Strengthen Your Home
Does your house need a seismic retrofit?
If your home was built after 1979 probably not. However, houses built before 1979 were not consistently built to withstand earthquake shaking. If your house:
- Has a wood frame
- Was built before 1979
- Is on a raised foundation (you would have a crawl space under the house)
…then you may need a brace and bolt seismic retrofit to help keep your house from sliding off of its foundation during an earthquake.
If your house doesn’t meet the conditions above, there are still ways you can strengthen your house. Learn more
What is seismic retrofitting?
A seismic retrofit strengthens a house to make it more resistant to earthquake damage.
One way to seismically retrofit is to bolt the house to its foundation and brace the walls around the crawl space with plywood. This is known as a brace and bolt retrofit
A brace and bolt retrofit typically costs between $3,000 and $7,000. The Earthquake Brace + Bolt Program offers financial incentives of up to $3,000 to help qualified homeowners in a limited number of California ZIP codes. Find out more about the program.
CEA offers policy premium discounts to policyholders who retrofit their houses. For more information about the Hazard Reduction Discount, please call 888.933.9876 or contact your home insurance company.
How a brace and bolt retrofit works
Many pre-1979 houses have a short wood-framed wall surrounding the crawl space under the house. Typically no more than 4 feet high this short wall is known as a "cripple wall." To help prevent this type of house from sliding off of its foundation during an earthquake, the cripple wall needs to be braced with plywood and the house bolted to the foundation.
Next steps—how to get started with your brace and bolt retrofit
Homeowners or their contractors may use certain methods and plans without engaging a design professional (architect or engineer). Appendix Chapter A3 of the California Existing Building Code, or in certain communities, using a pre-approved plan set (for example, the "Los Angeles Standard Plan Set" or "Plan Set A" in some Bay Area counties and communities) will guide the contractor in how to complete the retrofit.
- If you have a single-family, wood-frame house with less than a four-foot cripple wall, you can use Chapter A3 or a pre-approved Plan Set. Check with your local building department on what Plan Set options are available.
- If your house does not meet the conditions above, you have options.
- Building Permit: Use Chapter A3 details or an approved plan set to secure a building permit.
- Hire a contractor or do it yourself: The California Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board has information on how to hire a licensed contractor. Or if you're handy, you can complete this work yourself.
Here's how the California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP) can help homeowners:
- Educate you on the benefits of seismic retrofitting.
- Provide a list of FEMA-trained, licensed contractors to seismically retrofit your house.