Alameda Structural, Inc. does one type of contracting exclusively—foundations and related structural repair and seismic retrofitting. “This is all we do,” confirms owner George Walton, who has 27 years’ experience in foundation work. “We’re here to replace your foundation, not remodel your bathroom.”
Professionalism is important to Alameda Structural, and it starts with its team, who average 12 years’ experience with the company. New team members start at the entry level and learn every aspect of the company’s operations, eventually working their way up to becoming project managers. Alameda Structural doesn’t rely on less-expensive day laborers—a rare thing in the current economy, says Mr. Walton. This ensures everyone on the team knows the job and can work fast, efficiently and safely.
Maintaining schedules is also a key factor to Alameda Structural’s reputation. “We’re there every day,” says Mr. Walton. “The rain doesn’t stop us—we put up tarps. When it’s not raining, we’re outside; when it’s raining, we’re under the house.” The company’s drive to keep to its schedules ensures work doesn’t drag out, which can cost clients more money.
In addition to its timeliness, Alameda Structural works diligently to deliver within budget, says Mr. Walton. “It’s rare for us to receive more money than what we bid. It’s one thing if a customer asks us to do additional work, but if we encounter problems, we don’t add to the bill. We dig a lot, and it’s somewhat of a guessing game in regards to what kind of soil we encounter. We’ve had boulders and basalt-type rock, and sometimes we’ve had to use dynamite, but we rarely ask for more money in those situations.” And for jobs of less than $50,000, no bills go out until all work is completed.
Organization, planning, and methodical work are the final elements in Alameda Structural’s strategy for success, says Mr. Walton. Its crews proceed through jobs step-by-step, ensuring each task is performed correctly and cleaning sites at the end of each day.
“Our reputation is important to us,” says Mr. Walton. “We have 32 pages of referrals—more than 1,400 past and present clients. When a potential customer calls any one of them, they get the same response: ‘Don’t use anyone else.’” Alameda Structural also provides clients with a list of jobs in progress. “They can go right to a jobsite, knock on the door and ask, ‘What do you think of the contractor?’ And they’ll get the same response every time. We’re not hit or miss. Every job is a success story.”
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Do you keep a clean worksite?
A: Yes. At any given time, we have about nine jobs in progress. We invite our potential customers to visit all these sites and see exactly how clean we work.
Q: What hours do you work?
A: We work from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. We can, however, adjust the schedule if it’s more convenient for a client.
Q: Can I live in my house while it’s being worked on?
A: Yes. Most of the houses we work on are occupied. We cover any holes or trenches with plywood for safety.
Q: Do you have to move a house to do foundation work?
A: Sometimes the scope of a job will call for us to move a house’s location, but for general foundation work or seismic retrofitting, it’s not necessary. We take the weight off the old foundation while work is in progress, but we don’t actually lift or move the house.
Q: Do you have insurance?
A: Yes, we carry $2 million in liability insurance. When we need to subcontract to a shoring company, we use one with earthquake insurance. And all our employees are covered by workers’ compensation.
Q: Do you do seismic retrofitting?
A: Yes, we do quite a bit, and we consider ourselves retrofit experts. There are 20 or 30 engineers who use us as their top referral.
Q: Do you have engineers on staff?
A: Not on staff, but we consistently rely on four or five engineers who work with us when needed—a soils engineer, a civil engineer and a couple of structural engineers. Because of our long-term relationships, they come when we call, and there’s no downtime waiting for an engineer’s assessment.
Q: Do you do inspections for real estate transactions? What do those entail?
A: Yes. We look for any problems or issues with the foundation and assess the life left in it, but this can entail a lot of things. First, we look at the site conditions. Is the house in a slide zone, like the Berkeley hills? We examine the age of the house and determine if it’s level. We look for settlement, drainage and seismic issues. Older foundations are often in a state of deterioration. The concrete gets softer and may not have been built deep enough, so it’s in danger in case of an earthquake. We take all of these factors into account and provide an assessment on the foundation’s condition so buyers can make an informed decision.