Vul­ner­a­ble homes re­vealed in quake checks

Upper Hutt Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - GED CANN

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.


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.

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