 20 ft. deep holes and put rebar cylinders into them, then pour concrete in, and connect the concrete to thick wood beams going the width of my house. Fifteen feet down the drill encountered sand. The sides of the hole kept collapsing. Greg thought of pouring polymer into the hole and drilling through that. It worked. Ward Construction, Inc. 634 Marina Way South Richmond, CA 94804 phone: 510-215-3636 fax: 510-215-3640 www.wardconstruction.com license number: 416376
Jan - April 2007
Hi, Any recommendations based on work done in the last couple of years? Thanks Esther
We are new homeowners to an old house in Alameda, and we are interested in seismic retrofit. I would greatly appreciate any recommendations for qualified contractors that specialize in retrofits - reviews in the archives are fairly old. Also generally how much does it cost? Our home is a 1450 SF bungalow with a 3' high crawlspace - easy access to the cripple walls. Thanks for any advice. anon
Can't recommend any one company but just a suggestion, get a lot of quotes, most of these companies are preying on homeowner fear and ignorance. Earthquake retrofit on most of these old houses is not rocket science. You can find old issues of sunset magazine or fine homebuilding at the library that detail the type of work that is done. Most common is 5/8'' foundation bolts every 4 feet, nailing panels of struct 1 rated 1/2'' plywood in sections to the crawlspace walls (I forget the nail spacing) and connecting the tops of the panels to the floor joists above and the sides of the panels to the foundation bolts. It's about a days work with two people. Now if your foundation is in disrepair that's typically a lot more work. Alex
We did our research on this one. Most so-called retrofit companies we interviewed were not updated in recent methods and were using outdated materials. WE also found a majority had no contact with a structural engineer and hadn't changed what they had done, even with the new information supplied since the Northridge quake. After all this - one company stood out as outstanding - Bay Area Retrofit. They did excellent work and we felt the difference in our house with the recent 3 quakes that hit last month. Happy with our retrofit
I recently used Quake Busters for Earthquake work including bolting foundation and sheerwall in the basement. For a start they followed through on a bid (not all that I contacted did). The workers were respectful of my house, cleaned up, they did what they said they would on the bid and passed the inspections. I just hope we won't need to truly test it all out. They seemed knowledgeable and fair but it's all quite expensive (in line with another bid we had though). I thought they did a great job on the drywall finish as they pretty much had to completely rebuild our basement walls. retroffited
We had a great experience with Bay Area Retrofit (http://www.bayarearetrofit.com/index.html). They did a retrofit on our house this past summer. Our house is on a hill and has living space above the garage. Every single employee was a pleasure to work with and I found them to be very knowledgable and patient about all the questions that we had about the process. I would use them again in a second. Good luck. ruth27
I would like to recommend J. David Ford in Berkeley. He is a general contractor who specializes in seismic retrofitting, foundation, drainage, and structural repairs. We have had him do seismic retrofit work on 2 occasions. The first time, in 2003, I interviewed 4 different contractors and chose him. The second time, this past summer, when we bought a new house, we had a time crunch before being away when it would be easy for him to do the work, and I didn't get other estimates. He was not the cheapest bid on the first occasion (nor the most expensive), but he was the one who responded to my questions in the most straightforward and understandable way and gave me the most confidence in the reasons for what he proposed to do. On both occasions, he consulted with an engineer named Monte Stott to answer tech questions like which specific brackets to use for our particular circumstances as well as for overall engineering approval of the plan, but that consultation fee was very reasonable and I was happy to pay it to have the expert advice. My experience in interviewing the other contractors in 2003 was scary since there was an enormous difference in what they proposed to do and why, and, of course, in the costs. So, I think even with a recommendation, you would be well served to google ''seismic retrofit'' to learn what kinds of issues might be relevant to your property, and then to do your own interviews. Contact info for J. David Ford is: office: 510-251-9076 cell: 510-715-4801 email: jdfordco[at]yahoo.com
Good luck! Ellen
Try out Bay Area Retrofit! Our friend of over 20 years is a new part owner. Jeff is an efficient, hard worker who is seriously invested in customer service. Not only is he honest and hardworking but he is a great person too. He has helped us with many a project around the house and has a vast knowledge of construction. He's one of those guys who grew up doing construction with his Dad and then went on to get a construction management degree as well. Be warned, there is sometimes a wait of a couple months to get your house done (it might be better now, I know it was that way before the holidays), but that should also speak volumes. Jen
