Get Help Retrofitting Your Home


Taking steps to get prepared for living safely and well in earthquake country can be as simple as buying some extra bottles of water to keep in the basement. But while you’re done there, look to see if your home is bolted to the foundation.

The California building code did not require houses to be bolted to their foundations until 1949, and in some jurisdictions, not until 1958. If your house is older than 1958, take a careful look.

You’ll be able to tell if your house is bolted to the foundation by the big bolts going through your foundation.

Foundation Bolted

However, even if it isn’t, you can with a small investment, secure the foundation of your home and brace cripple walls and soft stories. San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley are encouraging residents to seismically retrofit their homes by providing a variety of aid, including tax rebates, grants, how-to workshops and even tool lending. Call your city hall to find out if there is a program to help you.

Make your home earthquake secure by bolting your home to its foundation, and bracing cripple walls/soft stories. It won’t cost and arm and a leg, and the money you will save in not having to chase your house down the street during an earthquake makes it all worth it.

Photo Credit: Seismic Retrofit Project by iandavid on Flickr
Posted in Earthquake Professionals
6 comments on “Get Help Retrofitting Your Home
  1. Guys – I think you are doing a disservice when you tell people to make sure their house is “bolted” to the foundation. Too many people already think that if their house is “bolted,” then it’s earthquake safe. The bolts’ one and only purpose is to hold the “mud sill” to the foundation. They do NOT hold the house on the foundation. You are giving folks a false sense of security for which they will pay dearly after a serious quake.

    Your readers have to click through to another page to even see you mention the importance of bracing cripple walls with shear panel. And you don’t even mention that floor joists (not all, but a sufficient number) have to be connected with transfer ties to the top of the cripple walls or, if there are no cripple walls, to the mud sill.

    I cannot figure out why you posted the video by Greg Van. I’m sure he’s an excellent contractor, but the video is about how bolts are installed in NEW construction, before the foundation is poured. The huge majority of people are not building a house, they are concerned about retrofitting their existing house.

    Why don’t you use a video by one of the best retrofit contractors in the bay area, Bay Area Retrofit. They have a great site that has a bunch of videos on different retrofit issues.

    You have a great site that gives a lot of good information, but please check with someone who knows before you put out stuff like this. I think you’ve done more harm than good here.

    Sorry if I’ve come on too strong, but these things are not insignificant.

    Best regards,
    Larry Guillot

  2. Elizabeth Rood says:

    Hi Larry,

    First off, thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog and offer input.

    You may not have noticed, but in our irreverent way, we are asking people to seek professional help in getting their home seismically retrofitted, ie “Make your home earthquake secure by bolting your home to its foundation, and bracing cripple walls/soft stories.” We use those specific terms because they are easy for the layman to understand and less nebulous than “seismic retrofitting.”

    In our Get Ready Quick page devoted to bolting a house to a foundation, we even state “There is not a DIY fix to bolt your house to its foundation for an earthquake. This is a job for a licensed contractor or seismic retrofitter.”

    I feel you missed the spirit of the video on our “Get Ready Quick” page. We used it solely to illustrate that seismic retrofitting is not a job for a construction amateur. We are not endorsing any particular business over another.

    Thank you very much for sharing the information about your own seismic retrofitting business. For people living in the San Francisco Bay Area, your contact information may be helpful.

  3. Ines Pearce says:

    Actually, you do have some incorrect info here that would be best to take down and revise as soon as possible. Sometimes we only get 1 shot to educate the public about their risk.

    First, the photo – that is not evidence a home is retrofitted! Round washers ARE NOT recommended and should be replaced with 2in SQUARE PLATE washers as they provide better resistance to uplift. Also, just because there are bolts DOES NOT mean that there are enough throughout the foundation to actually hold it in place. I’ve heard homeowners talk about damage when they thought they were bolted – just because they saw bolts. A couple of bolts are not sufficient AND they may not be drilled or installed correctly. Sometime you will see bolts that were installed to hold the frame in place during construction and have NOTHING to do with earthquakes.

    I agree that homeowners should have professional inspections to review their retrofit needs, whether they have bolts or not, a cripple wall, etc. Homeowners shouldn’t assume it was done correctly as they need to protect their largest investment – their house!

    Some of the homes needing retrofit actually go into the 1970’s!!! As they may not have put enough bolts (or any) to hold the frame onto the foundation.

    Just bolting the wood frame of the house to the foundation is not enough. If they have a cripple wall (short wall between the foundation and first floor) it needs to be reinforced against the side-to-side motion of an earthquake. They will see if they have a cripple wall in their basement or crawl space (again, another opportunity to send in a licensed, experienced earthquake expert to look for them – especially if you don’t like spiders!). The bolts, then the cripple wall are the 1-2 punch, but the 3rd item is to make sure the first floor is attached to the foundation systems you have just secured, so the home is one structure and moves as one during shaking. We are trying to remove weaknesses where the house can collapse. You do mention the cripple wall but it needs to be made of equal importance in the content.

    While I do not suggest this for everyone, some people can perform their own retrofit with proper education, tools and inspections. San Leandro offers do-it-yourself classes that show how to retrofit and use tools properly (which they have a tool-lending library!) which you did mention. This is more for the simple, straight forward retrofits that do not require any unique engineering. That’s what the pros are for.

    You should get a permit (whether you do you own OR hire a contractor) to ensure quality control that retrofits are done correctly as there will be inspections! You are buying a little piece of mind.

    I like the irreverence of the site! There are just too many details on this one that can send homeowners away misinformed, and we all want them to be safe – which I know is why you have this site!

    The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) is piloting a new retrofit program (Brace + Bolt at which has great info & videos, and will help more CA homeowners retrofit. Great resource!

    I’ve been developing residential retrofit programs in multiple states for years, including CA, so please let me know if you have any questions. I’m glad to help.

    Ines Pearce
    Pearce Global Partners Inc.

  4. hey there and thank you for your info – I’ve certainly
    picked up something new from right here. I did however
    expertise some technical issues using this
    website, as I experienced to reload the website many times previous to I could get it to
    load correctly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK?
    Not that I am complaining, but slow loading instances times will sometimes affect
    your placement in google and could damage your quality score
    if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Anyway I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and could look
    out for much more of your respective exciting content.
    Ensure that you update this again very soon.

  5. You are so interesting! I do not suppose I’ve read anything
    like this before. So great to discover another person with a
    few unique thoughts on this issue. Really.. thank you for starting this up.
    This site is one thing that’s needed on the web, someone with some originality!

  6. says:

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend who
    has been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he actually ordered me breakfast due to the fact that I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss this issue here on your site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get totally prepared!

See our "Get Ready Quick" section in English, Chinese and Spanish, and download our easy checklists.

Get tips via email

Preparedness mobile apps
Tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes oh my! The Red Cross can teach you to be prepared for any disaster with their collection of preparedness and safety apps.