The November 30th earthquake was a big one, creating thousands of drywall cracks in hundreds of homes. According to national building standards, drywall cracks greater than 1/16th of an inch should be repaired. So if you’ve got drywall cracks in your home as the result of the earthquake, the first thing you should do is hire a home inspector. Most inspectors are not engineers but they will be able to advise you whether or not you should also hire a structural engineer. A home inspector’s fee is approximately $500 while a structural engineer can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, depending on the time spent in the home to assess the degree of damage and write the report. Given the number of aftershocks we are still experiencing, you may want to wait another week or so before you call an inspector unless you feel that your home in structurally not safe. Aftershocks can create additional drywall cracks. One general contractor told me that after the Friday quake, he had only one crack in a 2,800 square foot home but in a reinspection five days later there were an additional nineteen. All the cracks were cosmetic and at the seam which is where most cracks occur. Repair of drywall cracks vary, depending on the contractor and the painter. A little mud can hide a lot of cracks but some contractors will cut the drywall, mud, caulk and then paint.
If you have your home listed for sale, we want to encourage you to get a home inspection and a structural engineer if the home inspector recommends it. Although buyers usually buy with their eyes and are not generally concerned about the number of tie downs, steel strappings around the garage opening, they are going to undoubtedly now want a third party opinion as to the integrity of the home. If you are in a buy/sell contract, you should reach out to your mortgage originator to see what their investor’s protocol is when dealing with a home that has experienced an earthquake. Some credit union lenders are requiring a home inspection that they will pay for prior to closing in order to be assured of the home’s value. Other lenders simply want a hold harmless agreement signed by the buyer and the seller. If the appraisal was done prior to the earthquake, most lenders are requiring a reinspection by the appraiser in order to re-establish the condition of the property which the seller is required to pay.
If your home is a condo, and there is no earthquake insurance for the community, and your governing documents delineate your condo beginning at studs, and not sheetrock, you as an owner are responsible for any repairs. If you have substantial cracking or uneven floors, contact your management company immediately to report the damage. The HOA may be responsible for structural repairs. That would not be the case if it was a site condo.
We have all been through a traumatic event. Congratulations to the Municipality of Anchorage for their disaster preparedness, fast and articulate communication and building code improvements since the 1964 quake which has obviously saved many lives. We thank you.