Archived Q&A and Reviews
Earthquake retrofit Structural EngineerFeb 2012
Looking for a structural engineer and a good contractor specializing in earthquake retrofitting/seismic upgrades. I have a two story house in El Cerrito built in 1957. Mark
Alameda Structural! George Walton is owner; Brian Bouchard, Steve and Jeff were all very responsible project managers. They did several projects over time: seismic retrofit was the biggy, also work on drainage, sewer lateral, repaving, garage door, etc. Then Brian did deck support on his own time since the project was too small for the company. Great work, good communications, good subs, and reasonable cost. 510/523-1610 Karen in Rockridge
I overwhelmingly recommend Ralph Hueston Kratz: 510-918-2256. He's extremely thorough and a pleasure to work with. sound house
I recommend Alameda Structural. They did a great job on our seismic retrofit at a reasonable price, and they have lots of experience. Foundation re-did
We just went through an earthquake retrofit project for our 80 year-old house & were very happy with the firm we hired, Counterforce. They were straightforward, on budget, on time, clean and nice. Also, they were very creative & sensitive to some unusual design issues that cropped up in part of the job. It was really a good experience. leslie
Contact Feraru & Associates if you need a good contractor to take care of the retrofitting part. Sorin Feraru has been working on various projects on our house including retrofitting and we are extremely happy with the work and the price. You can reach Sorin by phone at 510-228-7366 or by email at office [at] feraru.us. Good luck!
The seismic engineer who literally 'wrote the book' on shear walls is Thor Matteson (shearwalls.com) 510-230-8601. He lives and works in the East Bay. I do in-home earthquake consultations (quakeprepare.com) part of which is evaluating existing retrofits. I'm sad to say that many retrofit contractors do incomplete retrofits, make mistakes, and use hardware intended for hurricanes. The one that is the best, in my opinion, is Bay Area Retrofit, in Berkeley. 510-548-1111. Larry
Structural Engineer for seismic evaluationSept 2011
Hi There, We are looking for a structural engineer to do a seismic evaluation of our house. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Tam
Joshua B. Kardon + Company 1930 Shattuck Avenue Berkeley CA 94704 510.548.1892
During the last twenty-plus years, Josh has advised us, several members of our family, and our friends when we/they were inspecting a home we/they were thinking of buying.
Several years ago, Josh designed a substantial retrofit of a hundred-year-old foundation and an upgrade of that structure, balancing what needed to be done right away to protect our family in case of an earthquake and what work we could do (when we had more money to invest) to protect our investment in our home.
In 2008 and 2009, Josh designed and managed construction of new foundations and structures of a 100% new home.
For each project, Josh helped us hire knowledgeable surveyors, soils engineers, and other professional engineers, as needed.
Each time we have hired Josh to advise us, Josh has paid careful attention to what upgrades needed to be done right away for the safety of our family, including discussing how to get out in an emergency and furniture and such that might cause problems during an emergency. And Josh advised us what improvements/upgrades would be likely to protect our homes (the buildings themselves) from physical damages.
