Seismic Retrofitting Your Home

Seismic forces on your home

Earthquake forces can affect your home’s integrity in 3 ways [3]

Background: Earthquake Risk in Utah [1, 2]

The Wasatch Fault in Utah runs 240 miles from Southern Idaho (Malad City) to Central Utah (Fayette). It is classified as a normal, vertical motion fault divided into 10 segments. This fault is responsible for the uplifting of our beautiful Wasatch Mountains. The most active segments are located between Brigham City and Nephi, which are associated with the most densely populated areas in Utah. In Salt Lake City, the Fault line runs along 1300 East.

During the past 6000 yrs, a strong earthquake (magnitude greater than 6.5) has occurred approximately once every 350 yrs somewhere along one of the central segments of the Wasatch Fault. The segments that underlie Salt Lake City and Provo produce a large earthquake on average every 1300 yrs. Experts note that the fault is overdue for another major earthquake. “[1].   The last large earthquake experienced in Salt Lake City was more than 163 years ago [2]. The last earthquake associated with this fault in Utah occurred Friday, March 14, 2014 10:03:51 AM MDT 3.5 miles south of Francis, UT (UUSS Shake Maps at

“Urban areas along the Wasatch Fault lie on the soft lake bed of ancient Lake Bonneville and as such could face severe damage to gas, electric, water, communication and transportation in a major earthquake” [1]. When the major earthquake strikes, at least 42% of all buildings along the Wasatch Front could sustain moderate damage. Hospitals, schools and many unreinforced masonry building (~200,000), including residential homes are particularly vulnerable to violent shaking [1].

Earthquake forces can affect the integrity of your home in three ways [3]

  • Sliding:  house slides off foundation
  • Racking:  Cripple walls buckle and collapse
  • Overturning: House lifts off foundation

What can I do to protect people and my residential home?

Be Prepared for survival [4]
Residents need a minimum of 3 days of Food and water (1 gallon water/day/person). An accessory cooking source is beneficial. Turn off the gas supply (leaking gas causes major fires). Get a dedicated wrench for this purpose and place in a location that is easily accessible. Follow Questar recommendations [5].  Timeline: High density population areas get help first. Residential areas are last.

Assess the Risk of your home [3]

Factor Low Risk High Risk
Footprint Regular, symmetric Multiple additions
Height 1 story, no basement Multiple stories
Profile Simple box Towers, gables, parapets, etc
Foundation Reinforced concrete Rubble, fieldstone
Walls frame Pre and post 1900 masonry
Condition Well maintained deteriorated

Inspection Checklist [4] “the weak links to seismic safety”

  1. Foundation   Signs of settlement of movement. Cracks, sloped floors, leaning walls.  Loose mortar on brick or stone foundations, Deteriorating wood or water damage.  Downspouts dumping water near foundation and/or ground sloping towards foundation
  2. Walls and Columns   Rotted or undersized columns attached to basement floors.  Weak or undersized, unbraced walls or columns in open basement supporting a heavy solid portion of house. Tall, unbraced masonry parapets or gables. Wood studs without structural sheathing supporting the floors or walls above. Cracking in brick walls, spalled or missing mortar between bricks. Cracked, loose, spalled or missing bricks on exterior. Header bricks absent on multiple wythe masonry walls. Large openings in exterior walls. Additions to house not securely attached to hours or pulling away from foundation. Porch columns angled, shifting or unsecure to deck or roof.
  3. Floors and Ceilings   Bridging between joists poorly secured. Floor joists are simply resting on the foundation. Joists are substantially cut away to allow ductwork, wiring, or plumbing installation. Split, twisted, rotted joists.
  4. Roof  Rafters or trusses fastened to the load bearing exterior walls.  Roof decking composed of skip sheathing (gaps between boards) instead of Oriented strand board (OSB) or continuous plywood sheets. Heavy roofing materials such as slate or tiles. Unbraced masonry chimneys, parapet, or gables that are unreinforced or not secured to the roof or ceiling structure. Deteriorated mortar between bricks on the chimney.
  5. Historic and Interior Features   Cracked plaster (more than hairline or seasonal).  Tall furnishings unsecured to the wall. Hanging- or tall-light fixtures that could swing into walls or fall if they swing. Unsecured free-standing water heater to the building structure. Gas supply pipe to water heater is rigid, not flexible. Unsecured cabinet doors that could swing open. Unsecured valuables (knickknacks, computers, TVs) on open shelves.
  6. Site and Building History   Neighboring buildings with chimneys or other site features that could damage your house if they collapse. House damage by previous earthquakes. Heavy, repeated shaking of ground by heavy equipment use. Poor house maintenance over time


The primary purpose of earthquake retrofitting is to keep your home from being displaced from its concrete foundation — making the building safer and less prone to major structural damage during an earthquake [3].

