How Much Does Earthquake Retrofitting Cost?

Paige Bennett
Written by Paige Bennett
Updated January 27, 2022
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Earthquake retrofit costs range from $3,000 to $7,500

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If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you need to ensure your home is retrofitted to withstand the shaking. Without an earthquake retrofit, your property and, more importantly, your family’s lives can be in danger. Expect to invest $3,000 to $7,500 in earthquake retrofit costs, which can help protect you from these unexpected natural disasters.

How Much Does Earthquake Retrofitting Cost per Square Foot?

Earthquake retrofits can cost anywhere from $500 to upward of $10,000, although the average is $3,000 to $7,500. In terms of square footage, you’ll spend about $3 to $7 per square foot for a retrofit, including labor. 

Without labor, costs are usually around $1 to $3 per square foot, but hiring a professional is best to ensure your home is properly secured in the event of an earthquake.

How Much Does an Earthquake Retrofit Cost Near You?

Earthquake retrofits can vary based on location. Costs are generally higher in Northern California and even the northern part of the U.S. West Coast compared to Southern California, because of home styles and labor costs. Here’s the average range of earthquake fitting by city:

  • Los Angeles: $3,000–$5,500

  • Portland, Oregon: $3,000–$6,000

  • San Francisco: $4,000–$6,000

Earthquake Retrofitting Costs by Type of Foundation

Home being built on concrete foundation
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The cost for retrofitting your home for an earthquake can depend on the foundation. Bolting your home to a slab foundation is a relatively easy, inexpensive retrofit, while dealing with a brick foundation can be a costly project when it comes to retrofitting, as brick is easily damaged in earthquakes.

Here’s average ranges for earthquake retrofitting by type of foundation:

Type of FoundationCost Range
Basement$3,000–$5,000
Brick$2,000–$10,000
Footing stem wall$3,000–$7,000
Wood$5,000–$10,000
Post and pier$3,000–$10,000
Slab$500–$3,000

Costs by Earthquake Retrofitting Method

Some methods, like bolting, are a less expensive way to secure your home during an earthquake, while shear wall reinforcements require more materials, which increases the costs. Depending on the style of your home, you may require multiple retrofitting techniques for earthquake resistance.

Foundation Bolting

This option involves bolting your home to its foundation to prevent it from sliding off during an earthquake. Foundation bolting typically costs $500 to $3,000, including labor.

Cripple Wall Bolting

Cripple wall bolting is the process of bolting or anchoring cripple walls, the short stud walls between a foundation and floor in some homes, to the floor above to help prevent these walls from shifting as the house shakes. This method costs an average of $1,000 to $3,000 and is popular for homes with brick foundations and/or crawl spaces.

Anchoring a Mudsill

Anchoring a mudsill is similar to bolting a cripple wall. With this technique, professionals will bolt the mudsill, the first layer of wood above a foundation wall that is the base of framing. The bolts go through the mudsill and into the cripple wall. This process costs $1,000 to $3,000.

Cripple Shear Wall Bracing

This method involves bracing the cripple wall with plywood, steel grates, and/or 2-by-4 blocking to prevent it from shifting during an earthquake. Expect to spend around $1,000 to $2,500 for this retrofitting technique.

Earthquake Retrofit Cost by Type of Home

Earthquake retrofitting might be more expensive for houses most vulnerable to earthquake damage, such as soft-story structures or homes on hills.

Hillside Home

Having a home on a hill can offer privacy and scenic views, but it also puts you at risk of earthquake damage. That’s because these homes tend to have weaker lateral support and require additional foundational and wall anchoring. This type of home costs around $5,000 to $10,000 to retrofit.

Manufactured Home

Installing a new foundation for a manufactured home costs around $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the size of the home. To add a full basement to a manufactured home, the retrofit will cost $50,000 to $150,000.

Mobile Home

Mobile homes will require an earthquake-resistant bracing system, which will vary depending on the type of system.

  • Primary support column: $3,000–$9,000

  • Tie-down straps: $2,000–$5,000

  • New slab foundation: $5,000–$25,000

Soft Story

A soft story is a structure with multiple stories that has a large opening where a structural or shear wall would normally go. This is common in apartment buildings, but it’s also typical in homes that have a second story above the garage.

  • Soft story home: Retrofitting a soft story in a standard, single-family home could cost $10,000 to $80,000.

  • Apartment complex: For larger, multi-unit buildings, the property owner can expect to spend $80,000 to $350,000 for earthquake retrofitting.

How Much Does It Cost to Do an Earthquake Retrofit Yourself?

Earthquake retrofitting requires professional expertise, and trying to do without an expert is a huge risk to your safety. Improper retrofitting could lead your home to shift, slide off the foundation, or collapse. If you are trained in earthquake retrofitting, you could save about 70% of the cost of a retrofit in labor. For a $5,000 retrofit with labor, that means you’d spend about $1,500.

Earthquake Retrofit Cost Breakdown

Man purchasing plywood to retrofit
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The cost of an earthquake retrofit consists primarily of labor and materials.

Materials

Materials make up about 30% of the total cost of a retrofit, but these costs can vary based on the type of earthquake retrofit your home needs.

  • Foundation anchors: $50–$100 each

  • Foundation brackets: $25–$75 each

  • Foundation plates: $20–$50 each

  • Plywood: $5–$10 per sheet

  • Wall bracing: $2–$10 per sq. ft.

  • Seismic shutoff valve: $100–$300 each

Labor

Labor is typically the majority of the cost of an earthquake retrofit, but that’s because this process requires highly trained skills to do it properly. Performing an earthquake retrofit without professional help could put your family and property in huge danger. 

Hiring a local structural engineer for earthquake retrofitting typically makes up 70% of the final cost. Also, you’ll spend about $100 to $300 for the initial assessment.

FAQs about Earthquake Retrofitting

Why do I need earthquake retrofitting?

An earthquake retrofit is essential for safety. Without proper retrofitting, your home is at risk of sliding off the foundation, shifting, or collapsing.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, you may also require a retrofit if your home was built before 1980, when building codes began requiring reinforcing, bracing, and bolting for new construction. Without a retrofit, you may not be eligible for insurance to help pay for earthquake-related damages.

How effective is earthquake retrofitting?

A home that has proper earthquake retrofitting can sustain minimal damage in earthquakes of up to 7.0 magnitude, although risks are higher based on how close and how deep the earthquake is. A home closer to the earthquake epicenter and an earthquake closer to the surface of the Earth will cause greater damage, but retrofitting can help minimize the risk of injuries.

Is earthquake damage covered by homeowners insurance?

You’ll need to consult with your insurance agent, but generally, earthquake damage is a separate policy from your homeowners’ insurance.

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