Quake Safe Your Property

3 February 2012

We know you're told this all the time - but unless you're prepared, you won't get through an emergency situation like an earthquake or tsunami.

Professional roofer removes a chimney

Professional roofer removes a chimney

Part of that preparation involves having food, water and emergency supplies for you and your family - but preparing your home is equally important. There are a number of simple changes you can make to your home to make it safer in an earthquake.

Secure tall furniture to the wall using brackets, place non-slip mats under appliances, move heavy objects near to the ground and use putty to hold ornaments in place.

Hot water cylinders can tip over in quakes creating flooding, while also depriving you of water at a time when you need it most. You can get metal straps from a hardware store to secure cylinders to the wall - just fit timber blocks between the cylinder and walls and glue into place. For more information, visit:

EQ-IQ - EarthQuake Commission website

Roger Gurnsey, our Building Compliance Manager, says once you've made the interior safe, you can turn your attention to the structure of your home.

"Some of the major things to look for are unreinforced chimneys, concrete tile roofs and buildings that are not properly secured to the foundations," says Roger.

In Christchurch, liquefaction caused widespread damage. An expert on earthquake resistance in timber houses, Victoria University's Dr Geoff Thomas, says the movement of houses on foundations in hill suburbs would be a significant problem in Wellington.

"If house piles are of different heights or foundations are different types, an earthquake can put stress on particular parts of the house and it can move away from the foundations," says Dr Thomas.

A Masters student from Victoria University, James Irvine, recently did a study on 80 timber homes in Wellington. Seventy-six percent of these houses had some type of foundation fault, such as deterioration or foundations not being adequately secured in the first place.

If you see deterioration to your foundations like missing bricks, loose mortar, damaged bracing, timber or water damage, we recommend you investigate it.

Other signs include cracks, sloped floors or leaning walls - these could mean foundations may have moved or settled, affecting the stability of your house.

Roger Gurnsey says unreinforced brick buildings are most at risk of being damaged during an earthquake.

"If you own one of these buildings, you may want to have your home checked for your own peace of mind," he says.

"Also - in older buildings, features like parapets, chimneys, brick or concrete architectural features, stairs and verandas may be unsafe if they are not adequately reinforced or secured.

"Investing in work to strengthen your property, like reinforcing or replacing your chimney, is often cheaper than the cost of repairs after an earthquake and will make your family feel safer."

We've developed a building resilience checklist for homeowners.

"The checklist can help you to identify potential problems," says Roger.

"If you come across anything, we recommend you seek professional advice to see what your options are."

Some types of work may need a building or resource consent.