Home > Contractors & Design Professionals > What You Need to Know

What You Need to Know

Contractors Participating in ESS

What You Need to Know - Contractors Participating in EBBContractors are vital to helping homeowners complete an Earthquake Soft Story (ESS) retrofit and providing the documentation required for the grant payment.

How It’s Done – FEMA-P1100 Construction Plan Set

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) created FEMA-P1100, a pre-engineered set of construction documents that provide details for contractors to complete the soft-story seismic retrofit, in many cases without requiring additional input from an engineer or architect. Your ESS retrofit must be in accordance with FEMA-P1100. CRMP makes this approved plan set available to contractors, provides contractor training and ESS program support to make the process as easy and cost effective as possible.

There may be situations where an engineer will still need to be consulted. Contractors should first determine if the FEMA-P1100 plan set can be used to seismically retrofit a house before recommending an engineered solution.

Register & Get Trained to Participate

All California general contractors with a Type A or B license in good standing may participate in ESS.

If you’re already registered as an Earthquake Brace + Bolt contractor, you don’t need to register again to participate in ESS—just go to your Dashboard and complete a free ESS retrofit training, and you’re in!

  • New to our retrofit programs? Simply Register with us, and then complete our free ESS training.

Once you've completed the training, you'll be added to the ESS Contractor Directory, from which all ESS homeowner participants must choose their retrofit contractor.

Get Hired

Once homeowners are accepted into ESS, they must choose a contractor from the ESS Contractor Directory. In order to appear in the Contractor Directory:

  • If you’re already registered as an Earthquake Brace + Bolt contractor, go straight to your Dashboard and complete the free ESS training.
  • New to our retrofit programs? Simply Register with us, and then complete our free ESS training.

When a homeowner contacts you about doing their retrofit, they will ask you to provide a detailed bid that includes the entire cost of the retrofit, including the cost of the building permit. The homeowner must get an additional bid if your bid is more than $10,000. The maximum grant amount is $13,000.

The following are the maximum ESS grant amounts provided to homeowners for the four accepted types of retrofits:

House Type Percentage Covered Maximum Coverage
Type 1—House Over Garage + Ground Floor Finished Living Space Up to 75% total retrofit cost $10K
Type 2—Room Over Garage + Crawl Space Previously Retrofitted Up to 75% total retrofit cost $10K
Type 3—Room Over Garage + Crawl Space Needing Retrofit Up to 75% total retrofit cost $13K
Type 4—House Over Garage— No Ground Floor Finished Living Space Up to 75% total retrofit cost $13K

Once you're hired by an ESS participating homeowner, you and the homeowner will have access to a user-friendly online dashboard, where one of you will upload required documents (such as the building permit and pre- and post-retrofit photos of the home).

Funding for ESS

ESS retrofit grants are FEMA-funded grants that have very specific rules and requirements. Follow the instructions on your Contractor Dashboard carefully and review the Program Rules, to help your homeowner meet the requirements for getting ESS grant funding. See the table above for the maximum ESS grant amounts provided to homeowners for the four accepted types of retrofits.

FIRST: Pre-Retrofit

After the homeowner is accepted into the ESS program, the pre-retrofit process can begin. The homeowner has 12 weeks (three months) to complete these pre-retrofit steps:

  • Meet with contractors from the ESS Directory and receive bids
  • Hire a contractor from the ESS Contractor Directory
  • Contractor or homeowner obtains the building permit with the specified wording, according to the Program Rules
  • Contractor or homeowner takes pre-retrofit photos of the house per the directions on their ESS Dashboard and as directed in the Program Rules
  • Contractor or homeowner uploads the following to the ESS Dashboard:
    • building permit; permit must only be for seismic retrofit work
    • plans/drawings
    • required pre-retrofit photos
    • homeowner's proof of residence
    • submit bid from ESS contractor you have hired
      • submit additional bid IF the bid is over $10,000
      • submit explanation if hiring a contractor that was not the lowest bidder
    • If the ESS grant will be over $5,000, AND the house is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, they will submit a signed and notarized form attesting that they will adhere to the FEMA requirements before any ESS incentive payment will be paid. The form, which will be provided to the applicant, will state that the applicant will abide by, and understands the following:
      • Flood insurance must be maintained for the life of the structure
      • Flood insurance coverage on the property must be maintained during the life of the structure regardless of transfer of ownership of such property
      • All structures on the property will be maintained in accordance with flood plain management criteria
  • All pre-retrofit documents will be forwarded to FEMA for review; once FEMA approves (up to 10 weeks after submission), ESS will notify the homeowner

