I always thought EQ insurance was something California residents just didn’t buy due to absurdly high premiums and deductibles, but I’m now leaning towards purchasing it. Here’s why:
The EQ section of the CA residential building code is primarily intended protect inhabitants from injury and death in the event of a large earthquake and NOT to preserve the structure itself. It’s very similar to a car. A car can be easily totaled in a major accident, even a minor one, but occupants can walk out alive. Sheer walls and foundations are like crumple zones in automobiles. Sheer walls can rack and foundations can break, rendering the structure uninhabitable. They only need to be safe enough for occupants to vacate immediately after a quake.
On the West Coast, it’s not financially practical to build a home to survive a Magnitude 7+ quake in close proximity with current building practices. In fact, current residential building practices DO NOT have earthquake proof solutions. Commercial seismic solutions including things like suspensions and counter waits are not available for small homes. If you tried to implement something on a home yourself, the building inspector would red flag the structure. I’d bet these solutions, if legal on homes, would increase build cost by multiples.
A new or retrofitted home is more likely to survive a quake but it is NOT guaranteed. Older homes not bolted to the foundations or those lacking sheer walls are at a higher risk of complete failure, but every home is at some non-negligible risk of complete failure in a major quake.
Most of my San Jose, CA home’s structure is new from a remodel finished this year. It’s a seismically sound structure built better than 2018 building code requires. I got opinions from people if I should get earthquake insurance:
- The building inspector that oversaw my remodel recommend I get EQ insurance immediately even though it’s one of the strongest structures he’s seen.
- My parents, both residential architects, thought strongly that I should have it like they do on their house.
- A friend getting his Geophysics PhD analyzed fault slip data near me, and thinks its worth it.
Please convince me otherwise. EQ insurance is double my regular hazard insurance. For me it's a major financial decision that's tough to make. IMHO not having EQ insurance is a gamble, with far higher odds that my home will be completely destroyed than winning that lottery, normalized dollar for dollar.
📸: Fabricating huge ridge beams used to transfer sheer from the roof down through the structure of my house.