We had a great experience with Bay Area Retrofit when they completed earthquake retrofitting on our house last summer. Everyone at the company was a pleasure to work with. The job was done on budget and ahead of schedule. Check them out at http://www.bayarearetrofit.com/index.html. Lots of great info on their website too. We felt that they really understood what was necessary to strengthen the house without going overboard. I would recommend them highly. Can't really help you about the cost. Our cost was just under $10K, but we live on a hill, which adds some complications. Good luck
My husband and I recently had major work done to our home and worked with George at Alameda Structural (510-523-1610). I cannot praise the company enough. Their bid was reasonable - not lowball and not outrageous - and they had several very thoughtful discussions with our engineer (which saved us thousands). Once they started, the guys who did the work were professional - worked all day, showed up and left on time, cleaned up every day, and finished the job on time. They took care of the permit and inspection process and explained what was happening throughout the process. Their website is www.alamedastructural.com. irene
For foundation work and seismic upgrades, I'd suggest Counterforce. Mike Dinga is personable and professional and they had a professional staff. They did a great job on our Oakland house. No costs surprises and no delays. Satisfied with new foundation and seismic work
We recently had some additional seismic retrofitting done on our house as the original retrofit was not complete. We got two quotes from companies advertized on the ABAG website (Association of Bay Area Governments). Both quotes were similar in price, but we chose Quake Busters over Bay Area Retrofit, because Quake Busters proposed to do slightly more work for slightly less money and we really like Jerome Lenoir, the owner of Quake Busters who came out to look at the foundation. He spent a lot of time looking around and talking to us. The carpenters who did the work were very pleasant and very tidy and did not disturb us. The work was done in a timely manner. The company also offers a good financial plan to spread the cost over several months (instead of getting one big bill) which we appreciated and offered us a 10% discount if we allowed them to place a sign outside our house while we were still paying off the bill. I would highly recommend Quake Busters. Anon
I recommend Quakeebusters. The owner's name is Jerome and he did a great job on my house. Very patient and helps you understand the issues/prevention etc. in small doses. Also has reasonable payment plans since this work is generally expensive. pc
If anyone was thinking about using Berkeley's seismic retrofit rebate program you should know that the city has changed the rules significantly on this without telling you. To find out more about it and perhaps sign a petition on it, go over to http://www.gopetition.com/online/12270.html. all shook up
Installation of gas shut off valves
I am interested in having a gas shut off valve installed at our home in Lafayette, and wonder if anyone has any experiences to share about these devices? Do you have a recommendation as to an installer? I read about QuakePrepare out of Kensington; has anyone used this company? What should we expect to spend? Thank you for any information. Claire
great idea in doing a gas shut-off valve. our block is working on doing it as part of earthquake preparedness, here's the surprise we found: the permit from the city of oakland ran ANOTHER $150 to install the valve. so flo-valve wanted $300-350, and much later into the process informed us of the city premit fee. so ask your contractor about it. if there is some fire or disaster down the road and the insurance company discovers that the valve was installed without permit, they could refuse to pay for damage. julia
We had an automatic gas shut-off valve installed summer 2006 just after we bought our house, and it was not a big deal. I had itemized estimates from 2 plumbing companies for that and other plumbing work, and chose based on the other work, not the gas shut-off valve. I think the quote for that work was very similar in both cases, around $450, as part of a bigger job. One company recommended all sorts of additional work that we should do as new owners of this house, and the other company's estimator said, when I asked about those things, that a lot of them were unnecessary or not in compliance with the present codes. That, plus the attitude of the 2 reps about getting a permit, made the decision easy. But the shut-off valve was not part of any of the controversy, and any plumbing company ought to be able to do it. You don't need to pay what may be a premium for an earthquake specialist. Sitting more confident on the Hayward Fault.
