Of all the ways to improve your home, a seismic upgrade doesn’t always immediately come to mind. But if you live in San Francisco, doing a seismic upgrade can mean the difference between having a house to come back to after an earthquake and having to relocate until you can rebuild your home.
You can do most voluntarily seismic upgrades fairly easily, and there’s no need to move out while the work is being done. You start by consulting a structural engineer, who will do a site visit and identify the best ways to integrate new seismic components. These ways typically include installing shear wall (a panel that resists lateral earthquake movement), putting garage posts on better concrete footing, bolting the foundation, adding posts and improving post-to-beam connections.
Of course, if you have a brick foundation, replacing it with a concrete one is the best upgrade you can make. This is also the most expensive upgrade, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.
Seismic soundness is particularly important if you have two or more stories over a garage or on liquefaction.
You’ll need engineer plans, and then can get a couple general contractor bids to do the work. I strongly recommend getting permits for any work done. In addition to ensuring the work is done properly, permits will also come in handy on your 3R report (building permit history). The 3R is a mandatory disclosure when you sell, and home buyers typically appreciate a retrofitted home.
If you’re ready to embark on an upgrade, I highly recommend contacting Matt Coelho of Hom-Pisano Engineering. Matt has consulted with several of my clients and knows his stuff.
For more on seismic work, check out the California Earthquake Authority’s site. Keep in mind that you can get insurance discounts after a retrofit, as well. Consult your home insurance provider to find out more details on those possibilities.