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Structural Risks of Living Space Over a Garage

What is a Soft-Story House?

 

Drawing: Front of ESS house with porch and driveway

This house has one or more floors of living space over an attached garage, or “soft story.” Its vulnerability to earthquake shaking comes from its position atop the garage beneath it, which:

  • Is typically a sizable open space, functioning like a crawl space within a cripple wall house, with walls not braced to resist earthquake motion, and
  • Has one or more large doors that are not properly retrofitted to withstand earthquake shaking.
Garage-door openings can be retrofitted by installing new plywood sheathing or steel panels on each side of the garage door. Some garage doors require a steel frame to be properly retrofitted for earthquakes. This is called a soft-story retrofit.
Drawing: Side view of house with living space over garage.

Strengthen Your House

CEA encourages owners of older (pre-2000) houses, with the living space over garage vulnerability, to retrofit their houses to strengthen them against earthquake damage.

The California Residential Mitigation Program’s Earthquake Soft-Story (ESS) seismic retrofit grant program provides qualified homeowners in certain ZIP Codes, who have a living space over their garage or “soft story,” a grant of up to $13,000 for an earthquake retrofit. The ESS retrofit strengthens the first floor of this type of house, to help prevent the home from collapsing during an earthquake.

Learn More About the Earthquake Soft-Story Retrofit Grant Program

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