Find a Good Earthquake Seismic Retrofit Contractor

By Howard Cook, Founder and General Manager of Bay Area Retrofit

How to Find a Qualified Engineer or Seismic Retrofit Contractor 

Homeowners and contractors often think retrofitting means putting in some bolts and nailing up some plywood.  It is not that simple.

This  New York Times article as well as this CBS News Report, show how many homeowners have literally wasted 10 thousand dollars or more on retrofits that will not work.  This is because we do not have a retrofit building code or special licensing to  make sure a contractor or engineer knows how to retrofit a house.

The Science of Retrofitting

Contractors and engineers can’t retrofit a house without being  familiar with the science.  This includes metallurgy, tests done in university and government testing laboratories, tests done by manufacturers, and familiarity with Old Building Materials StrengthEarthquake strength of Building Materials used in building conservation code old building codes such as the ones shown below.  It is also important to understand how houses fail in earthquakes as shown in the thousands of photos at the  Earthquake Engineering Online Archive at UC Berkeley.

Getting a Referral.

Asking for references from non-professionals won’t be much help because all they can tell you is if the contractor was easy to deal with and if he had cleaned up after himself.  Asking professionals such as members of the American Society of Home Inspectors is a far better because they know if a contractor does quality work.

Another filter is to ask your contractor some questions.  

Ask two or three of these questions in an email and see what he says.

1- Does your seismic retrofit contractor  know what the Base Shear Formula is and how it would apply to your retrofit?

2- Has he read this book on home retrofitting?

3- Does your earthquake retrofit contractor know about the 3 methods used in building retrofit shear walls are?

4- Does your seismic retrofit contractor  know which organization is responsible for shear wall tests in Canada and the United States?   This is also very important because their tests and reports are the basis of many provisions in the building code.

5- Is your contractor familiar with Appendix Chapter A3 of the International Existing Building Code?

6- Is your contractor  aware of any tests regarding the performance of old foundations? 

7-Is your contractor familiar with old building code provisions that specify the strength of existing structures. If you don’t know how resistant a building  already is, you can’t know where to address the weak

8- Does your seismic retrofit contractor know where to find the shear wall tables not listed in the International Building Code and a discussion of the principle of rotation?



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Headquartered at:

Bay Area Retrofit
427 San Pablo Ave
Albany, CA 94706
With field offices in San Jose and Hayward.

Company License Info

Works' Comp #3900008328-011
Contractors Lic #558462
Bond #511-67-26
Liability Ins GL 3984008