Seismic Retrofitting May Not Be Enough for Humboldt Homeowners

The earthquake brace and bolt program provides grants up to $3000 for homeowners to put towards a seismic retrofitting.

The earthquake brace and bolt program provides grants up to $3000 for homeowners to put towards a seismic retrofitting.

Janiele Muffai, Chief Mitigation Officer for the California Earthquake Authority, who oversees the Earthquake Brace & Bolt program, explains why this is important, “The reason that people need to retrofit is if they live in an older house, that house was designed and constructed before really, we had the appropriate protections in the building code against earthquake damage.”

On the EBB’s website, there is a link to contractors in the area who have completed FEMA’s training for seismic retrofitting.  Tate Scharnberg, owner of Scharnberg construction in Arcata, is one of those contractors, and explains, “A seismic retrofit is a process of strengthening your home to prevent or mitigate damage during a seismic event.”

Seismic retrofit really depends on what type of type of floor system the home has. If it sits directly on top of the foundation wall, then normally you just use Simpson hardware designed to retrofit. But if the home is sitting on top of a triple wall, you have to add additional plywood to the interior of the floor of the wall system as well as the Simpson hardware. 

Tate, as well as other local FEMA-trained contractors, have said that many Humboldt homeowners who think they qualify for a retrofit, actually do not, because they have what’s called a post and pier foundation.  these homeowners likely need more work done.

Janiele says, “Humboldt County is really unique in the state in that there are a lot of houses that are on this post and pier foundation, and i think it’s for two reasons. One is that you get a lot of moisture up in Humboldt County and you know, it provided for a lot of ventilation under the house, basically.  Also, there are a lot of houses that were constructed as part of a timber companies really employing housing, and that was easy– Unfortunately, though, these are very, very damageable in an earthquake. And so to say you’re not qualified is somewhat true in that you would need to put in a new foundation.”

Janiele says if you have a post and pier house, you may actually qualify for a larger grant. “We recognize that are based grant of $3,000 won’t go very far in helping you replace your foundation with a new concrete continuous foundation,” says Muffai. “But for people who qualify, if they have a household income of $87,360 or less, can qualify for our supplementary grant, which is up to $10,000.”

Tate stresses the importance of this kind of work: “Honestly, with the seismic activity in this area, i think every home should have a seismic retrofit done just for that peace of mind.”

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