I am looking to retrofit a home in the North Berkeley area. I would appreciate any recommendations for professionals who are experienced and have reasonable rates. Thanks very much! Jane
We got a couple of bids and the prices varied from 10K to 40K. You really want to get multiple bids. We also had a structural engineer guide us on what we really needed. Our real estate agent with Red Oak Realty, Tim Scully, really helped us out to - setting up the appointments and making recommendations. This was five years ago. We settled on Dave Ford (510) 715-4801 for the job. It was not only cheeper but we felt really good about the work he did. The engineer we used liked him too. He is hard to reach but worth it when you get him. The engineer's name is Marty but I don't know his last name. Elizabeth
We had a great experience with Bay Area Retrofit: http://www.bayarearetrofit.com/. They have lots of experience and were a pleasure to work with. Good luck. Ruth
I'm considering using Earthquake Safety to do some seismic retrofitting with my transfer tax money, and any archives recommending them are quite old. Anyone have good/bad experiences with them? Anyone else that you can recommend? Thanks in advance! rudy
We had a great experience with Earthquake Safety last Fall. Every aspect of the process was very efficient and professional. I'm happy to provide more details on request. One tip: You may be able to obtain a significant discount by being flexible with scheduling and fitting into a hole in their schedule. scott
We used them to earthquake retrofit our home. They were reliable but looking at what they did, and the amount of time it took, my husband thinks they overcharged us by about 30-50%. We'd recommend getting additional bids. Miae
Hi, We used earthquake Safety in the last 6 month for our transfer tax. They were reliable and friendly. However, I was shocked at the cost for just the bolting portion and would definitely get at least 2 quotes. In addition, their work did not pass the initial inspection and they had to to come back to add more bolts. They tried to blame it on the inspector but I question their cost and thoroughness. Good Luck
We used Earthquake Safety for our transfer tax retrofitting and were quite happy with them. They thoroughly explained the options, making sure to have at least one within the amount of the transfer tax. From there, they made everything else incredibly easy. They dealt with the City on all of the permitting and inspection issues and were sure to explain how the whole transfer tax reimbursement worked. We also got a call each evening while the work was being done to tell us what happened that day and what we could expect the next. All in all, we can highly recommend them. Rachel
We've had several retrofitters out since we moved here. Earthquake Safety's bid came in lowest of three, but for significantly less work. Also, suspiciously close to our Berkeley rebate amount. They told me no engineer had reviewed their plans -- that the city engineer would review the adequacy of the plans as part of the permitting process. I don't plan on relying on a city permit process to pass on the engineering. The local government association, www.abag.org, recommends using an engineer in our situation. I haven't made up my mind about who to use yet, but I suggest you get 2-3 more bids and get seriously educated before proceeding. Ask a lot of questions, including about the qualifications of the company and the person doing the inspecting and recommending. shaking
I received a quote from Earthquake Safety but never used them. I had a great experience using Bay Area Retrofit. They did a retrofit on my house about 3 months ago. They were a pleasure to work with, from the owner of the business all the way to the crew that did the work. The same great crew came to the house each day, and they finished ahead of schedule and on budget. Feel free to email me with any specific questions ruth
