How to Build an Earthquake-Safe Home

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Lightweight building materials are advantageous in earthquakes.
Lightweight building materials are advantageous in earthquakes. (Image: New residential construction home framing. image by Andy Dean from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the ground caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth's surface. It goes without saying that this violent event can wreak havoc on a home. In the most extreme cases, structures can collapse and utility lines can be severed, opening up the possibility of explosions, flooding or electrical fires. Building an earthquake-safe home can be costly, but could prove life-saving if you are building in or near an earthquake zone.

Things You'll Need

  • Lightweight building materials
  • Steel-reinforced concrete
  • Expansion bolts
  • Window film
  • Flexible gas/water connections
  • Automatic emergency shut-off valves
  • Nylon strapping

Build with lightweight materials. Materials with more weight have a greater potential to collapse under stress and vibration. A lightweight roof will reduce the amount of damage to the rest of your home if the roof gives way.

Fasten wooden framework to its foundation. The Wyoming State Geological Survey states: "If a house is not securely attached to its foundation, it could slip off the foundation during an earthquake." The WSGS recommends bolting the lowermost wooden frame -- the sill plate -- to the top portion of your foundation, using an expansion bolt.

Whenever possible, reinforce concrete and masonry with steel. Steel rods increase the tensile strength of concrete walls and strengthen the brickwork around chimneys.

Apply earthquake-resistant film to your windows. Having windows with a shatterproof film will prevent injuries from glass being thrown out of the frame during an earthquake.

Use flexible connections to gas heaters and all major appliances. Install them between appliances and their supply lines to prevent the disastrous consequences of broken gas and water lines during and after a quake.

Furnish emergency water and gas shut-off valves that are easily accessible, even after an earthquake. Consider installing specialty shut-off valves that automatically disconnect the gas line when seismic activity occurs.

Anchor all large appliances and pieces of furniture with metal brackets or nylon strapping. Falling cabinets and bookcases can be potential hazards during an earthquake.

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