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Frequently Asked Questions

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Get detailed answers about our not-for-profit organization, the value of earthquake insurance, our policies, how the deductible works, how to manage your policy, and earthquake risk and ways you can prepare your house and yourself against earthquake damage. 

About CEA

Q. Is CEA a state agency?

A. No. CEA is a public instrumentality of the state. An instrumentality is an organization created by state law and operated for public purposes.  
 
CEA is a not-for-profit and receives no funding from the State of California, whether for operations or claim liabilities, and is not a part of the state budget. CEA is financed solely through insurer contributions, policyholder premiums, and its own investment returns. 

Learn more about CEA’s creation after the Northridge earthquake

Q. Is CEA financially sound?
A.  Yes. CEA has an A- (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best Co., the world's leading rating agency of insurance companies. 
Q. Why choose CEA earthquake insurance?
A. The not-for-profit CEA is one of the world’s largest providers of residential earthquake insurance. Our rates are based on science, not profit, enabling us to use the best science available to determine competitive earthquake insurance rates.  CEA is actuarially sound and could pay all covered claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.
Q. Is CEA hiring?

A. To check on the latest employment openings with CEA, please visit our Employment Opportunities page. For answers to questions regarding employment at CEA, please contact: 

Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments, and claims.
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. 
Q. My premium increased. How can I lower my bill?
A. There are several ways to lower what you pay for earthquake insurance.

Choose a higher deductible to lower your premium—CEA deductibles range from 5% to 25%, in 5% increments. 

If your home is insured under a CEA Homeowners Choice policy, you can reduce your costs by declining personal property or loss of use coverages, and only insuring the dwelling itself. 

Make sure your coverage limits make sense for your needs. Do you rent a 1-bedroom, but have the highest possible personal property limit of $200,000? Make sure your coverage limits accurately reflect what you own. 

If you have an older retrofitted house on a raised foundation, you may qualify for a Hazard Reduction Discount of up to 20%, with proper verification. Call your agent or CEA participating insurer for details. 
Q. Is earthquake insurance expensive?
A. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use the CEA Premium Calculator for a free estimate.

Our Financial Strength

Q. Is CEA financially sound?
A.  Yes. CEA has an A- (Excellent) rating from A.M. Best Co., the world's leading rating agency of insurance companies. 
Q. Could CEA pay all of its claims if there is an earthquake?
A. CEA has a claim-paying capacity of more than $15 billion. CEA could cover all claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today. 
Q: Is CEA part of the state budget?
A: CEA is a privately financed entity and receives no money from the State of California budget. California’s budget concerns have no impact on the CEA’s ability to pay its policyholders’ claims. By law, the State of California is not responsible for the CEA's liabilities, and the CEA does not pay any state liabilities. Therefore, CEA assets cannot be used by the state for any government purposes such as repairing infrastructure items like bridges and freeways. 
Q: The 1994 Northridge Earthquake caused $15 billion in damage, but CEA has only $15.3 billion in claim-paying capacity. How can you cover all the claims after a major earthquake?

A: CEA would have liability only for a defined portion of the total cost of the economic damage caused by a major California earthquake, because CEA assets are available only to pay claims of homeowners and renters who have protected their homes and possessions by buying a CEA earthquake insurance policy.

Put another way, like any insuring entity, CEA is responsible for paying its insured losses, not the total cost of all the damage. CEA claim-paying capacity is carefully established according to financially conservative standards: CEA aims to maintain a claim-paying capacity sufficient to assure that only once in 400-to-550 years would the CEA be unable to pay 100 percent of every claim from all earthquakes occurring in one year. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that CEA is not responsible for losses to uninsured residential properties or their contents, commercial properties, or public infrastructure such as bridges and freeways.  

Q: Can CEA file for bankruptcy protection?

