Craftsman Bungalow Vs. Earthquake - Building & Construction - DIY Chatroom Home Improvement Forum

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Old 03-27-2011, 04:09 PM   #1
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Craftsman Bungalow vs. Earthquake

I live near the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which you may know is one of the only places in the U.S. expected to have an earthquake and tsunami similar to the one in Japan. And I'm currently shopping for houses...(out of the flood zone, at least).

I found a 1900 craftsman-style bungalow I like that seems to have a few things in its favor, quake-wise, as compared to most houses in this style. It has no unreinforced masonry (no stone columns on the porch, and no chimney - just a woodstove). It is all wood construction, which is supposed to be safer in quakes than brick or concrete. But it is on wooden posts and piers for the foundation, and like most older houses here they are too far apart for comfort.

I found something inexpensive called "Anchorpanel" retrofitting, a somewhat local company (northern California), and I'm wondering if anyone has experience with or opinions about their process. Here's a short description from their website: "Cast-in-place panels provide superior seismic strength (for a lot less money). Existing structures don't have to be raised or lowered. Simply attach the panels and pump concrete in the trench. UBC and IBC/IRC conformance."

My concern is with the concrete part - wouldn't this put added stress on the house in the event of an earthquake? Is it better to have some sort of metal bracing instead, while allowing the house to "roll with the quake?" I've read in various places that posts & piers can survive better in an earthquake because they don't make the house absorb the full shock.

Does anyone else have experience with affordable retro-fitting of old post/pier houses? (Gotta save some money for the inevitable repairs *after* a quake, since there's really no way to "earthquake-proof.")


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Old 03-27-2011, 05:05 PM   #2
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Old 03-27-2011, 05:57 PM   #3
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Old 03-27-2011, 06:04 PM   #4
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Very few individual homeowners add earthquake resistance to their homes, the cost is usually very high, and it is difficult to determine how effective the technique will be until after the quake, when of course it is too late if it does not work. If you do hire a company to add earthquake resistance to the frame, a critical question to ask is how they plan to compensate you if it does not work. Without a detailed, unambiguous warranty, you have effectively zero chance of collecting.

One simple alternative is to purchase earthquake insurance. You would be surprised how few people actually have quake insurance, even the ones who live in well known seismic zones.

Another option is to add earthquake resistance to the inside of the house. This means strapping tall bookcases to the wall, attaching appliances firmly to walls (especially items like expensive big screen TV's, and avoiding large interior overhangs on things like islands. Avoid placing expensive fragile items on shelves. You simply accept that there will be large damage if the earthquake hits, you seek to reduce damage to interior contents.
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Old 03-27-2011, 07:03 PM   #5
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^ This is a great well written, thoughtful response from Daniel Holtzman (no surprise there !).
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