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Earthquake Retrofitting: What is it and Why is it Necessary?

Seismic retrofitting on a brick house

Earthquake Retrofitting: What is it and Why is it Necessary?

Earthquakes pose a constant threat to California buildings and homes. An earthquake can cause serious damage and even collapse in the blink of an eye. Beyond this, in just a few seconds, an earthquake’s reverberations can cause serious injury or worse. Therefore, it is critical for all homeowners and commercial property owners in California to take the necessary steps and work with an earthquake retrofitting service to ensure their buildings are outfitted for seismic activity.

What is Earthquake Retrofitting?

Earthquake retrofitting, or seismic retrofitting, is the process of improving the connection between the frame and concrete foundation of a building. The types of retrofitting services you need depends on a variety of factors.

Foundation Bolting

In the process of foundation bolting, bolts are added to improve connections between the frame and the foundation. Many older or poorly built homes have bolts that were placed too far apart, and bolts can weaken over time. During a retrofit, new bolts are usually added through the wood on top of the foundation, which is referred to as the sill or mudsill. Expansion bolts or epoxy bolts may be used in this process.  

Cripple Wall Bracing

Cripple wall bracing keeps the cripple wall (the short, wood-framed wall in the building’s crawl space) from collapsing during an earthquake. Horizontal sill blocking consisting of 2-inch by 4-inch boards is added between the vertical studs at the top and bottom of the cripple wall in addition to other locations between studs. Vertical studs may also be added. Oriented strand wood or plywood is nailed to the interior face of the cripple wall, and nails are added through existing blocking. The cripple wall needs bracing to prevent the overall structure from shifting. Not all buildings have cripple walls, so this may not be a necessary part of retrofitting.

Other seismic services your structure may require include sloped site footing alterations, chimney strengthening, and whole-house earthquake retrofitting, so be sure to consult with a California earthquake retrofitting specialist.

Which Buildings Need Retrofitting?

Buildings that were constructed after the 1920s were nailed to their foundations, which does not hold up sufficiently against an earthquake. In the 1980s, building codes were written requiring stronger connections between framing and foundation. Buildings constructed before 1979, therefore, have weaker connections and must be strengthened to be considered fortified for seismic activity. In some parts of California, retrofitting is required for personal and community safety. San Francisco, for example, requires that wood-frame buildings of three or more stories or two stories over a basement or underfloor space that extend above grade must be seismically strengthened. Regardless of requirements, an earthquake can damage virtually any structure, so all buildings in California should be retrofitted.

Reasons to Retrofit Your California Home or Commercial Property

Peace of Mind

An earthquake can strike unexpectedly at any moment. To fully ensure the safety of your family and your community, you must invest in quality retrofitting. A retrofitted building can withstand earthquakes that would otherwise cause foundations to become destabilized and lead to structural collapse. The surest way to afford your and your neighbor’s peace of mind is to make sure you are totally prepared for the very real possibility of an earthquake.

Cost Savings

The costs associated with strengthening your building for seismic activity are minimal in comparison to the potential costs of failing to do so. If an earthquake causes damage to your building, like a crack in the foundation or collapse of your roof, it could cost substantially more to make those repairs. Not only could your building become damaged, but property loss could be significant, and people could become injured. There is a lot of financial risk in choosing not to retrofit your California home or commercial property. That risk is best mitigated by making the initial investment.

Protection for Your Home or Business

If an earthquake damages or destroys your home, it could render you and your family stranded without a place to stay for a period of time. You could lose valued belongings, which is nothing compared to the potential for human injury. If you own a commercial property, your risk is also significant, especially if many people spend time in your building every day. Damage to your building could mean countless people are left without jobs or places to live, depending on the type of property. The best thing to do to ensure the safety of your family, friends, and community is to work with an earthquake retrofitting service towards preparing for seismic activity and ensuring your building is safe.

Contact Us for the Best San Francisco Seismic Retrofitting Services

For comprehensive earthquake retrofitting in Marin County, CA, contact Victor Construction & Engineering today. Our experienced technicians will conduct on-site assessments and determine the exact type of commercial or residential earthquake retrofitting services your structure needs for optimal protection against seismic activity. Call (415) 472-9144  to schedule your Bay Area retrofitting service today.