Trees, Ice Cream And Charlie Chaplin

Wouldn’t it be great if every ice cream flavor was vanilla?  Or, if there was only one type of car?  Yeah, you just pictured that boring, black and white scenario!!  That’s what is great, we have options and different styles to choose from to fit our preferences or style.  The same goes for houses.

Did you know that today is Charlie Chaplin’s birthday.  Go ahead and verify, I’m not making it up!! 😉 What’s even more interesting is that we had the privilege of repairing one of his houses just South of Hollywood Boulevard.  Now when I say every house is different, Charlie’s houses are that to the extreme.  Not only are they older homes, these ones were built in 1923, but they had some of the most “unique” architectural features that I have ever seen in a home.  From the small winding staircase to the oddly shaped door frames, this house was unique from top and to the bottom.  Unfortunately, when these houses were built, they decided to plant trees right next to the home, and I mean right next to the home.  Well….lets fast forward almost 100 years and those small trees have turned into massive trees that in turn have a massive root system.  The root system is so large that it actually has lifted a section of the house by about 4 inches.  

When trees and vegetation are planted next to homes, most of the time the only thing we think about is the impact that those things will have on the curb appeal of the house and the property.  All of our crystal balls aren’t able to actually see or know the impact that the trees and vegetation will have on the home’s foundation.  Tree root are notorious for impacting a home’s foundation.  The roots’ only goal in life is the seek out and find as much water as possible to satisfy the tree’s life.  The roots also know that it is easier to grow laterally in the dirt than to grow down into the harder soils as well as knowing that the majority of the water will be coming from the surface rather than an underground spring.  Now, rule of thumb with tree roots is that what ever you can see for the crown is approximately the same size of the root system that is underground.  The roots will do whatever they can to move laterally in the soils even if that means they have to take a slight detour to go under or in some instances through your home’s foundation.

Now back to Charlie, Charlie’s houses didn’t necessarily have a settlement problem, but it was given the effect that it was settling because of the lifting that was happening with the tree.  Our goal for his house was to lift the other areas up to match the lifting that the tree had already done to the other section of the house.  Again, nothing ordinary to our typical foundation repair project and we would have expected nothing less with such a unique original home owner.

One question that I’m always asked is “What do you expect will happen when we lift the home?” My answer is always the same “We can expect to lift it, but every house reacts differently when doing so.”  I would say about 95% of our homes in Southern California are pretty standard and the expectation and out come line up.  But then there are those remaining 5%……those “UNIQUE” homes.  They will typically require us to take a step back, re-evaluate how the home is reacting, and then move forward with a revised plan of attack.  Let’s just say Charlie’s house ended up in that unique 5%!  

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Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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