June 2009: Structural engineer/contractor for shifting home needed
Our two-story, 1920 house in Oakland, with complete garage/workshop underneath, has been shifting. The sloping floors are becoming more pronounced. We were told the back corner has a rotating foundation. The actual foundation does not seem to have any cracks. Does anyone have recommendations for a good structural engineer to assess the house? Also, any recommendations for a contractor that has worked for you recently? Beth
I have only the highest praise for Rick Hoffmann Construction, who did my recent earthquake retrofit and also did some work for my shifting porch and other foundation issues. He was unfailingly responsive and communicative, did excellent work, went above and beyond and his team left my basement in neat-as-a-pin condition. You can reach him at 510-715-4803. Dan Szumski was the excellent, experienced structural engineer who made the plans for the work. He pointed out and explained the reasons for some of the shifting in my house as well, and was able to create a solution. He's at 510-418-7155. Lauren
There is a great Structural Engineering firm in Oakland called Ingraham DeJesse Associates. The owner is Nellie Ingraham and she does fantastic quality work. Their website is: www.ida-se.com JH
April 2009: Structural Engineer for Seismic Upgrade needed
Our house needs some added support to prepare for a big earthquake. We need an engineer who can calculate the loads and give advice about where to best add support with minimal aesthetic impact. Recommendations are appreciated, especially if the engineer was able to provide creative solutions to work around aesthetic elements of the home's design. Thanks in advance! Deborah
Year before last several large cracks appeared on one side of my house. I was told by one seismic contractor that I must first obtain a report from a structural engineer. Only then would they talk to me. Another company referred me to Dave Ford as a first step. Dave came up with a very creative solution for my seismic retrofit. He did not recommend more than I needed, nor less. It was a surgical strike. His proposal was thorough, but I had a 3rd party review it just the same. That contractor was significantly impressed by the caliber of Dave's proposal, its indepth detail, and level of professionalism. Of course I hired Dave afterwards. That level of professionalism continued throughout the upgrade. And I now feel safe in my home. Dave Ford's phone number is (510) 715-4801. I highly recommend Dave as your first step. W.M.
We just completed a seismic upgrade of our house, engineered by Ralph Kratz. I recommend him enthusiastically, without any reservations. Ralph takes structural safety very seriously and thoughtfully approaches each project. His plans are thorough, and once retrofitting work has begun, he stays in contact with the contractor so he can address any unexpected issues that come up and make plan modifications as necessary. He also inspects the work himself, before city inspections are conducted, to make sure the work is up to standard. He's a pleasure to work with and has a great sense of humor. His phone number is 510-236-6668. happy client
Because of all the talk last year about the Hayward Fault being overdue for a ''big one,'' I hired Ralph Kratz and Ward Construction, Inc. to retrofit my house. My house is on a hill, so the north side is one story, the south side is nearly three stories tall. Mr. Kratz specified 20 ft. deep rebar & concrete pillars on the north connected to thick wood beams the width of my house attached to & under the floors on the east & west ends of my house, plus shearwall plywood from the foundation to the roof on the south side, from the west end to the east end. He also specified a few other details, such as bolting the house to its foundation and metal tie-downs or hold-downs. I feel that my house is a lot safer now.
Ralph Kratz 724 McLaughlin St. Richmond, CA 94805-1402 510-236-6668 fax 510-215-2430
Have you used or considering using the services of structual engineer Monty Stott? If so, what kind of project did he work on and were you pleased with the quality, timeliness and cost of his work? Thank you. Anon
We hired Monty Stott to conduct a pre-sale analysis of a house we wanted to buy. He took good care in helping us understand what he was looking for, what his thoughts were, etc during the walk-through. But then he took more time than he said he would to produce a written report. We needed it by a certain day in order to include it in our negotiations which he said he could do. He eventually emailed us a report 3 days later after many calls from our real estate agent. And now that we've talked to other structural engineers (we got the house!) I realize that there isn't *one* answer to problematic foundations. Another structural engineer (Joshua ___, can't find his last name right now) came last week and another one is coming next week to help us really understand the situation. All to say, Monty was alright. Annie
We used Monte Stott for a driveway bridge project and found it to be a very frustrating experience. He held up our contractor at numerous points during the project and failed to inform us that he was re-drawing the plans and we weren't aware of this work until we got the bill for the new set of drawings. After this happened a second time, I had to call his office and tell him not to do any further work without first contacting us and that we would not pay him unless we authorized future work. It was not a positive experience. anon.