I completely recommend Jim Winter & his crew at California Earthquake Safety - he did our foundation about 6 years ago and we have stayed in touch & worked with him on other odd jobs. Jim is a great person to have on your side. They are honest, work hard & get the job done when they tell you they will. They are probably not your lowest bid, but I think you'll be glad they did the work Jacqueline
Earthquake safety consulting
I recently had Larry Guillot, an earthquake consultant come to my home to review how to prepare my home and family in the event of an Earthquake. I am new to the Bay area, and Larry provided a thorough walk-through of my home including pointing out how the infrastructure would be impacted. He also provided personal safety tips, where the safest place in the home would be. He met with the family and walked through every room. He advised me that the placement of my children's beds was not ideal (near a window) and with a heavy fan/light fixture overhead. All my shut offs were identified, and he noted my gas line emergency shut-off was much too tight, and needed replacement. Larry also has a contracting service that will provide bracing for any furniture, bookcases, or appliances. If a homeowner wants an earthquake prevention kit prepared, Larry will provide that as well. He has a contractor background and a very caring attitude, so he gives you very thorough and detailed advice on steps to protect your family and home. There is really no one out there that I am aware of who does a personal earthquake consultation at your home. I was pleased that he is not affiliated with any retrofitting company. As an independent consultant, he gives a completely unbiased and very detailed assessment of what you need to do to prepare without any scare tactics. Larry Guillot larry [at] quakeprepare.com 510-558-3299 http://www.quakeprepare.com
I'd like to recommend Larry Guillot's Quake Prepare service. He came to my home and made suggestions about my existing retrofitting (that needs additional work) but now I know exactly what needs to be done. He also discovered my gas shut-off was stuck! PG has since fixed it for free. He looked through the interior to find any dangerous furnishings and can even arrange to have large items secured if needed. I found Larry honest, helpful and extremely knowledgeable. I now know what needs to be done, and feel much more prepared for a potential 'big one'. You can find more info at his website: QuakePrepare.com or reach Larry by phone: 510-558-3299 ~Kim
We need some earthquake retrofit work (shear walling, bolts etc) done on our home. Our foundation appears to be in good shape but we would like a firm qualified and experienced enough to evaluate our needs. All of the recommendations on the website seem somewhat dated. Has anyone had recent positive experiences with a good contractor that you would be willing to point us to. Thanks Vandy
Hi All, Can anyone recommend a carpenter or contractor who does good seismic work at a reasonable price? Earthquake Safety and other big outfits seem to me really overpriced--beyond my range. There are some recommendations online that are 2-3 years old, but I'm hoping for more current info. Anon
We used Eathquake Safety in Berkeley this past December to retrofit our 1900-era house in Berkeley - Gregory Prinsze, 528-6165. No complaints. I can't really know how much the work helps until we have a sizeable earthquake but the guys did everything they said they would, came promptly, cleaned up and the work looks good. jessica
We would like to have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed on our gas line--one that shuts off the gas in case of an earthquake of a certain magnitude. Has anyone had this done recently? Could you tell me what brand of valve you chose, who installed it for you, and how much it cost? Thanks very much! -GN
Just about any plumber can install such a valve. I had mine installed a few years ago by Harry Clark Plumbing. If I remember correctly, labor was an hour or two. The valve was, well, I don't remember. $100? $200? I just remember the whole deal wasn't very cheap. They picked the valve brand.
