30 ‘Nightmares’ And ‘Miracles’ Discovered During Structural Inspections (New Pics)

For nearly 30 years, Alpha Structural, Inc. has developed a powerful reputation as the number one foundation engineering and repair, landslide repair, earthquake, and structural rehabilitation contractor in the Los Angeles area. The company has over 400 years of combined technical experience and all of it is hard-core and down-in-the-trenches, not managed from behind a computer.

Alpha Structural, Inc. also shares photos from its engineers' day-to-day work, including all the funniest, most bizarre, and downright dangerous things they discover. We've already covered their finds here, here, and here, but recently they've unearthed more surprising treasures, so we put together a new piece on them.

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Life always finds a way...

Image credits: AlphaStructural


Here we have a brick retaining wall experiencing surcharge from the neighboring hill. Structures that are settling can cause this surcharge in the soil. This creates a high-pressure situation which then pushes out the remaining soil and results in this type of damage to retaining walls.

Image credits: AlphaStructural

Since the company has already inspected tens of thousands of properties, it's hard to really surprise the engineers. But it still happens. "I would say we're more likely to be surprised by what's under the home than the structure itself! Although, while we are not alarmist in any way, every once in a while we will come across a structure that we are surprised is still standing."

"We've definitely inspected properties that should have been demolished too, though they never take our advice on that particular issue."


Being that my company in LA does this sort of repair/prevention work, this was some scary news to see this morning. Torrential rain and debris caused a large chunk of Highway 1 on the West Coast of California to wash away.
You're going to need yourself a Yoshi if you're wanting to cross here. Back in 2017, a massive landslide covered up over a half mile of the road. It took months to clean up and there was no access around it. If it continues to rain, I wouldn't be surprised if more of this happened in and around Southern California.

Image credits: AlphaStructural


If you're ever concerned about your slab foundation being cracked, look out for this

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The most nightmarish inspection we’ve done last year was the property in Portuguese Bend down on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. First off, because of soil conditions and high landslide risks, not much structural work can be performed there in the first place.

"The home had a very interesting foundation system made up of screw jacks, steel beams, and cribbing (commonly used for temporarily lifting a structure while work is being done underneath)," Derek Marier from Alpha Structural, Inc. told Bored Panda.

"The front portion of the deck and home was sinking and unfortunately, the homeowner can’t really do much about it. It could have toppled over at any given moment and that’s why the 'nightmarish' description fits well."


This concrete patio is sitting on a retaining wall that has been pushed outward due to what is known as a surcharge, or hydrostatic pressure build-up. Hollow areas formed under the patio, causing the cracking and further sinking of the patio from the roof load above

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Please watch your step!

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We think this takes the cake. This is not rebar. These are old Helical Piers from the 70s. It has never been a method that we have used as a company and this is why. They are very practical in many situations, but for steep hillside and seismic zones, they are not. We've seen this all too many times in LA.

Image credits: AlphaStructural

Marier said that safety is a huge deal for employees at Alpha Structural, Inc. "Crawl suits, masks, gloves, steel-toed boots, and many other forms of safety precautions are taken. The chance that a building is actually going to fall over when we do our work is slim to none. Any actual danger is sniffed out pretty quickly and avoided. If our guys think it’s unsafe to inspect or work on a location, they’ll make a call based on their best judgment and sometimes they choose to not do it. That’s just our safety policy!"


I guess the original builder of this property chose the ancient Roman vibe for this foundation.

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The side of this property is sinking, causing this column to lean backward, bringing the connecting beam forward in the other direction. It could slip in the future if it goes unhandled.

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This doesn't happen with just a gust of wind... though that might be all it would take to bring it down

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Notice the compression of the posts into the girder. They go into the girder about an inch. This property has some crazy settlement and moisture problems

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This isn't what you want to see greeting you as you enter the crawlspace.

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Step on this deck at your own peril...

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It looks right and wrong at the same time

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I'm not sure what his bottom jaw is doing near his rear end, but always a "fun" find.

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This deck system uses an angled beam that attaches to the concrete patio below for support. The very edge of the deck is beginning to dip down, causing a lot of tension where the beam meets the patio. If you look closely, you can see the concrete lifting with the beam. No partying on this deck for a while!

Image credits: AlphaStructural


When your friends help support you but they slowly leave you over time.

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Part of your retaining wall/house seems to be missing, sir

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A nice pile of dust supporting a home.
This is a very bad spalling concrete foundation. I assume most of you know what that is by now, but if you don't feel free to ask.
Here's some more spall damage on a different property!

Image credits: AlphaStructural


A car hit the side of this house and caused some pretty significant structural damage.
Not much can be seen from the inside surprisingly, except water damage and some cracking.

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This masonry wall supported the back half of the home, as well as a deck in the back. Tons of moisture and hillside erosion caused the wall to lose its grip on the hillside and rest of the structure. This type of failure tends to happen in the rainy season in Los Angeles.

Image credits: AlphaStructural


We’re earthquake retrofitting this building and discovered a few columns that were completely corroded at the bottom. Scary...

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A flight of stairs that goes directly to the hospital!

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Nature wins this episode of man vs. wild!

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Anyone want to take a dip the sewage pool under this house?

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Our firm was brought into this project to lower the basement down two feet and to add additional supports for framing and brand new concrete foundation walls. The structure had some bad rot as well. The project began with a demo of all the drywall and lath to expose rotting elements of the basement area. It didn't take long to open everything up. We exposed tons of rotting wood and plenty of termite damage, which is always a pleasant surprise. The rim joists were in very bad shape, as were the studs connecting to them. It turned out to be quite the rot repair and we had plenty of replacing to do along with the concrete foundation. After ripping open the walls and exposing everything, engineered shoring was installed to support the stories above. You may be asking, "why does the shoring go down into the ground?" Good questions. Since we are lowering the slab 2 feet, we needed to make sure the structure was supported down to that level where the new slab will be poured, at least until the concrete foundation walls were in! Demolition of the existing walls and slab came next. Additional shoring was added toward the higher elevated area to minimize any risk of buckling in the floors above. It looked wicked from an exterior viewpoint. I'll add that these guys did such a fantastic job of staying on track and getting everything done in an efficient and safe manner. After the concrete was demolished, everything was cleaned up and concrete forming and steel reinforcement was installed in preparation of the walls to be poured. Rebar dowels were set at the bottom of the wall to make the process of connecting the slab grid much easier. Anchor bolts were suspended into the concrete forming so they would set nicely into the new foundation. These will connect the framing of the building to the new foundation walls. Once the foundation walls were cured, the shoring remained in until the additional framing was installed. The forms were stripped and everything came out perfect. No honey comb or pockets. They did such a good job. Internal footings were used to help support the newly replaced framing and beam in the center of the room. Then they added a vapor barrier and sand, and finally put in the steel grid for the concrete slab. The pour came and went and the finishers did what th Thus, the project (at least for our end of the work) was complete.ey had to do in less than two hours. It came out perfect (as it should) and the client was very happy.

Image credits: AlphaStructural


Who wants to guess what happened to this poor girder? Luckily it was sistered a while back, but it's a shocking scene with that old one still there

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"Frankenstein's basement" - Aptly put by one of our assessors.

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Out with the old, in with the... new?
This is a very early 1900s home with a brick foundation that we inspected.
In addition to the foundation needing a replacement/sister foundation, much of the framing needs to be replaced as well.
It's hard to consider this as a foundation since the concrete is as stable as the dirt underneath it.

Image credits: AlphaStructural


This is why you always remove stucco before you engineer a solution!

Image credits: AlphaStructural