Structural engineer for 50-year-old house
I'm searching for a reliable and affordable structural engineer and contractor for my 50-yr-old El Cerrito home (on a slight incline) which is in need of major 'stability' work. The house is small (2 bdrms). I was going to go straight to finding an honest contractor but was told by one that the first step would be to find a structural engineer. I called, from yellow pages, one engineer and 4 contractors. But only one contractor called me back 2 weeks later). I do need help soon, as the house is ''talking'' (moaning and groaning) to me more loudly than usual and last week I heard a ripping sound in floor under bedroom door frame and saw very small separation where sound occurred. Any advice would be appreciated. Mary
We are currently using Scott Sparling, structural engineer, (510) 703-4774 and have found him to be very reasonable, experienced and honest. We felt that he gave us a very honest assessment of our foundation and our options for dealing with it. We are putting a small addition on our home and he has been willing to answer questions throughout. We are using Advance Construction (Michael Ghanivand) to build the addition and have been very satisfied with the quality of work, price, and speed with which his guys are completing each phase. It's not done yet, but our architect and engineer have both noted that the quality of his work thus far is exceptional. Contact Michael at (510) 301-5547. Brightstar
I highly recomment Yuri Komendant for a structural engineering consultation. We did a major remodel to our Albany home. As the structural engineer for the project, Yuri did an excellent job in all respects. Of all the service providers we wrote checks to during this project - we acted as the general contractor so there were many - Yuri was the one person to whom it was actually a pleasure to write out the check - the quality of his work/advice/service was that good. Komendant Engineering Inc (510) 843-2116
Sorin Feraru with Feraru & Associates Building and Design, Inc. just did some work at my house and he works with a very knowledgeable structural engineer from Berkeley. Sorin's number is 510-228-7366. Cindy
Re-doing a 95-year-old foundation
Our house needs a complete re-do on the 95 year old foundation. I need to contract with a SE to do plans for our 3-4 story house. Does anyone have experience with the following engineers and recommend them? Ron Loar, Peter Van Mieren, Anand Nene, Monte Stott
Hi - We have experience with Monty Stott, and he's the only s.e. we've ever worked with. We worked with him and our contractor -- no architect -- on a small remodel. He seems capable and ultimately did a good job with the paper work we needed to submit to the planning department. However, once we hired him he never returned a phone call, and ultimately took over a month longer than anyone expected to get the work done. To the extent our contractor could get him to commit to a date to give us the paper work, he kept not meeting deadlines he himself set. It was very frustrating, especially since we were getting into a time that rainy weather could have intruded. good luck
For a major remodel I've undertaken, I used Peter Van Maren. I would not recommend him. He way overdesigned (which costs you money, not him). Fortunately I had his work peer reviewed, which ended up saving me tens of thousands of dollars. Even so, my contractor can't believe some of the structural elements going into this project. PVM is not very responsive to your calls, either. My architect also has had issues with PVM on this. Also, he doesn't appear to review the work of his employees very thoroughly as there were numerous errors in the design calculations.