A: No. CEA is not permitted to file for bankruptcy protection, and, unlike a private insurer, it cannot be taken over by the state insurance commissioner. If an earthquake causes insured damage greater than the CEA's claim-paying capacity, policyholders with earthquake damage may be paid a prorated portion of their covered losses. Or, the CEA Governing Board may approve installment payments.  

CEA claim-paying capacity is carefully established according to financially conservative standards: CEA aims to maintain a claim-paying capacity sufficient to assure that only once in 400-to-550 years would the CEA be unable to pay 100 percent of every claim from all earthquakes occurring in one year. In addition, it is important to bear in mind that the CEA is not responsible for losses to uninsured residential properties or their contents, commercial properties, or public infrastructure such as bridges and freeways.

CEA Insurance Policies

Q. Is earthquake insurance expensive?
A. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use the CEA Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. My premium increased. How can I lower my bill?
A: There are several ways to lower what you pay for earthquake insurance.
  • Choose a higher deductible to lower your premiumCEA deductibles range from 5% to 25%, in 5% increments.
  • If your home is insured under a CEA Homeowners Choice policy, you can reduce your costs by declining personal property and loss of use coverages and only insuring the dwelling itself.
  • Make sure your coverage limits make sense for your needs. Do you rent a 1-bedroom, but have the highest possible personal property limit of $200,000? Make sure your coverage limits accurately reflect what you own.
  • If you have an older retrofitted house on a raised foundation, you may qualify for a  Hazard Reduction Discount of up to 20%, with proper verification. Call your agent or CEA participating residential insurer for details.
Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?

A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible.

Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared

Q. Why choose CEA earthquake insurance?
A. The not-for-profit CEA is one of the world’s largest providers of residential earthquake insurance. Our rates are based on science, not profit, enabling us to use the best science available to determine competitive earthquake insurance rates.  CEA is actuarially sound and could pay all covered claims if the 1906 San Francisco, 1989 Loma Prieta, or 1994 Northridge earthquake reoccurred today.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.

Homeowners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.
Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. What’s the difference between standard Homeowners and Homeowners Choice policies?
A. With the Homeowners Choice policy, you can purchase separate policy options instead of the standard Homeowners bundled coverage. CEA provides a comprehensive breakdown of both, so you can make the best choice for yourself and your family. 

Homeowners Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Do I need to retrofit my house before I can buy a CEA policy?
A. You do not need to retrofit your house to before buying a CEA policy. However, depending on the year your house was built, a retrofit can make it stronger and more resistant to earthquake damage, and qualify you for a CEA premium discount
Q. Am I eligible for a retrofit discount?
A. If your home was built before 1979, you may qualify for up to a 20% premium discount with a retrofit verification.
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out-of-pocket. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front to receive a claim payment. 
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. Where can I get an earthquake insurance policy cost estimate?

Condo-Unit Owners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.
Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out-of-pocket. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front to receive a claim payment. 

Condo-Unit Coverages & Deductibles

Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my condo unit at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared
Q. Is there loss assessment coverage on a CEA condo unit policy?
A. Yes. Loss Assessment coverage can be added to your CEA condo policy and has options up to $100,000 for an individual unit owner to help cover the cost of special assessments your Home Owners Association (HOA) may assess for the cost of repairing the unit structures, or may be used towards the HOA’s master policy deductible. For all terms and conditions please read the CEA condominium policy

Mobilehome and Manufactured Home Owners

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA earthquake insurance policy cost?
A. The cost of your policy depends on many factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers expanded coverage choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate.
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.
Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. What’s the difference between standard Homeowners and Homeowners Choice policies?
A. With the Homeowners Choice policy, you can purchase separate policy options instead of the standard Homeowners bundled coverage. CEA provides a comprehensive breakdown of both, so you can make the best choice for yourself and your family. 

Mobilehome Owners and Manufactured Homeowners Policy Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Do I need to retrofit my mobilehome before I can buy a CEA policy?
A. You do not need to retrofit your mobilehome before buying a CEA policy. However, a retrofit can make it stronger and more resistant to earthquake damage, and qualify you for a discount.
Q. Am I eligible for a retrofit discount?