Earthquake Retrofit Referrals Wanted
I would like to get current referrals for earthquake retrofitting. I am getting an estimate from Earthquake Safety. Would anyone recommend them? What other companies should I approach for an estimate? Thank you for your help! North Berkeley resident
In response to the request for a good retrofitter, I highly recommend Jim Winter of California Earthquake Protection in Alameda ((510) 527-7233). I recently posted an unsolicited recommendation in his favor as the consummate professional and exemplary person. His knowledgeability, sense of responsibility, relationship with his workers, and communicativeness have made him our go-to person for all kinds of questions since he completed the retrofit three months ago. If you would like more details, do write me. Paula V
re: earthquake retrofit referrals wanted Howard Cook (Bay Area Retrofit) is your man. He has done 2 houses for us. He is very knowledgable, very sincere, and his team does an excellent job! I highly recommend them! http://bayarearetrofit.com/
In response to the request for earthquake retrofit recommendations, I strongly recommend Bay Area Retrofit: http://bayarearetrofit.com/
Howard is a retrofit expert (see his website for lots of good background info), he scheduled us on short notice to fit into our Berkeley transfer tax rebate deadline, he took care of all the paperwork for us, and we got our rebate back less than two weeks after he completed everything. He was professional, very pleasant to work with, and we feel good knowing he did an excellent job. I found others recommended on the parents list less responsive, maybe because we were looking at a fairly small job (under $5,000). - Charis
We are in the midst of comparison shopping in the wide world of retrofitters (which one earlier poster at this site called a jungle!). Since there have been no postings on this subject in over a year, I'm wondering if anyone would like to recommend (or steer us away from) a particular company. Paula
Although we had our foundation completely replaced/bolted/shear walled nearly 5 years ago I still highly reccomend Jim Winter of California Earthquake Saftey (527-7233). Friends have used him since & been very happy with the results. Incredible attention to detail, great small crew (still has same crew), timely, honest. Jb
Hi, We would like to have a seismic retrofit done to our old Berkeley house. Can anyone recommend any contractors and/or engineers? Does anyone have any recent experience with Structural Renewal, Quality Bay Construction, Bay Area Retrofit, or the engineer Dan Szumski? Thanks for any help! Gen
We recently had some seismic work done on our house. We used a company from Berkeley called Earthquake Safety. They were wonderful. Very time efficient in their work and very respectful. They even would knock when they would come in the morning instead of using the doorbell so they would be sure not to wake up my daughter. It's free to have them come look at the house and give you estimates. They'll even break the work into sections if you want so that you can have a little work done at a time and their prices are guarenteed for a year. 510-528-6165 melissa_f
We highly recommend the services of Gary Gatterman [Gatterman Construction]. Gary did a fantastic job on our foundation, seismic retrofit and drainage work -- at a price that was 2-3x cheaper than the other contractors and engineers that provided estimates. He left the job site much cleaner (and even better looking) than he found it. Best of all, it was clear that Gary's biggest priority is the safety of the people who live in the homes he works on: he follows the most rigorous standards of building codes throughout the state to ensure that you have the best materials and engineering to hold up your house.
From the initial screening process all the way through the project's completion, Gary showed tremendous courtesy, knowledge and professionalism. He explained the work plan in clear language understandable to a lay person. He also gave us a wealth of information about earthquakes in general and the specific seismic retrofit codes and standards. As a bonus: he spotted a major problem with our plumbing (inadequate pitch in the pipe leading to the street caused the piped to remain filled with sewage) and fixed it for us.
Side note illustrating how Gary goes the extra mile: we were getting married and my mother-in-law insisted that we clear up the front yard for the benefit of our guests. As a wedding present, Gary and his crew cleared weeds and debris that were there when we first moved in, raked leaves, and laid in mulch. They even coiled our garden hose in front can the illusion of a well groomed house was complete.
Gary's crew was friendly and professional. They worked on our house for about six weeks. Although we were happy when the work was completed, they were so nice that it was almost sad to see them go!
Gary can be reached at (510) 427-2465
Michael and Linda
I would like to reiterate the recommendation from Michael and Linda in the last Household Recommendations newsletter for Gary Gatterman of Gatterman Construction. My experience with Gary mirrors theirs exactly - Gary and his crew were professional, used the highest quality materials, kept promises, were very concerned for the safety of the occupants, etc. Gary has extensive experience with home construction, and he also found some things that needed repair with my home, which he did for only the cost of materials.
When considering a seismic contractor or foundation person, I would ask them the following questions:
1) Will the person presenting the bid be the person in charge of the project?
2) How many other projects does the firm have going on at the same time, i.e. is there a possibility that your project could be put on hold mid-project?
3) How do the materials used compare to those required by code. With foundations there is a significant difference between code and even stronger materials (which Gary uses).