We have been procrastinating about converting our 1916 bugalow attic into two desperately-needed bedrooms. Our biggest concerns are cost and structural upgrades. We have started working with an architect, and now we need a good structural engineer to do an assessment of the house. The engineer will need to know Oakland codes and requirements, have a sense of what the possible conversion would look like, understand seismic needs, and be licensed to sign off on the papers that are required for permits. As an added bonus, we'd like someone who charges a reasonable rate :). We'd be grateful for positive recommendations. In addition, we'd be only too happy to hear stories from veterans of the attic conversion, so that we can learn from history! Thanks. Karen
To the person doing the attic renovation - we're in the middle of the same (about to start construction) and I'd be happy to discuss and swap advice. As far as structural engineers, I can recommend two great ones. Both technically excellent and both great interpersonally: Josh Kardon (510) 548-1892 and Alex Rood (415) 543-0161. Esther
We are finally tired of the cracks in the walls, and would like a good structural engineer to come to our house in Lafayette and evaluate the house for ongoing settling problems. Does anyone have someone they can recommend, preferably on this side of the tunnel? Thank you! Claire
Dan Szumski is a great civil & structural engineer. He's very ethical, thorough, and highly qualified. He'll also write up an engineering plan that any contractor can use to make alterations to his specs. His number is 510-418-7155. David
Joshua Kardon is an excellent structural engineer; unfortunately, he doesn't fit the second half of your bill, as he is in Berkeley. He designed our retrofitting. His phone is (510) 548-1892. Email me back if you want more input. Esther
Concerned about cracks in the ceiling and walls
I am looking for recommendations for a structural engineer who has experience evaluating the structural integrity of houses. Our house is developing cracks in all the ceilings and above the doorways. When we bought our home three years ago the inspector said everything looked great, however we are quite concerned about these cracks. Has anyone worked with a structural engineer who could evaluate whether our foundation is shifting or if something else is going on? I'd also like to know what structural engineers generally charge. Thank you. Catherine
Peter Van Maren (engineer) evaluated cracks and other probems in our hill-clinging home built in 1925. He is knowledgeable and practical; He said we could wait on the $10K work (steel piers into the ground), but had to immediately reinforce the foundation and other seismic work. His consultation was $700 in 2000. Christina
I'm looking to have some structural work done in my basement. However, I'm looking for an engineer who does design and drawings only, and does not do the work. I would then like to bid that work out. Thanks for your recs. -val
We had a very good experience with Calin Smith from Sedco Engineering in Berkeley. Often it's worth hiring the engineer and the company to do the work as a package(take the engineer recommended by the contractor or viceversa) since they usually work very well and fast together. If one party is good then the other party will be as well because they care about the reputation of the people they associate with. Simona
Based on a recommendation on this site, we hired Dan Szumski to take a look at the cause of cracks in our interior walls. He charged us significantly more than subsequent engineers and his findings were off-base. Both engineers who came after him read Szumski's report - which listed wind as a cause of our house moving - and in so many words said, with all due respect, the guy does not know what he is talking about. I do not recommend Mr. Szumski. Joe
We consulted with Dan Szumski on drainage issues at our previous house and structural issues at our current house. I don't know how his price compares, but we very much like his work. He's thorough, smart and honest, and he explains things well. With both houses, Dan went out of his way to help when we followed his recommendations to have drainage and seismic work done. Dan Szumski, P.E. (510) 418-7155 (530) 758-5832 robin
I'm looking for recommendations for structural engineers to repair a cracked and sagging joist. The problematic joist has caused the floor above to slope considerably, so we'd also need to jack up the house to lessen the sloping. The project will probably involve dealing with plumbing and electrical wiring, and may involve putting a beam across the whole house (which is why we've decided to go with an engineer as opposed to a contractor). I called Ingraham/DeJesse, listed on the web site, and they said the job was too small for them.
Another question: I've gotten recommendations for the following engineers: Dick Shukert, Jamie Perle, Peter Favro, Morry Berson, Rich Bringle, John Hallenbach. Anyone know anything about these guys? Isobel
I highly recommend structural renewal -- I don't have their phone #, but they re-did my sagging porch when I bought my house 4 years ago, and they did an excellent job. -Isobel
Does anyone have any recommendations for structural engineers? My husband and I are considering buying a fixer-upper, and we'd like to have our own engineer inspect it before we go any further. Lysa
I have three recommendations. Two are structural engineers, whom we consulted when we removed a load-bearing wall. One is the company that did a moderate amount of retrofitting when we first bought the house.
Ingraham/DeJesse Associates Inc. 825 Page Street Berkeley, CA 94710 Ph: 510/527-7223
A very reputable firm. I was very impressed by Steve DeJesse. I had asked other engineers and inspectors and retrofitters whether we were stupid to live this close to the Hayward Fault, and whether our house would fall over and whether I was a bad mother...he gave me the most comprehensive and comprehensible (and reassuring, so far as the house is concerned) answer. - Natasha (9/99)