A. If your mobilehome: 

  • Has been reinforced by an earthquake-resistant bracing system certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD),

Then you may receive a premium discount of up to 23% on your CEA earthquake insurance premium. 

Contact HCD for more information. 

Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!

Renters

Q. Why do I need earthquake insurance?
A. In California, your residential insurance policy doesn’t cover your home or your belongings against earthquakes. If you don’t have earthquake insurance, you’re not covered for earthquake damage or any additional costs needed to live elsewhere while your home is being repaired or rebuilt. Contact your residential insurer today to get the earthquake insurance you need.
Q. How much does a CEA renters policy cost?
A. A CEA renters policy could cost as little as $35 per year. Of course, the cost of your policy depends on factors such as the earthquake risk where you live and the coverages and deductibles you choose. CEA offers coverage and limit choices as well as more deductible options to help you find a policy that best meets your needs and budget. Use our Premium Calculator for a free estimate. 
Q. Where can I buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy?
A. You can buy a CEA earthquake insurance policy through one of our participating residential insurance companies. CEA does not offer stand-alone policies.
Q. What are my deductible options?
A. You can choose coverage deductibles of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or 25%. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  

Renters Coverages & Deductibles

Q. Won’t my landlord’s policy cover my belongings?
A. No. You’ll first need a separate renters policy, and then a CEA earthquake insurance policy, to cover damage to your personal belongings like TVs and furniture, and to cover loss of use in case earthquake damage keeps you out of your home. 
Q. How does CEA’s deductible work? Do I have to pay the deductible before receiving a payment?
A. You do not pay your deductible out of pocket to receive payment on a claim. The deductible is subtracted from your covered damage so you don’t have to pay any of the deductible up front before you receive your claim payment.  
Q. Will CEA pay for any expenses if I have to move out of my home because of earthquake damage?
A. If you purchased Loss of Use coverage, you are eligible for the additional living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living, up to the coverage limit you selected. Remember that Loss of Use coverage never has a deductible!
Q. Who handles CEA applications, renewals, and claims?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all policy applications, renewals, payments and claims.
Q. Is my rental at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you, and take steps to get prepared

CEA Policy Management

Q. Who do I contact if I have an earthquake damage claim?
A. CEA participating residential insurance companies process all claims on our behalf. Please contact them directly if you have an earthquake damage claim.
Q. How can I access my bill?
A. The CEA insurance provider that insures your residence (for fire and theft) services CEA policies on our behalf. They also determine how your bill is delivered to you and what payment methods to offer you. Please contact your insurance agent to learn more about what options are available to you
Q. Where do I send my bill?
A. Make your CEA policy payment to the residential insurance company that sold you your CEA policy—not CEA. They handle all billing for your CEA policy on our behalf.
Q. What payment options are available?
A. The residential insurance company that sold you your CEA policy decides what payment methods and schedules (including pay by credit card or monthly installments) are available to pay CEA policy premiums. Please contact them to see what options they offer. 
Q. I want to choose an insurance company that offers CEA policy bill payment or viewing options that work best for me. What do I need to know?
A. Contact the residential insurance companies you are considering, and find out what options they offer CEA policyholders. Because CEA does not offer stand-alone earthquake policies, your CEA policy has to be with the same insurance company as your residential insurance policy. Those companies sell and service CEA policies on our behalf, and they determine what billing and payment options to make available to you. 

