Penn Home Design Studio

Why You Should Consider Earthquake Retrofitting

earthquake retrofitting Los Angeles

If your house was constructed before 1980 and you want to guarantee its safety during an earthquake, then you should seriously consider investing in an earthquake retrofit.

In 2015, Los Angeles passed an ordinance mandating seismic retrofitting of certain buildings. This initiative specifically targets non-ductile concrete structures which are more prone to brittle behavior during an earthquake.


If your home is located in an earthquake-prone zone, seismic retrofitting should be undertaken to safeguard you and your family. This is especially vital for older homes as they are more prone to damage caused by ground-shifting events during an earthquake.

Earthquake retrofitting costs vary based on the type of home and what needs to be done to strengthen it for earthquakes. While these expenses can be costly, the benefits, in the long run, make it worthwhile.

On average, the cost of constructing either a concrete slab foundation or raised perimeter foundation ranges from $3,200 to $7,500 in labor and material costs. This includes bolting the house’s wooden mudsill to the foundation (known as a sill plate) and installing anchor bolts into either stem or cripple walls.

This process guarantees the mudsill stays put, keeping your home from sliding off its foundation in an earthquake. Bolting is essential for making a house earthquake-resistant and can save you a lot of money on repairs later.

Some homeowners opt to do the work themselves instead of hiring a contractor, which can reduce costs in the long run but add to the time and difficulty of the task.

If your home was constructed before 1940 and is located in an EBB ZIP Code, Earthquake Brace + Bolt may offer grants to cover the full cost of an earthquake retrofit. You can sign up for this program on their website.

Another way to save on an earthquake retrofit is by taking advantage of discounts on insurance policies. This could be especially advantageous if you live in an area prone to earthquakes.

Finally, the size and age of your home will influence the cost to retrofit. The bigger and older the property, the higher the bill will be.

To accurately determine how much it will cost to upgrade your home for earthquake retrofitting, have a certified structural engineer inspect and analyze it. This will enable them to identify any areas that require strengthening and provide you with an estimate. With this information, you can decide how best to proceed in getting your house upgraded according to safety and resilience regulations.


One of the most crucial safety measures when earthquake retrofitting Los Angeles homes is strengthening the home’s foundation. This weak point in a structure can be one of the first areas to experience damage during an earthquake, so strengthening it is highly recommended.

Fortunately, there are ways to reinforce the foundation of an older home in order to reduce the risk of earthquake damage. For instance, if the home’s foundation is poorly designed or supported, an earthquake retrofitting company can install bracing and bolting so that the house does not collapse during a seismic event.

Another way to reinforce an older home is by adding steel framing. This can be an effective way to boost the stability of both the foundation and other parts of the structure.

Los Angeles has a strict ordinance that requires certain buildings to be retrofitted if they cannot meet earthquake safety standards. This ordinance covers buildings with at least one side open for tuck-under parking and applies to most multistory wood-framed structures constructed before 1980.

In addition to these types of buildings, some older concrete structures may pose a safety hazard due to lack of steel framing that supports them during an earthquake. This type of construction, known as non-ductile, was deemed unsafe by the 1976 Building Codes and it’s not uncommon for such structures to collapse during a seismic event.

Recent polling by Suffolk University/The Los Angeles Times indicates that there are more than one million vulnerable older homes in California. Most of these residences are situated in high-risk areas like Southern California or the San Francisco Bay Area.

Los Angeles, Santa Monica and West Hollywood have required that buildings in these cities be evaluated for structural soundness and retrofitted accordingly. This ordinance applies to all concrete or wood-framed construction that was done before the codes changed; it’s expected this will reduce significant injury and death during an earthquake.


Many homes in Los Angeles, particularly those found in older neighborhoods and communities, are vulnerable to earthquake damage. They are constructed of materials that could crack or shatter during a powerful quake such as unreinforced masonry buildings (URM). Furthermore, older concrete houses may have raised foundations which makes them more vulnerable to shifting off their foundations during an earthquake.

Homes built on solid foundations can benefit from seismic retrofitting to strengthen the structure and keep them stable during a major earthquake. Not only does this reduce property damage to the home itself, but also to its surrounding neighborhood.

Seismic retrofitting can also help save lives in case of a major earthquake, as demonstrated by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in California which resulted in 63 fatalities and 375 injuries due to homes that weren’t reinforced for earthquake resistance.

In addition to the potential risk of death, many older homes are at risk of total destruction if not adequately reinforced. If these homes have been red-tagged by authorities in the area, it means they have been deemed unsafe to live in due to potentially serious damage or collapse from an earthquake.

There are various methods to strengthen older homes, such as bolting them to the foundation and using various strengthening techniques. These include bracing, base isolators, and shear walls.

Los Angeles earthquake ordinances mandate that any home built before 1977 in the City of Los Angeles must be retrofitted to increase its resilience during a potential quake. This includes raised-foundation older homes as well as other types of older residences with different foundations.

For instance, older homes with living spaces above garages are commonly found in areas vulnerable to large earthquakes. Optimum works with these older houses to increase their seismic resilience by installing a lateral system or dampers that strengthen moment frames during side-to-side shaking.

Optimum also works with steel-frame buildings to strengthen the connections between columns and beams using chevron bracing, as well as improving the shear strength of drywall or plaster ceilings by installing a special gypsum board panel. By strengthening these essential elements, we can significantly reduce the likelihood of structural failure during a major earthquake in Los Angeles.


Before any home or commercial property can benefit from seismic retrofitting, there are several things to take into account. Safety, the value of the structure, and how future earthquakes might impact it should all be taken into account prior to beginning work on this project.

If you are uncertain whether your building requires retrofitting, or have already started the process but lack assurance it will meet the code, contact a Los Angeles seismic contractor to assess the situation and decide if you should move forward with the project. Doing so is essential in protecting your family members, employees and property value in case an earthquake strikes.

Los Angeles recently passed an ordinance requiring seismic retrofits on certain wood-frame and concrete buildings. This initiative helps reduce the chance of a major earthquake hitting the city, thus decreasing damage caused by collapsed buildings as well as deaths caused by earthquake-related causes.

City officials estimate that this ordinance will impact over 13,500 wood-frame soft-story buildings that require repairs, as well as more than 1,500 brittle concrete structures. These buildings are considered to be particularly vulnerable to earthquake damage and could result in injuries or death if they collapse during a severe quake.

These types of buildings were not constructed with the modern engineering or construction techniques that modern buildings must follow. As a result, they can crack and delaminate their wood frames, potentially leading to shifting off their foundations during an earthquake.

For older homes, a professional structural engineer can recommend strengthening measures to increase their earthquake-resisting capabilities. These may include installing bracing, bolting, and anchoring the building to its foundation.

Although this type of work can be costly, it is absolutely necessary for the security and value of your home or business. Furthermore, it will help to avoid expensive structural repairs in the future.

Retrofitting a building not only ensures its safety, but it can also boost its marketability and resale value. A well-run project not only saves you money in the long run, but it may help reduce property taxes too!