4) Is there any possibility that your house would be left with only a partial foundation for any period of time (i.e. if they are working on other projects).
Gary can be reached at (510) 427-2465
Re: Foundation Contractor
I highly recomend Calif. Earthquake Safety, based in Alameda. Owner is Jim Winter - thorough, committed nice guy to work with. His is incredibly knowledgeable about earthquakes - how the ground moves, how houses do and won't move...his workers are friendly and skilled. He replaced our foundation 3 years ago - not the lowest bid but I don't regret one penny we spent. His number: 510-527-7233. JB
I would like to request comments from anyone who has had seismic retrofitting done to their home in the last six months. I have seen old postings regarding this, but would like more current information on recommended contractors as well as contractors to avoid. Kathryn
We recently (August 2002) had Jim Gardner replace the foundation for part of our house. Our structural engineer described the foundation that Jim Gardner previously had replaced for the rest of the house as ''very well built.'' Jim Gardner was very easy to work with, he responded promptly to calls and questions, and he went out of his way to help us get our Berkeley seismic rebate. My only minor quibble is that his crew left some bits of debris scattered around the yard. Jim Gardner, Jim Gardner Construction 655-3409 robin
We are considering using Quality Bay Construction to do the seismic retrofitting on our house. Has anyone used this company? I'd appreciate any opinions, good or bad. Thanks. Angela
We used Quality Bay to do some retrofit work on our old house a couple of years ago. They were very responsible, clean and did good work, although I have heard from others that their prices are comparatively high. KMS
We used Quality Bay construction and were very impressed with them. They were always at our home on time, left our home very neat every evening, and were very responsive to our telephone calls. They always kept us apprised of the status of the retrofit. They were the utmost professionals. I could not more highly recommend a contractor. Please e-mail us if you would like additional information. Rob
Quality Bay did the retrofit on our house. The main thing they did was to add more bolts to the foundation. The work was done well and on time. Of course I can't tell you whether it made the house any safer! Jim
For foundation and earthquake retrofit work, we have used Counterforce (510) 835-5400. This included excavation for a new foundation for our new garage, installing a french drain, putting in concrete, etc. We were very pleased with them, and have hired them twice (on different projects.) Karen
We are on the verge of getting some seismic retrofitting done on our 1918 house. We are considering using Quakebusters, California Earthquake Protection, or Earthquake Safety. Has anyone used any of these outfits? What was your experience? Or has anyone had a terrific - or horrific - experience with any other company? I'd love to hear any opinions! Thanks. Iris
Hi-We used Quakebusters for our retrofit work. I thought they were terribly expensive, but they probably weren't any more expensive than any other company would have been! (I didn't do a lot of research). I thought they were very good, very polite, very nice people, they did great, fast work and I was happy with the job they did Jill
I am looking for recommendations for a competent retrofitting company. We just had an estimate from Quakebusters and it seemed really high. We live in the Oakland Hills near the Hayward fault (doesn't everybody?). Does anyone know of someone good and reasonably priced. Thanks, Lita
I recently saw a post looking for a reliable earthquake retrofitting company. I very highly recommend Gary Gatterman of Gatterman Construction. His bid was much more thorough and much more reasonable (for more work) than bids we received from the big fancy earthquake retrofitting companies. Gary has been doing retrofitting work (exclusively) for six years and building for 30 years. His work is extremely neat and thorough. And a definite plus is that Gary and his small crew are very pleasant to have around for a week or so. Give him a call before you sign a contract with one of the big retrofitting companies. His number is (510) 427-2465. C. R.
