Vulnerable homes revealed in quake checks
Unsecured hot water cylinders, untied roof water tanks, and unsecured foundations are just some of the common earthquake vulnerabilities found in Wellington homes.
Since the November 2016 earthquake about 1000 Wellingtonians have commissioned a quakecheck for their properties, however many may be avoiding the inspection over fear it could affect their home’s value.
Quakecheck inspector Kevin Jones said results were confidential, and the findings could save owners thousands of dollars in repairs if another quake struck the city.
A prospective buyer could ask if a check had been conducted, but it would be at the discretion of the person who had the check done to allow its release.
In April it was revealed 60 per cent of inspected Wellington homes had earthquake or weather resilience issues, with borer infestations, poor weather-proofing and unsecured foundations the main issues.
A Victoria University study also found a Wellington earthquake could leave up to half of the city’s houses unliveable and average repair costs a third higher than in Christchurch. That was because many of the features common among quake-damaged Canterbury homes were rife in the capital.
A separate survey showed Wellington’s large stock of old houses put residents at greater risk from quakes, with the capital having the nation’s largest stock of homes more than 75 years old, and the fewest residents living in houses less than 25 years old.
Jones has personally conducted 30 tests, and said the condition of properties varied greatly.
The worst house Jones has inspected was on the Eastern Hutt hills, where water had seeped under the building and washed away so much dirt, it left the piles off the ground.
A council spokeswoman said there was a spike after the November quakes, but the number of checks has now tailed off again.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BELOW THE HOUSE Jones said the ground should be dry, should not smell of damp, and should not have any water running through it. For homes with normal piles, the ground around the concrete bases should be undisturbed. If water had eroded earth from around the pile, it could compromise the house’s strength. Jones said this wasmost common for homes on hillsides, and homeowners often didn’t even realise rainwater had created channels under their homes. If water does run below the house, the solution would usually involve digging a trench at the highest end of the house, and using a pipe to redirect flows. A home’s wooden structure should be tied to concrete bases with metal cords. For buildings with a ring foundation, an inspector will look for any cracks or defects. INSIDE THE HOUSE The biggest issue inside a home is unsecured hot water cylinders. Jones said these should either have twometal straps securing it to the wall at the top and bottom, or should be securely boxed in with timber shelving or similar restraints. ABOVE THE HOUSE Water storage tanks in the ceiling, which can be concrete or metal, also need to be securely tied to ceiling beams. Jones said owners were often unaware they have a supply tank in their roof. Any load-bearing beams should be free of cracks. This is particularly important to check in some older houses, where heavily-knotted rimu was often used. Concrete or slate tiles should also be tied down. The wires should be visible from inside the attic space, connecting with rafters. Finally, the chimney column should also be checked for defects or cracks.