What is Earthquake Retrofitting?
Due to Seattle’s increased probability of seismic activity, all buildings built before 1980 must be retrofitted for earthquakes. Earthquake retrofitting, otherwise known as seismic retrofitting, is the process of strengthening and stabilizing infrastructure to withstand seismic activity's effects. Essentially, it is a form of unreinforced masonry restoration that aims to help minimize damages and prevent buildings from collapsing during earthquakes.
How Earthquake Retrofitting Works
Earthquakes cause buildings to sway and shake violently. This often results in their structural failure or complete collapse. Typically homes or buildings fail one of three ways during an earthquake:
- The wood framing slides off the foundation
- The cripple wall (located between the foundation and the first floor) is shifted
- The floor joists are shifted out underneath the mudsill or crippled wall
In order to prevent these three types of structural failures, it is essential to retrofit your home or business. Retrofitting is essentially the act of securing unreinforced masonry (URM) buildings, ensuring that they are more structurally sound. This is done through anchoring, cripple wall bracing, and connecting joists.
Earthquake Retrofitting Process
Here’s how earthquake retrofitting works at Rife Masonry:
First, our Seattle earthquake retrofit contractors will come to assess your building. During this time, they’ll look at your building's structure and areas of vulnerability. This typically includes its foundations, walls, and roof. After they better understand your building’s condition, they will provide you with a detailed cost estimate.
After you accept the estimate, our contractors can get started retrofitting. The first step is to anchor your wood framing to your foundation. This is a lot more than just simply attaching the two parts together - we install bolts and plates that securely anchor your building to the foundation.
Cripple Wall Bracing
Unreinforced masonry walls are one of the most vulnerable parts of your building during an earthquake. To stabilize them in the event of extreme shaking, we install reinforced walls and panels for additional support.
Lastly, we install framing clips to ensure your floor joists can not shift or become displaced.
Once your earthquake retrofit is complete, our contractors will thoroughly check their work, re-inspecting every structural component and reinforcement in the building. They will also leave you with the proper earthquake retrofitting certification.
Reasons to Retrofit Your Seattle Home
There are countless reasons to retrofit your Seattle home, business, or commercial building:
Masonry Building Restoration Seattle
Along with earthquake retrofitting, we recommend property owners take additional precautions to protect the structural integrity of their buildings in case of earthquakes. This includes various restoration practices such as historic and unreinforced masonry restoration.
Common practices involved in masonry building restoration at Rife Masonry include:
- Routing out all mortar on sky-facing joints
- Terra cotta and stone patching
- Sanded caulk joints
- Earthquake retrofitting
- Parapet bracing
- Pinning & doweling using all-threads and helical ties/stitching
- Diaphragm strengthening
Read more about our Seattle masonry building restoration services here.
Seattle Earthquake Retrofit Contractor
At Rife Masonry, we are committed to providing exceptional earthquake retrofitting services for homeowners and property owners in Seattle. Our team of retrofit contractors is highly knowledgeable in everything from earthquake retrofitting and tuckpointing to historic masonry restoration and unreinforced masonry restoration. This makes us a true one-stop shop for all your masonry restoration and preservation needs. Additionally, our ability to handle retrofit projects of any size or complexity, no matter how challenging, separates us from local competitors. Reach out to us today to learn more about our earthquake retrofitting services - we can’t wait to work with you!
Earthquake Retrofitting FAQ
Earthquake retrofitting is undoubtedly worth it, given our risk of earthquakes here in Seattle. It gives you the peace of mind that your home or place of business will remain standing even after a hazardous natural disaster and that its occupants will be safe from harm. In the long run, it is a small price to pay for the security and safety of your life and property.
Earthquake retrofitting projects typically take 1-2 weeks to complete. However, the exact timeline will vary depending on the size and condition of your building. Our retrofit contractors are happy to provide you with an accurate timeline following your preliminary assessment.
Yes - even if you have earthquake insurance, you should still retrofit your building. Retrofitting PREVENTS the damage from occurring in the first place instead of simply helping you recoup costs once the damage is done. It can also help to lower your insurance premiums.
While earthquake retrofitting makes your building increasingly more equipped to handle earthquakes, it is not 100% foolproof. Your building may still incur some damages. However, there are countless examples of homes not retrofitted, either sliding off their foundation, collapsing, or becoming uninhabitable. In contrast, their neighbor's retrofitted house is still standing with minimal damage.
The cost of your earthquake retrofitting project will depend on several factors, including the size of your building, its condition, and the type of masonry involved. Our retrofit contractors will provide you with a transparent, accurate cost estimate before beginning their work.