By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc., Architects
California, 3/98: El Nino storms flood the Russian River. Photo by DAVE GATLEY/FEMA News Photo Mandatory credit (no charge for image use)
It’s been a long while since I’ve had time to post to my blog. I apologize for the delay, but it is a good thing. Business is booming in the architecture field, especially here in the San Francisco Bay Area. We have a steady stream of calls from potential clients, and we have a large backlog of projects heading into year-end. That always feels good for a small businessperson.
There are a few things that I want to share before they impact you. One is drought-related. Since California has not had significant rain for several years, the soil is very dry. Depending on the soil conditions on your property, if we receive El Niño rain in the next few months, the soil is likely to rapidly expand. This can cause cracks in the stucco or interior walls of your home or commercial building. The cracks are likely to be cosmetic concerns only, and can be patched and painted. But if the cracks are large, or if your gut tells you something might be wrong, you may want to have an architect or structural engineer take a look and make sure that you don’t have any foundation issues or other serious problems. We had a client who encountered just such a problem with severe cracks appearing in the walls. It turned out that an unpermitted remodel had occurred in the house before he had purchased it. A structural supporting wall had been removed to create a great room. As settling occurred the cracks got more and more dramatic. Luckily, he caught it in time and we can remedy the situation before anyone gets hurt.
Another thing you should check before the anticipated rains come, is that your gutters and downspouts are clear of leaves or other debris. If substantial amounts of water cannot exit your roof via the gutters and downspouts, then you may have water pooling or dripping in areas that are not suitable and can lead to infiltration issues.
Make sure that water doesn’t create puddles on your property. Low spots, and ground that slopes toward, rather than away from, the foundation of your building can cause problems in the long run. You may need to install a sump pump, French drain, or other method to safely divert water into storm drains.
This is a good time of year to do interior work, as contractors may have space in their schedules during inclement weather. If you have a potential project that doesn’t require opening exterior walls or roof, you may want to get it to your architect right away and see if you can get through the permitting process in time to get the work done this winter.
We hope, like all Californians, that the rains come this winter. We also hope that your home or commercial property is a safe and secure shelter, no matter what kind of weather comes.