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What is retrofitting?

Retrofitting for most single-family homes involves strengthening the walls of the crawl space under your home and making sure that it is attached to the foundation (with bolts or anchors) and to the floor framing above. While many homes continue to be retrofitted, we have become increasingly concerned about the quality of retrofits, including the workmanship and the work actually performed. Somewhere between 25% and 75% of currently retrofitted homes need additional work. We can address all three of the following:

1. The mudsill-foundation connection – Adding bolts and bearing  plates will protect the house from slipping off the foundation. In low clearances, we can use a Universal Foundation Plate.

2. The cripple wall – Adding plywood panels on the lower walls (cripple walls) will protect from collapse.  This structural plywood is know as “shearwall plywood”.

3. The cripple wall-floor framing connection – Adding framing clips to attach the plywooded shear walls to the floor framing above.

Can I do any of this work myself?

Yes, homeowners who have done other home improvements can do it themselves. If you plan to do the work yourself, you may want to take a training class.  Quake Busters can also assist homeowners.  We are happy to do as much or as little, as clients desire.  If a training class for Seismic Retrofitting is desired, the City of San Leandro offers training.

Remember that the area under your house can be an unpleasant work environment!

Do I need a building permit from the city or county?

Yes, permits are required by law. When you obtain a building permit, you also have some assurance that the work will be completed correctly. If a contractor suggests working without permits, you are talking to the wrong contractor.  In general, there is a reason that a contractor will try to work without the scrutiny of the building department.  Some reasons are that they do not have a license, or do not have Workers Compensation Insurance, or may not know what they are doing in general.   In addition, having the permit, you end up with great documentation of what has been done to your home.  An insurance company, or a buyer, should you decide to sell, will be happy that you have a signed permit card, job map, etc…Non permitted work can result in a large fine to the homeowner from the Building Department, and great difficulty in selling a home, due to no documentation, or way to verify hidden work.

How much do permits cost?

Typically, cities and counties charge a percentage of the job cost for retrofit permits.   Currently, Albany is the only city that does not require a permit fee for Seismic Retrofitting.   A typical permit costs anywhere from 5% to 10% of the job cost. Call your city or county for specific numbers.

How can I get the money to pay for this?

Quake Busters has been offering its zero interest payment plan for over 15 years.  We know that it is not inexpensive to seismically retrofit your home, and we are committed to helping our clients reach their goals for earthquake strengthening.  In addition, Home equity loans are available from banks. A five-year loan from a bank for $5,000 for 5 years at 9% will cost you about $104 a month.  Homeowners with low fixed incomes may be able to get help in paying for the work from their city or county or from the California Department of Insurance. Some cities have financial assistance available to their residents for retrofitting.

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Photo provided by USGS