How to Assess Your Home After an Earthquake
In the aftermath of an earthquake, it's perfectly reasonable to feel rattled. You mustn't forget, however, to assess your home to make sure its structural integrity isn't compromised—even if it seemingly made it through unscathed.
Town & Country consulted structural engineering expert Emilio Morales, principal of the consulting firm EM2A Partners & Co., and co-founder of the PGATECH Group, about what you should check after an earthquake. Here are some more helpful hints to properly assessing earthquake damage.
1. NOT ALL CRACKS ARE THE SAME.
Vertical cracks may point to shifting in the foundation of your home, while diagonal cracks form due to the effect of sheer forces which weaken a structure's frame. Severe cracks that are more than 5 millimeters should be inspected and attended to by a professional.
2. CHECK THE EXTERIOR OF YOUR HOME.
Look at all sides and check for cracks, separation between the soil and foundation, and damage on the ceiling and windows. According to Morales, the beam-column joints and walls should be given special attention. If you think the damage is particularly alarming, it may be time to consult a structural engineer.
3. THE DOORS ARE AN EASY TELL.
According to News 9, simply testing how your doors close can be key to assessing damage. If a door closes tight after an earthquake, it can be because your home shifted.
4. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR TILTING.
One way to check is by simply stepping back and checking if a structure looks tilted. Morales says tilting is a sign of failure in the foundation, and this will make your house more susceptible to damage should another earthquake occur.
5. CHECK THE UTILITIES, APPLIANCES, AND FURNITURE.
Check for any leaking gas lines or damaged electrical wiring. Utilities also extend to the outside of your home. Check if power lines are sagging. As for appliances, Morales says the stability of overhanging elements such as chandeliers and ceiling fans should be included on your checklist. Be prepared for the next time an earthquake hits and bolt down what you can to prevent further damage.
6. DON'T FORGET TO CHECK THE ROOF.
If your house has cracked, then the roof might have been damaged too. Check for water damage in the ceiling or even broken tiles. Broken tiles should be removed, repaired, and replaced as soon as possible.
7. CHECK FOR INCREASED VIBRATIONS.
If you live on a busy road, be attentive when buses or trucks pass by. If you're experiencing increased vibrations then the structural integrity of your house may have been compromised.