Yesterday I had a local foundation expert come over to check out our basement. I’ve wanted to get some seismic upgrading done for a long time, but it was becoming painfully obvious that I am never going to have the time to do it myself. Stephanie has been pushing for us to hire it out, and now I am finally starting to come around on this. It usually takes about a year from the time she puts an idea in my head until “I get it.” I have a bad history about being stubborn with things that I can do myself, which explains both why we have been able to afford to do as much as we have and also why it always takes so long to get it done!
You may recall from this post my desire to bolt the house in order to get earthquake insurance. Over the last year my concerns over a seismic catastrophe have grown, so it’s time that we do something! While we may or may not see “the big one” during our lifetime, if it happens, our house could be toast. Read about the Cascadia Subduction Zone to see what I’m talking about. And since most of our money is tied up in this place, it’d be ugly to end up with a wrecked house AND a mortgage. Yuck.
The bottom line after talking with the contractor is that we will likely move ahead with just the bolting. My fantasies have extended all the way to a full foundation replacement or even digging out our crappy crawlspace foundation to create new, reinforced basement space, but the $$ were sobering. Much more so than I even imagined. While we never seriously considered a full foundation replacement, I was curious as to what it would cost. Because of complexities with our lot, such as our “concrete bunker” garage that would have to be demolished and rebuilt to gain access to the foundation, the ballpark floated was between $90-120k! Ouch!
And some of my other planned upgrades were discouraged by the expert as well. While I had hoped to install some of the tie-downs (I don’t know the technical name) that extend from the foundation up into the wall cavity to be able to create proper shear walls, he said that I’d just be fooling myself. The old concrete would not do a good job of holding them in, so it’d hardly be worth the bother and expense. We are still thinking of adding plywood to the exterior, which would definitely help add to our house’s structure, but the motivation for that is primarily based on our desire to A) insulate the rest of our downstairs and B) swap our our 1960’s-era ranch siding for shingles more appropriate to our bungalow.
So, the bottom line is that we are now planning to go back to our original plan…do only the bolting necessary to qualify for insurance and then sleep easier knowing that we are at least mostly covered. Even the 80-85% of the repair costs that most earthquake insurance covers is better than 0%, right? The only downside is that the initial ballpark he threw out was around $5,000. I know I could do the work myself for under $1,500, but the last year proves that it’ll never happen. And Stephanie says that any time I spend on the house should be devoted to upstairs, so that we can get Ginger’s room habitable. She’s right, so I think we’ll be scheduling this soon. I’m hoping to get at least one more quote, but contractors that do this kind of work are surprisingly hard to find around here.