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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 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
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
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!
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.
Steve Egloff and his company Bay Area Underpinning firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
- 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:
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
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
He's at (510) 427-2465
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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
license number: 416376
Jan - April 2007
Hi, Any recommendations based on
work done in the last couple of years? Thanks
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
and would definitely get at least 2 quotes. In addition, their work did not
initial inspection and they had to to come back to add more bolts. They tried
blame it on the inspector but I question their cost and thoroughness.
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.
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.
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
ago. They were a pleasure to work with, from the owner of the business all the
to the crew that did the work. The same great crew came to the house each day,
they finished ahead of schedule and on budget. Feel free to email me with any
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
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.
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&E 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:
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
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
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!
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.
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!
In response to the request for earthquake retrofit recommendations, I strongly recommend Bay Area Retrofit:
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).
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.
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.
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!
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
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) 317-8045
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
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) 317-8045.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
Hi-We used Quakebusters for our retrofit work. I thought they were terribly
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
they did great, fast work and I was happy with the job they did
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 510-317-8045.
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
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].
Oakland there is EQE International [(510) 817 3100]. These firms are
well known for earthquake / retrofit expertise. Bear in mind these
are usually working on multi-million dollar projects for clients with
pockets - it may be hard to quote fees that are profitable for them
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
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
structural plan for our house. His recommendations were quite
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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