Owners could face big bills to strengthen homes for quakes
Homeowners in the capital could find themselves facing $13,000 bills to try to strengthen their homes against earthquakes.
Now Wellington City Council is moving to help homeowners start the strengthening process with a new assessment scheme due to launch later this month.
The council this week received a new draft economic impact report looking at what would happen if a major earthquake struck on the Wellington faultline.
It also considered strengthening costs, and put the bill for individual homes at about $250 million.
Earlier predictions suggest about 19,250 homes in Wellington would be damaged in a major earthquake out of the city's total housing stock of 60,000 - putting the average strengthening bill at $13,000.
The new report puts the economic impact of a major quake at $35.5 billion - of which $7.3b would be from building and infrastructure damage.
The information will be considered by councillors next week.
The impact on homeowners would be largely driven by property damage.
Foundations, water tanks, chimneys and ceiling tiles were among the areas most likely to need attention to reduce the level of quake damage a house would sustain.
Council spokesman Richard MacLean said the cost of strengthening would vary for each homeowner. "It is up to each property owner to make a decision on whether they wish to spend money on strengthening - some options like chimney removal can be completed at a low cost and significantly improve the performance of a property."
The council has worked with Certified Builders and New Zealand Master Builders to establish a new home assessment scheme.
Homeowners concerned about their house can get a builder to do a seven-point checklist on their house to see if any work needs to be done and advice on how to fix it. It will cost $160.
Mr MacLean said the council facilitated the establishment of the scheme, but was not subsidising the cost. "We recognised there was a demand for this service and that [it] would have benefits to individual property owners and to the wider city in terms of making it more resilient."
Built environment portfolio leader Iona Pannett said the assessment would be a good first step for homeowners, who could then budget out any repairs needed over time.
"You see it as part of the normal maintenance of the house."
She hoped the assessments could also filter into the market, with buyers putting more emphasis on strengthened homes.
"I hope that people start asking those questions - the market essentially acts to make people do the right thing."
Harcourts real estate agent Antonia Brown said the assessments would be useful information for buyers, but would need to be carefully worded to be legally sound information.
Earthquake concerns had not affected Wellington residential property values yet, she said.
Certified Builders director Brian Ludlow said the checklists were a simple way for people to get a qualified evaluation of their home.
The number of Wellington houses on hillsides meant there were a lot of vulnerable homes, he said.
If problems were identified, the need to repair foundations would be among the more costly work needed, though also the most important.
Does a house need to be earthquake strengthened?
Houses that are simpler shapes, have timber cladding and lightweight roof materials are less likely to be seriously damaged in a quake.
Houses on hillsides, with large open spaces, and large windows along one side, are more vulnerable to earthquakes. Houses that are irregular shapes and split levels, have additions that are poorly fixed, and houses with older building techniques - like lath and plaster or unreinforced masonry - are also more likely to be damaged.
Wellington City Council builders' checklist:
* Hot water cylinder tie backs: Hot water cylinders are heavy, and both the weight and water can cause damage in a quake if not secured properly.
* Header tank tie backs: Tanks on the roof to feed water into the hot water cylinder are heavy when full of water. If not tied back properly they can cause a lot of damage.
* Chimney stability: Many homes built before 1970 have unreinforced brick chimneys, which can collapse causing damage to the house below. Chimneys with a lightweight metal flue have less risk.
* Security of piles and foundations: Damaged or decayed piles can be unstable, causing a house to fall in a quake. Excavation under houses to create storage areas can often weaken foundations.
* Floor bearer fixings to piles and foundations: Houses that aren't properly tied to piles can slide of the foundations in a quake.
* Bearer to floor joist connections: Houses need to be braced to the piles so they don't topple over in an earthquake.
* The wire fixing ties to the ceiling tile battens holding the tiles in place. If clay or old cement tiles are the existing roofing material, these are heavy and can detach, damaging each other and the roof.
Source: Wellington City Council.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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