This is pretty big on my “wish list,” but unfortunately keeps slipping down my “to do” list. Although Portland is not as prone to severe earthquakes as parts of California, we do get them, and there is a known pattern of a catastrophic quake every 300 to 500 years in region. Since our house is almost 100 years old, it was not built with any kind of earthquake engineering know-how. Old houses with the mudsill just resting on the foundation are very susceptible to sliding off during a major quake. Six months ago I got all worked up earthquakes, and we decided to just go ahead and hire someone to attach our house to the foundation. Well, that is easier said than done, because I found that very few contractors specialize in this. I had a very unsatisfying experience calling the one “seismic specialist” I could find (the call basically ended with us hanging up on each other – he was extremely rude). By that time I had done enough research on the Internet that I was convinced that I could just do it myself, if necessary. The only flaw with this plan is that it’s going to be awhile before I can get the job done. We agreed to finish the upstairs first, although that would be quite an irony if our entire house collapsed in the meantime!
Once I get it bolted, I found that the insurance through our Farmer’s agent is really pretty cheap (about $300/yr). The catch is that they won’t insure the house if it’s not bolted. So it’s a real catch-22. From what I’ve read, bolting is the single most important aspect of earthquake resistance, so the need for insurance is fairly low once you get the job done. However, for $300, I’d sleep better having the insurance. Also, who knows how good our 96 year old concrete really is? There are many resources out there that explain retrofitting, but here’s a fairly good one put out by Simpson Strong-Tie. Since we don’t have a cripple wall, we’ll have to use the UFP foundation plates to tie it down.
I’m hoping to start a dialogue with this post to get opinions and comments from other homeowners. I’d like to hear what others have done (or not done). I’d especially like to hear if anyone has good insurance advice or knows of reliable contractors that do this type of work. While it’s not that complex, it does look like it’d be a good size job. If I could find the right contractor, I might just go ahead to pay someone to accelerate this project by 6 months or more.