NEXT: The Retrofit

After the homeowner's pre-retrofit documents are approved by ESS, the retrofit construction work may begin.

  • The retrofit work must be completed within 180 days from receiving ESS approval
  • Your deadline to complete the retrofit job is shown on the ESS Dashboard

Earthquake Soft Story Retrofit Specifications

  • Only seismic retrofits performed in accordance with FEMA P-1100 (PDF) qualify for ESS Program grant funding.
  • All retrofits must be designed utilizing the appropriate seismic design category (information can be found here.)
  • If a retrofit is engineered, it must meet or exceed the provisions for vulnerability-based assessment and retrofit of ground story bracing walls in wood light-frame, living space over garage (LSOG) dwellings. The minimum criteria for the retrofit of the LSOG dwelling is outlined in Chapter 5, Volume 1 of FEMA P-1100.
  • If the dwelling qualifies for a retrofit using the prescriptive plan sets, the retrofit must meet or exceed the requirements found in Volume 2B of FEMA P-1100. The prescriptive plan sets may be used by a contractor without assistance by a registered engineer.
  • ESS requires a FEMA P-1100 seismic retrofit to be done by a California Licensed General Building Contractor (License Type A or B) listed in the ESS Contractor Directory either using FEMA P-1100 or using plans prepared by a Licensed Design Professional with professional registration in California.
  • No partial LSOG retrofits are permitted. All ESS retrofits, including engineered retrofits, must be in accordance with FEMA P-1100, which means the retrofit must strengthen all structural LSOG weaknesses identified in Chapter 5, Volume 1 of FEMA P-1100. The qualifying ESS retrofit must meet or exceed the FEMA P-1100 requirements for sill-plate anchorage, full height and cripple-wall bracing (if cripple walls are present) and strengthening the garage door wall. For example, a retrofit that includes strengthening the garage door and ground floor walls, if required, but does not include sill-plate anchors and bracing of the raised foundation, if present and required, will not qualify for the ESS grant. If a raised foundation is present, it also must be retrofitted.
  • The water heater must be properly strapped and braced. If it's a tankless water heater, it must be secured according to the building code.
  • If a crawlspace retrofit is required by the rules of the ESS Program, the crawlspace retrofit must be in accordance with Volume 1, Chapter 4 or Volume 2A of FEMA P-1100. No partial crawlspace retrofits are permitted.

THEN: Post-Retrofit

Within 30 days after completion of the retrofit, the following items must be uploaded to the ESS Dashboard (see Program Rules and your Dashboard for more details):

  • A copy of the building permit signed after final inspection by the building inspector
  • Required post-retrofit photos
  • An electronically completed and approved Payment Authorization Form stating to whom the ESS payment will be sent
  • A final invoice(s) and receipt(s) (not the contractor’s initial bid or proposal) for retrofit-related expenses must be provided by the Contractor
    • If services of a Licensed Design Professional were required, the cost of those services must be included
    • Removal or disposal of previous retrofit work is not an expense that is reimbursable by ESS.

We Are Here to Help

Please Contact Us with any questions about the retrofit process or ESS requirements. Also, you can find more information in the Program Rules.

See if Your Home Qualifies for an ESS Retrofit

Sign Up to Receive ESS Program Updates

801 K Street, Suite 1000
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (877) 232-4300

©2024 California Residential Mitigation Program (CRMP)

Privacy Policy  |  Social Media Guidelines  |  Terms of Use  |  Disclaimer