Your Earthquake Risk

Q. What is the risk of a California earthquake?

A. According to the third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast (UCERF3) report, in the next 30 years, there is a:

  • More than 99% chance a M6.7 or greater earthquake will strike somewhere in California
  • 75% chance a M7.0 or greater earthquake will strike Southern California
  • 76% chance a M7.0 or greater earthquake will strike Northern California
Q. Is my home at risk from an earthquake?
A. There are thousands of known faults in California, and scientists continue to discover new ones. Since earthquakes can happen anywhere in California, damage to your home and personal property is always possible. Check to see earthquake risk near you and take steps to get prepared!
Q. What fault is California on?
A. The state of California isn’t on any one particular fault, but rather, on thousands of known faults that crisscross the state. Scientists continue to discover new faults all the time.  
Q. Do I still need earthquake insurance if my home isn’t on or near an earthquake fault?
A. Most Californians live within 30 miles of an active fault and earthquakes can strike anywhere, at any time—even on previously unknown faults. Even if your home is miles away from a fault or the epicenter of an earthquake, you could still experience damage from an earthquake.
Q. What could the Big One earthquake look like in California?
A. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Big One is a hypothetical southern California 7.8M earthquake modeled to cause 1800 deaths and cause $213 billion in economic losses. 
Q. How can I be prepared for an earthquake?
A. You can prepare by practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On and put into action the Seven Steps to Earthquake Safety. Talk to your insurance agent to discuss your insurance options.  
Q. If a big earthquake hit, won’t the government bail me out?
A. Government assistance is not always available. First, you must qualify, and grants are often limited to urgent health and safety needs. And government loans to rebuild may be less than you need, but like your mortgage, must still be repaid.

Prepare Your Home

Q. Why should I retrofit my house?

A. California has two-thirds of our nation's earthquake risk. Structures that lack adequate sill plate bolting and cripple-wall bracing are more susceptible to earthquake damage.

The frames of older houses are often not bolted to their foundations, and their cripple walls may lack bracing. Houses without adequate bolting and bracing can slide or topple off their foundation during an earthquake, requiring potentially very expensive repairs. But this serious damage can be prevented with a proper seismic retrofit.

Q. How can I determine my earthquake risk?

A. Interactive hazard maps are available from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) at its My Hazards Awareness Map website on the “Earthquake Risk” tab. 

Then enter your address into the map search field at the top of the page. When you click “Map Search,” you will be shown your local earthquake hazard on a map. The page will include a description of risks in your area from other hazards such as flood, fire, or tsunami.

Q. Where do I find information about properly bracing my water heater?
A. Resources for bracing your water heater include: Earthquake Country Alliance and Seismic CA

Retrofitting

Q. Why should I retrofit my house?

A. California has two-thirds of our nation's earthquake risk. Structures that lack adequate sill plate bolting and cripple-wall bracing are more susceptible to earthquake damage.

The frames of older houses are often not bolted to their foundations, and their cripple walls may lack bracing. Houses without adequate bolting and bracing can slide or topple off their foundation during an earthquake, requiring potentially very expensive repairs. But this serious damage can be prevented with a proper seismic retrofit.

Q. How can I determine my earthquake risk?

A. Interactive hazard maps are available from the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) at its My Hazards Awareness Map website on the “Earthquake Risk” tab. 

Then enter your address into the map search field at the top of the page. When you click “Map Search,” you will be shown your local earthquake hazard on a map. The page will include a description of risks in your area from other hazards such as flood, fire, or tsunami.

Q. Will a seismic retrofit ‘earthquake-proof’ my house?
A. There is no such thing as an “earthquake-proof structure.” But there are straightforward measures that will likely reduce the potential for (or severity of) earthquake damage. The California Existing Building Code (CEBC) that its retrofit provisions are "minimum standards intended to improve the seismic performance of residential buildings; however, they will not necessarily prevent earthquake damage."
Q. What is the best method to retrofit my house?

How your house is built and its foundation type determine what type of retrofit your house needs. Houses with a raised concrete perimeter foundation that lack sill plate anchors and/or cripple wall bracing may follow existing state building code (CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3) or standard plan sets, which also provide step-by-step directions. 

