Guide for Bay Area Residents

Earthquake Preparedness

While we can’t predict when earthquakes will occur, Bay Area residents can and should prepare for them. That’s why we’ve collected information and expert tips to help you keep your home and family safe in the event of an earthquake.

  • Get Started: Start by reading 14 ways to prepare for earthquakes.
  • Find: Find a top rated professional to help make your home safer.
  • Research: Dive into more specific topics related to earthquakes.

Get Started

14 Things Bay Area Folks Can (and Should) Do Right Now to Prepare for an Earthquake

Those of us who live in the Bay Area understand that a major earthquake could happen at any time. If we want to live here—with the mountains, beaches and great weather—we have to make an uneasy truce with the massive fault lines running beneath our homes. Luckily, while we don’t have to like our rowdy underground neighbors, we can preemptively call the cops on the party. Do these 14 things now and be prepared for a major quake.

    1. Anchor tall bookshelves and other heavy or high furniture to the walls. Be sure to attach the items to the wall studs rather then the drywall.
    2. Do not hang pictures or mirrors over beds or the couch.
    3. Keep heavy objects on lower shelves.

See the full list





Mark Corrallo

All Seasons Construction

Christopher Wells

Christopher Wells Construction, Inc.

Matthew Hechim

Water Heaters Masters Inc.

George Walton

Alameda Structural, Inc.

Hamid Rod Tehrani

Absolute Plumbing and Drain

Alex Diaz

Water Heaters Masters Inc.

Adding Vertical Space to Your Home

Adding Vertical Space to Your Home

OAKLAND — When it comes to adding legal living space to a home, it sometimes makes more sense to go vertical than horizontal. The question is: Do you go up or down? Each house will have a different answer for that question, so it’s important to consult a professional.

If you decide to go down, this will mean taking your existing lower level and digging down two or three feet to create enough height for livable space. Going up, on the other hand, will consist of lifting your home to convert your crawl space into a livable area. Either way, you’ll need to achieve a minimum height of eight feet to make the space a legal living area.

Assessing Your Home’s Foundation

Assessing Your Home’s Foundation

BRISBANE — Earthquakes are an ongoing concern for anyone who lives in the Bay Area. One way you can be proactive about protecting your home and family is to know the condition of your home’s foundation. If you understand the signs to look for, you can determine if measures are needed to bolster your home against earthquake damage.

Depending on when your home was built, the character (as well as the quality) of its foundation can vary. For example, many houses built in the 1920s and ’30s have foundations that were engineered using local materials, which isn’t good. Local sand contains impurities, which leads to degradation of the concrete. Also, builders in those days likely didn’t use enough Portland cement, as it was very expensive.

To assess the condition of your home’s foundation, perform this simple test: go down to your basement with a hammer or screwdriver and attempt to scrape off a piece of your foundation. If you’re successful, it’s a sign that the foundation’s integrity is compromised, in which case you should call a structural engineer.

Another thing to look for when assessing your home’s earthquake readiness is signs of foundation settlement, which can be caused by anything from poor soil compaction to drainage issues. In most cases, signs of foundation settlement can be found inside the home in the form of wall cracks, whether in corners or diagonally above doors and windows. Another common sign is a door or window that suddenly becomes difficult to open or close. If you start to notice these signs in your home, it might be time to get a professional assessment from a structural engineer.

Inspecting Your Water Heater

Inspecting Your Water Heater

CONCORD — For most homeowners, water heaters tend to be out of sight and out of mind. In reality, periodic water heater inspection is an important aspect of home maintenance, mainly because it allows you to preventatively identify problems like leaks and safety risks.

When inspecting your water heater, the first thing you should look for is proper safety. Due to earthquake concerns, any standard water heater installed in the Bay Area is required to have two support straps—one on the lower third of the tank and one on the upper third. These straps should be anchored to the wall by a sturdy support like a wall stud or post. Since most water heater tanks weigh more than 500 pounds, if yours shakes loose during an earthquake, the water and gas lines could be ripped loose.

Once you’ve verified the safety of your water heater, it’s time to check for water leaks. Start at the top of the tank and check connections like the water lines and shut-off valve for signs of moisture or corrosion. The next place to inspect is the drip pan beneath the tank. Everything should look dry—if you see water in the pan, you may have a leaky drain valve or flex line.

To preventatively identify leaks and safety risks, make it a point to inspect your water heater every six months.

2 Tips for Working With a Contractor

2 Tips for Working With a Contractor

ALAMEDA — When working with a contractor to complete a home improvement project, there are ways you can help foster a good relationship and a positive overall experience. Consider these tips:

Maintain leverage. Put simply, the only leverage you have with a contractor is money. Payments in construction are typically tied to the completion of certain phases of the job, which means the contractor only gets paid for the work they have completed. If a contractor asks you for money up front, even to buy materials, this is a red flag. You should never pay a contractor for work they haven’t completed yet, because this gives them the leverage in the relationship. That’s when they don’t show up, your project starts to lag and the relationship starts to go south. So, maintain the leverage in the relationship by only paying for completed work.

Insist on a clean jobsite. When it comes to construction, a clean job is a happy job. Expect your contractor to keep their tools and materials stored neatly, and to remove debris from the worksite daily. Not only does this make for a safe work environment, it shows that the contractor respects you enough to keep things clean for you. Plus, when the worksite is clean, the job will run more efficiently, as things will be more organized and the workers won’t need to walk over materials or debris. Furthermore, it’s a much better look to your neighbors when the jobsite is clean.

Sewer Line Repair Alternatives

Sewer Line Repair Alternatives

CONCORD — If you have damaged or broken sewer pipes underneath your home, you’ll be glad to know there are repair alternatives to jackhammering your foundation. Here are a couple of potential options:

  • If your sewer pipe only has minor damage, a plumber can descale the line and apply an epoxy to create a smooth surface and seal any cracks. This will increase the line’s lifespan and defer the need for more intensive repairs or replacement.
  • If your pipe is severely damaged, a plumber can insert a liner through the existing pipe using the trenchless line replacement method. This innovative method makes sewer line repair much easier than in times past, which saves home and business owners money and hassle. However, trenchless sewer replacement isn’t always a viable option, so you’ll need to have the issue diagnosed by a professional.

How to Stop a Water Heater Leak

How to Stop a Water Heater Leak

CONCORD — If you discover a leak in your water heater, the first thing you should do is turn it off to prevent further leakage. However, in order to do so, you’ll need to know the correct procedure. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Turn off the water heater’s shut-off valve. Typically, this is found on the right-hand side of the tank. Grab the valve handle and rotate it a quarter-turn; this should stop water from entering the tank.

If the shut-off valve isn’t working, you may need to shut off water to your entire home (depending on how bad the leak is). Every homeowner should know the location of their home’s main water shut-off valve—it’s either just outside the home or at the sidewalk. This shut-off valve can also be used to prevent water damage in the event of a broken pipe or other major leak.

2. Turn off the gas. There are two ways to turn off gas to a water heater, the primary being the gas shut-off valve on the tank itself. Just like the water shut-off, give this valve a quarter-turn. If the valve isn’t working, you can shut off the gas via the water heater’s thermostat. Simply rotate the dial until it reaches the “Off” setting, which will extinguish the pilot light.

3. Call a plumber. Before calling, locate and write down your water heater’s model number and serial number. This information will let your plumber know what to expect before arriving.