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  • Writer's pictureWallace Underpinning

Is your Vancouver Home Prepared for an Earthquake?

The looming fear of “the big one” may not be something you think about often. But it should be something that you and your family are prepared for. While there are many safety tips for when an earthquake happens, such as:

  • Hiding in a protected space, such as under a table or in a doorway

  • Having an emergency kit

  • “Drop, cover and hold on” – check out the Government of Canada’s safety tips for earthquakes, here

According to the City of Vancouver, the likelihood of an earthquake could be higher than you think, as Vancouver is located in an earthquake region. Your safety during and after an earthquake is very important to be prepared for, but did you know that there are many ways you can prepare your home and help brace it for an earthquake?

In this blog, we’ll show you the best ways to prepare your home for an earthquake, and some of the benefits that you may not be aware of.

What are common risks for earthquake damage?

Houses in BC built before 1990 often have some (or all) of the following weak points:

  1. Foundation not anchored to the house

  2. Wood-framed basement walls are not supportive

  3. The floor of the house is not connected to basement walls

Additionally, many people can be at risk of injury or harm from falling objects and shattered glass. It is important to consider where you have placed these objects around your home. Is your couch located next to a china cabinet? Is there a mirror above or beside your bed? These can be key considerations to keep your loved ones safe in the event of an earthquake.

How do I retrofit my house for an earthquake?

There are several things that you can do to make your home more secure during an earthquake. Some of the most common ones that we see in the Lower Mainland include:

  • Basement wall bracing: Reinforcing your basement walls to bear extra weight and increase stability against force to reduce damage in the event of an earthquake

  • Foundation Anchoring: Drilling holes through the sill plate and installing anchor bolts to the foundation.

  • Floor Fastening: using shear force seismic transfer ties to connect the floor framing to your home’s pony wall

  • Utility Retrofitting: Gas meter shut off and water tank bracing

  • Securing furniture: Bolting or fastening furniture to the walls.

Does seismic retrofit increase home value?

A house that has been seismically retrofitted, is much safer than one that isn’t. It is more likely that your home would be less damaged in the event of an earthquake and therefore less impact on your home's value.

Earthquakes can easily cause significant damage that can be even more costly to repair, especially foundation damage. While cost savings in the event of "the big one" can be appealing, the main draw that we see for projects is concerned with family safety.

How much does it cost to earthquake-proof a house?

Depending on how accessible the basement is (think finished versus unfinished), a proper seismic upgrade with today’s prices would start at about $6,000. This would include floor to wall bracing, wall to foundation bracing, basement shear walls, earthquake gas meter shut-off valve, and water tank strapping.

Depending on the size of the home and scope of services, these costs could increase. According to, costs can range up to $10,000 and average $3 to $7 (USD) per square foot.

Does Seismic Retrofitting affect my home insurance?

While seismic retrofit typically won't reduce your insurance premiums, because your home is likely more stable, you will have less damage to pay for in the event of an Earthquake. Most insurance policies exclude damages caused by an earthquake, and instead, homeowners must purchase additional Earthquake Insurance.

Ready to prepare your home? Talk to us today about affordable and safe ways to secure your home and protect your family from earthquake damage.

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