I have to agree on the recommendation of Gary Gatterman for earthquake retrofitting. he did our home over a year ago and not only was he the most reasonable estimate, but he did a wonderful job. Yes, the men were so nice to have around, polite and cleaned up afterwards perfectly. He loves to chat, Gary, so be prepared to talk! I give him the highest recommendation -Massberi
We recently used Quality Bay Construction (510-540-5982) for some bolting and shearwalling in a crawlspace. I chose them because they sent me a mailing and because I saw their banners up all over Berkeley in commercial locations. We did not seek competitive bids, so I don't have any information on how their prices compare. Mike Tripp directed the work and we found him very courteous and professional. The work took about four days and they cleaned up thoroughly afterwards. He is in the process of doing the paperwork and getting the rebate from the City. It looks like a good, solid job, but I'll send along a postscript the next time the ground shakes.
I recently went through a long process of getting competetive bids
for earthquake retrofit work. It is quite a zoo. I recommend getting
several bids - they varied a great deal in terms of what they
suggested and how much they charged. I ended up choosing
Earthquake Construction Service - work is scheduled to begin next
week. Quality Bay Construction was quite a bit more expensive,
and the specs of the work did not look any more impressive.
The two big names in San Francisco would be Degenkolb Engineers [tel.
(415)392 6952] or Forell Elsesser Engineers, Inc. [tel.(415) 837 0700]. In
Oakland there is EQE International [(510) 817 3100]. These firms are all
well known for earthquake / retrofit expertise. Bear in mind these people
are usually working on multi-million dollar projects for clients with deep
pockets - it may be hard to quote fees that are profitable for them AND
affordable to the client for a small domestic project, but at the least
they should be able to point you in the direction of a smaller engineer who will be able to do the work.
For a contractor I would certainly recommend Jim Duval [tel.(510) 527 7428]
We have just finished retrofitting our house. We used
Calin Smith from Sedco Engineering in Berkeley, his
number is 486-0440. He designed everything from
sheerwalls to a steel frame. The comapny that did the
work is called Quality Bay Construction, ask for
Michael Tripp, phone number 540-5982 ext 106.
Michael and Calin have worked together for a long time
and they will be able to give you an estimate before
the plans are actually drawn.
We are very pleased and we highly recommend them.
We highly recommend Dan Szumsk, PE, who quickly and cheaply produced a
structural plan for our house. His recommendations were quite sensible,
and in line with current practice. However Dan does not do calculations
(which are not needed for most earthquake work.)
As for actually constructing your retrofit, we used Counterforce. They
are very professional, make sensible choices as they go, easy to work
with, and not expensive. We really liked them.
I had Kent at Structural Renewal come over and inspect my house for what needed to be done to upgrade for earthquake protection. I liked him. He was thorough and reasonable and what he said made sense. Seems to be someone who can factor in all the possibilities and take a middle road. I had some major work done at my home last year, a bathroom enlargement and remodel . Peter Downey was my contractor, c0-architect, hand-holder, and general good guy. I was really happy with his work and workers. He's in Berkeley. Stef (4/00)
If you're just looking for earthquake retrofit, no big deal stuff, Earthquake Safety in Berkeley is pretty good. Of course, we won't know for sure until Zee Big One...
We had a lot of earthquake bracing done by Earthquake Safety, Inc. We were satisfied with the work they did, although we didn't have them do the plywood shearwalls because a friend who had them do theirs was dissatisfied with the work. (From what the president of the company told me, this was a temporary staffing problem.) At the time we used them (around 1982), they used Ironwood Construction Co. as their engineering consultant. I spoke to the president of Ironwood regarding what Earthquake Safety was doing, and was impressed with him. It made me more confident that Earthqake Safety was doing things to code.
Builders Booksource has lots of books on do-it-yourself foundation bolting and shearwall installation. We had our carpenter (who isn't licensed) do that part of the work on our house. If all you want are bolts installed to code, it's an inexpensive way to go. Fran
Contractor for earthquake work: We used Jonathan Tower (644-1449, or pager 840-3503) and were very happy with the results. He's done lots of this type of work and did my parents' house as well. April
Earthquake Safety Inc in Berkeley just did my work. I won't know the quality until after the big one but they were prompt, thorough and work easily passed the city inspections. They give exact information about what they are going to do. Peggy Peggy