A Fearless Approach to Construction

Contractor Dale Scheffler of D.J. Scheffler & Nye makes sure to take on the challenging construction projects others don’t

By Kent Crowley

The house teeters on the edge. So much earth has already slipped away that you can see the underside of the swimming pool as it dangles precariously on the edge of the newly formed cliff. Contractor Dale Scheffler stands yards away trying to figure out how he is going to save this house. Fortunately, this isn’t his first rodeo. Scheffler has made a living helping people and structures in seemingly impossible situations.

This particular house was in Malibu, Calif., a place where Scheffler has done a great deal of work. In 2005, he famously cleared a gigantic boulder that was blocking Pacific Coast Highway, which government agencies had been struggling to safely move. Scheffler came up with a unique solution—don’t move the whole boulder, smash it into smaller pieces. Once he started work, the highway was open in less than 24 hours.

The house in Malibu was eventually saved by Scheffler and his team, shoring up the side of the mountain with a series of tiebacks and soldier piles. “It’s really scary for these homeowners when the ground is literally starting to give way and their house is threatened,” Scheffler said. “When you are able to come in and save their house, the relief and joy that they have is hard to express. I am just glad I am able to help them.”

Scheffler has been making the impossible-possible in the drilling, shoring and construction industry for decades. He is a self-taught, sometimes engineer, heavy equipment operator and overall problem solver with a sharp mind, quick wit and fearless determination. The company he leads, D.J. Scheffler and Nye, is known for taking on jobs that make other companies shy away due to the complexity and risk.

DJ Scheffler and Nye workers retain this wall to shore a slope.

Among the unique technologies Scheffler uses and pioneered in the United States is Continuous Flight Augering (CFA). In short, the CFA method provides a way in which there is never an empty shaft or the need for driving piles, both of which can cause problems when working in an area with unstable soil conditions such as the coast.

One of the main uses of CFA over the years has been constructing basements for high-end homes and swimming pools in the high-water table environment of Scheffler’s native Newport Beach and Balboa Island.

“People think they can’t add a swimming pool to their property or build a home with a basement here, but it can be done safely if you use the right approach and the processes we pioneered here in the United States like CFA allow us to do just that,” Scheffler said.

The CFA process was initially used in Europe, according to Scheffler. In turn, it was one of the first U.S. based companies to use the technology. “It used to drive me a little nuts when I would go to forums and sessions with other companies in my line of work and everybody was asking me about CFA and other techniques I was working with that they weren’t, but eventually understood they were just trying to learn and get better like I was,” Scheffler said.

Adding a pool or a basement to a home in Newport Beach can add tremendous value because they are so rare. According to local realtor sources, there is only one home with a swimming pool on Balboa Island and basements are extremely rare. What value the swimming pool adds they could not say, but a boat dock adds around a half million dollars in value, whereas a basement would add $1.5 to $3 million in value depending on the size and amenities.

A finished beachfront below water table basement built by D.J. Scheffler & Nye.

In addition to adding value to individual homes, developers have also used Scheffler’s expertise to carve out more lots in dense areas where the use of space is at a premium such as infill projects. “We can often find ways to make places available for homebuilding where you might not think it’s possible,” said Scheffler.

According to Loren Borstein of Borstein Enterprises, the ability to add more lots in a place like Silver Lake where new homes can sell for well more than $1 million is extremely valuable. “Finished lots on average in those areas are worth $500,000 or more, so if you can add a few more lots without comprising design and livability, that’s real money.”

According to Albus and Associates, one of the leading geotechnical engineering firms in Southern California who has worked with Scheffler and his team, there is much to be gained by engaging them on difficult projects. “Dale adds huge value by providing practical and economical solutions in challenging environments and jurisdictions,” said Albus and Associates CEO Dave Albus. “Dale and his team consistently find smart ways to assist with projects in areas where it is hard to develop.”

D.J. Scheffler and Nye is a company that solves problems and adds value, and that is why for more than 30 years, they have been in-demand by individual homeowners, developers and government agencies.

“I love helping people and solving problems,” Scheffler said. “It is what makes the work so rewarding.”

Workers of DJ Scheffler and Nye installing slope stabilization.

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