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Living Space Over Garage House Retrofit

Image: Living Space Over Garage Home Retrofit

This type of house has one floor of living space over an attached garage, also known as a "soft story." It is vulnerable to damage because the garage is not strong enough to withstand earthquake shaking, because it lacks structural soundness, as it:
  • typically has a large open space (the garage area), with walls not braced to resist earthquake motion, and
  • has one or more large doors that are not retrofitted to withstand earthquake shaking.

Garage-door openings can be retrofitted by installing plywood sheathing or steel panels on each side of the garage door. Some garage doors require a steel frame to be properly retrofitted for earthquakes. The back wall may require a new foundation with reinforcing bars, and the side walls likely will need to be strengthened with new anchor bolts, hold downs, and plywood.

Earthquake Soft-Story Retrofit Grant Program

Is retrofitting a soft-story house worth it?

Image: Garage-door openings can be retrofitted by installing

These types of older houses in California’s earthquake hazard areas are vulnerable to collapse and other major damage from earthquake shaking. In the event of a large earthquake, this could mean devastation in communities across the quake’s shake zone.

If your home is damaged, you may not be able to live in it while repairs are made. You might have to take out loans to repair or rebuild, all while paying for another place to live and keeping up with your mortgage.

Earthquake Retrofit Grants Available

The California Residential Mitigation Program offers qualified homeowners up to $13,000 in Earthquake Soft-Story grants, to help you pay to retrofit your house if it:

  • Was built prior to 2000
  • Is no more than two stories
  • Is single-family and owner-occupied
  • Has a living space over the garage (also known as a "soft story")
  • Is in a program-eligible ZIP Code

The Earthquake Soft-Story (ESS) grant program provides up to 75% of the total retrofit cost, up to $13,000, to qualified homeowners toward this kind of retrofit. The cost for the retrofit varies depending on where you live. On average, bracing the first-floor walls and the garage door opening generally costs between $15,000 and $25,000.

Find out if your home qualifies for the ESS grant program.

Think of it this way: by investing in a retrofit now, you are strengthening your property and protecting your biggest investment—your home—which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When you invest in a retrofit, you get peace of mind and a safer, stronger, and more secure home for your family.

Ready to take the next step?

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Find out how you can register to participate in the ESS grant program.

We also have resources for you, including what questions to ask contractors.

Take the next step on strengthening your house today.