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What Are The Typical Stages Of A Seismic Retrofitting Project?

Seismic retrofitting is a complicated process that should be completed by an expert in order to help protect homes and buildings from the destruction caused by earthquakes. This process involves reinforcing the structure of a building to make it better able to withstand seismic activity. Here, we will provide a more in-depth look at the various stages of a seismic retrofitting project.

Step 1: Assessment

The first step of a seismic retrofit is to assess the existing structure of the building. This assessment typically involves a structural engineer making observations and measurements of the building, as well as reviewing any documents related to the building’s construction. From this assessment, a plan can be formulated for how best to reinforce the building’s structure and ensure it is safe during seismic activity.

What to Expect

Anyone who does a seismic retrofitting assessment should perform a thorough investigation of your property. They will need to inspect the property to identify weak spots and places that could be vulnerable. The contractor will want to know when the house was built and should be informed of any previously identified problems with the foundation or support structure of the property. Lastly, a good seismic retrofit contractor will be able to answer any questions you have in detail.

Step 2: Creating the Plan

Based on the seismic assessment, the contractor will build a detailed plan to perform the seismic retrofit. They will take extensive measurements of property and make calculations to ensure the retrofit is done exactly to the spec of your home or commercial property. A structural engineering team will build out a plan which will define the areas that need to be upgraded and outline the support components required to ensure longterm stability of the structure.

What to Expect

You can expect to get a detailed plan that outlines the work to be completed, an estimated timeline to project completion and clear price quote. The contractor should be knowledgable enough about the process and work to walk you through exactly what will be done to the property, why it is important and explain how they arrived at the price quote for the project. Their explanation should be clear, not too technical and easy to understand.

Step 3: Permitting

Although it may come as a surprise to some homeowners, in the city of the Seattle, most projects require a permit from the city. There are a variety of projects requiring a permit, but the most common ones include construction, demolition, excavation, and land use. Seismic retrofitting is one of the projects that requires a permit from the city of Seattle.

What to Expect

A permit request will be filed with the city of Seattle on your behalf. The permit request will outline the details of the seismic retrofitting work to be completed, the location of the property and estimated length of the project. If your contractor doesn't discuss permitting and/or file a permit prior to starting any work, this is a major red flag.

Step 4: Performing the Seismic Retrofit

Prior to starting the seismic retrofit, the team should take great care to ensure the property is protected from any dust and debris. The team will mask off the adjacent parts of the home or commercial property, provide coverings for the floor, and use tarps or blankets to encase belongings that are in the work space.

Once the home is covered, the permits are granted and the plan is in place, the retrofit process can begin. This typically involves strengthening the foundation of the building, as well as reinforcing the walls, floors, and roof. It may also involve reinforcing the existing structure with additional materials such as steel or concrete, as well as adding new structures such as shear walls and bracing systems. In some of the more extreme or worrisome cases, the retrofit may also involve replacing the existing structure with a more seismically-resistant one.

In addition to the physical retrofitting of the building, seismic retrofitting often also involves the installation of non-structural components such as seismic dampers, fasteners, and seismic bracing systems. These components help reduce the effects of seismic activity on the structure, as well as improve the overall safety of the building.

Finally, once the retrofitting process is complete, the building should be tested to ensure that it meets all seismic safety requirements. This typically involves an extensive analysis of the building’s new structure and components to ensure that it is able to withstand seismic forces. Once the building has passed all tests, it can be deemed seismically safe and ready for occupancy.

What to Expect

Any seismic retrofitting contractor should be able to provide you with an accurate estimate of how long it will take to complete the work. While projects vary, most residential property upgrades are typically completed with 1-2 weeks. Like any construction project, the work tends to be loud and messy, but if the property is properly covered prior to the work beginning, you should have very little mess throughout the process.

Step 5: The Inspection

The inspection is one of the most crucial components of the seismic retrofit process. Once the seismic upgrades have been completed, the contractor needs to ensure that a 3rd party validates the work has been completed to the spec outlined during the permitting process. A city building inspector will come out the property to thoroughly inspect that the work is completed, the property is safe, and that the property is ready. The property owner will receive the written report with a passing grade and city of Seattle seal of approval.

What to Expect

Your seismic contractor will set up a time for the city inspector to come out to the property. Ideally as the property owner you should be in attendance you can review the report upon completion and ask any questions you may have regarding the completed work. Following a thorough inspection the city official will give you a written report, which if the work was done correctly, will have a passing grade.

Step 6: Paint and Drywall

Most seismic retrofitting projects require the team to remove drywall in order to add the structural supports necessary to secure the property. However, the team should take care to only remove completely necessary walls. Once the project is complete the team will re-drywall any affected areas and paint in order to ensure the property is restored to its prior state.

What to Expect

Following the completion of the seismic retrofit and inspection, all walls will be restored. You can expect any needed drywall to be refilled and it to be painted to match surrounding walls. Essentially, after this restoration you should not be able to tell that anything had been done inside the walls.

Step 7: Cleaning

Upon completing the seismic retrofit, a thorough cleaning of the workspace will be done. During this process all work materials will be removed and any furniture will be returned to its place. The team will do an extensive deep clean to ensure that the space is at least as clean if not cleaner than it was prior to work beginning.

What to Expect

Your property will be deep cleaned and sparkling following our process. You should expect it to be in better shape than it was prior to the seismic retrofit.

We hope you now have a much better feel for what actually goes into the Seismic retofitting process and feel more educated in exploring the process for your property. It's important to remember that seismic retrofitting is an extremely cost effective way to protect your property from the damage that will be caused the next time there is a significant earthquake in the pacific northwest. By understanding the importance and process of a seismic retrofit, and hiring a licensed, bonded and insured contractor, you are sure to be ready when the next big one occurs.

If you are curious about whether your property should be seismically upgraded, be sure to get in touch with our team at Seattle Seismic. Our team has been completing seismic retrofits for residential and commercial properties in the Seattle metro area for years and would love to assist in getting you earthquake ready. Book a free consultation with our pros today.

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