The following types of houses may require an engineer to design a retrofit:

  • Soft-story row houses
  • Houses on hillsides
  • Houses with living space over the garage
  • Post and pier foundation houses
Q. What does ‘wood-framed floor at the lowest level’ mean?
A. It means that the framing of the house’s first floor is composed of beams and cross-beams made of wood. You should be able to look under the house to see if wooden beams and cross-beams support the first floor.
Q. What is a cripple wall?
A. A cripple wall is a less-than-full-height wall, typically four feet or less tall, located between the house’s foundation and the base of the house’s first floor.
Q. What is a ‘continuous perimeter foundation?’
A. A continuous perimeter foundation is concrete and runs continuously, without gaps, under the exterior walls of your home. CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3, and standardized plan sets are designed specifically for this type of foundation that lacks sill plate anchors and/or cripple wall bracing. If you have a partial perimeter foundation or if your house foundation is made from unreinforced masonry or stone, you’ll need to have your house evaluated by an engineer or design professional before planning or commencing a retrofit, to ensure you will meet building-code requirements.
Q. What does ‘slab-on-grade’ mean?
A. A slab-on-grade-foundation house has no basement and therefore no basement wall. Your house is built on a solid slab of concrete.
Q. What is a ‘low-slope’ building site?
A. A low-slope building site has a natural slope of 10% or less. If columns or beams support a house, it’s likely the house has been built on a slope greater than 10%.
Q. Do I need to hire an architect or engineer to complete a retrofit?
A. Prescriptive plans sets that do not require an engineered design, such as Appendix Chapter A3 of the CEBC or standard plan sets, may have already been approved by your local building official. Typically houses with cripple walls taller than 4’-0” require an engineered retrofit design. Homeowners, contractors, and design professionals should always check with the local building code official to verify local code requirements.
Q. What should I know before hiring a retrofit contractor?

A. You can follow personal recommendations, or review advertisements or use directories or references provided online. You can also search contractors in the Contractor Directory on the Earthquake Brace + Bolt (EBB) website. Contractors on the EBB list have completed FEMA training for retrofits of houses with raised continuous perimeter foundations and cripple walls.

But regardless of how you find your contractor, before you make your final decision the CSLB recommends:

  • Getting at least three written bids on the project
  • Asking for personal recommendations
  • Verifying the contractor's business location and telephone number
  • Ensuring the contractor has a license and the legally required bond
  • Verifying the contractor's workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage
Q. How do I determine if the retrofit contractor is licensed?
A. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) provides online information about contractors, so you can verify their license number and verify the business name and whether their license is active.
Q. Can I do the retrofit work myself?
A. If you have do-it-yourself skills, you can probably tackle the seismic retrofit work outlined in CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3. Or, you may find using a standard plan set easier, since it provides step-by-step directions on needed retrofit components and their proper placement. When you do this work without a licensed contractor, you become an “owner-builder,” which has risks and requirements you should fully understand before starting. You should also review the FEMA Education Course on raised-foundation or cripple-wall retrofits.
Q. Are drawings and calculations required for a building permit?
A. Check with your local building inspection department to verify the construction documents (drawings, etc.) required for a building permit—requirements vary considerably. Many building departments accept standard plan sets, which the owner-builder or contractor can access online. If you hire a registered design professional (architect or engineer) to design a retrofit for your cripple wall house, specify that they design the retrofit in accordance with Appendix Chapter A3 of the CEBC or one of the plan sets adopted by your local building official.
Q. What is a ‘standard plan set?’
A. There are standard sets of plans. made available to homeowners and contractors, to use as construction documents for the seismic retrofit of wood-frame, single-family dwellings. These plan sets include specifications, details, and instructions for installing foundation anchorage and cripple-wall bracing (for walls shorter than four feet). Note that a registered design professional (architect or engineer) must design any modifications to plan-set provisions.
Q. Can I use a standard plan set as construction documents?
A. Check with your local building inspection department to see if it has adopted a standard plan set that meets the requirements of the CEBC, Appendix Chapter A3.

If not, determine whether “Plan Set A” is acceptable—this plan set applies to any wood-framed, single-family dwelling with a raised foundation and with or without a cripple wall of less than four feet. You can download Plan Set A from the Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG) website.

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