 Create a continuous load path to maximize safety first, then maximize saving house integrity second [4-8]

  1. Anchor roof to house URM (unreinforced masonry) walls.  Attach top plates (2 x 8 boards laid horizontally on top of house walls) by installing high-tensile strength helical pins (HELIFIX is one brand) through the 2” x 8” boards into the double-wythe masonry walls. Install two pins (one pin per wythe) to a depth of at least 12 inches into the bricks. Fold over 3-4 inches of remaining pin above the top plate at a right angle and secure with an electrical staple or other anchor. Install a pair of helical pins every 16 inches around the perimeter of the house. (This is in-lieu of the ¾ inch diameter anchor bolts set in epoxy recommended in most guides).  Use OSB or plywood sheathing to tie the ends of all the roof framing members (rafters, ceiling joists, top-and bearing-plates, etc) together at the top of the wall. Use metal framing anchors such as Simpson™ hurricane uplift anchors to further connect the rafters to sheathing). This item may add 20% of roofing cost to the overall project. Hire a general contractor to do this work and coordinate with their roofing sub-contractor
  2. Anchor rafter to rim board.  Attach floor framing to the concrete foundation and double-wythe brick walls with through bolts and steel angles OR use Simpson™ FJA (Floor Joist Anchor) to connect floor joists to foundation. Use wedge anchor bolts or epoxy anchors at concrete. Use epoxy anchors only at brick, block and stone masonry. Space anchors every 4 feet maximum around footprint.
  3. Create shear walls.  Install structural rated OSB or plywood over 2” x 4” wood framing on interior walls and nail at 4“ on the edge of the panels and 6“ in the centers. Connect the shear walls to the exterior masonry walls or concrete foundation walls with anchor bolts or Simpson™ connectors. Install blocking between floor or ceiling joists at the tops of shear walls and attach the shear walls to the blocking.
  4. Anchor chimney to roof with steel brace   Install steel straps around chimneys and tie back to the roof structure with diagonal steel braces [7]
  5. Anchor/brace water heater [8]   Tether gas-fired water heaters to concrete foundation walls or interior stud walls with steel straps or proprietary braces.  Install flexible tube connector to gas line.

Timeline Approach to Retrofitting

FEMA encourages phased approach-take advantage of scheduled house repair or remodeling projects to improve seismic retrofits, one project at a time.   Substantial retrofits may require professional assistance of a licensed engineer, architect or general contractor.  Words to the wise   Contact several firms. Evaluate their expertise with historic residential structures. Check references. Have a legal, clear contract. Get the required permits.

Earthquake Insurance

Insurance may be expensive. Retrofit your home first because it improves personal safety, then get insurance if desired. Insurance should cover the remaining mortgage on the house and allow some of the rebuilding. Can borrow additional money for rebuilding against the cost of the property lot, since it retains property value post-earthquake.

20% Utah state tax credit for rehabilitation of homes in a National Historic District

Utah state Tax Credit Program gives a 20% state tax credit of your expenses to retrofit, repair, replace infrastructure for a residential home on the National Historic Register. Yalecrest was listed on the NHR in 2007.  Obtain a State tax credit application from Utah Division of State History at

Caveats to the 20% Utah state tax credit program

  1. The building use after rehabilitation must be residential.
  2. The building must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places at the time of application or within three years of the approval of the completed rehabilitation project.
  3. A minimum of $10,000 must be spent on rehabilitation over, at most, a three-year period.
  4. All work must meet appropriate rehabilitation standards; one “wrong” modification voids the entire tax credit.
  5. This application form must be completed before the rehab project is finished—preferably before work is started in order to avoid problems with ineligible work.

For more information, contact Nelson Knight,, Tax Credit Program, Utah Division of State History, 300 S Rio Grande St (450 West), Salt Lake City, UT 84101, Hours of Operation: Office 8:00 AM-5:00 PM, M-F, 801.245.7244.  Website at

References and Sources

Expert Speaker, Don Hartley   Has lived in Yalecrest since 1995. He isaregistered architect with extensive experience in rehabilitating historic buildings. He has been employed as an Historical Architect with Utah Division of State History, Historic Preservation Department, since 1989. He was the project architect for Salt Lake City & County Bldg restoration using the seismic base isolation technology.

Contact information: Don Hartley,, Historic Preservation, Utah State Division of History, 333 S. Rio Grande St (450 West), Salt Lake City, UT 84101, Hours of operation: 8:00 AM-5:00 PM M-F, Office: 801.245.7240

  1. Wasatch Fault.
  2. For Information and reports about Utah’s earthquakes and their hazards from Utah Geological Society Web site:
  3. Earthquake Safety at
  4. Bracing for the Big One: Seismic Retrofit of Historical Homes. By Utah Division of State History at
  5. Advice about earthquake preparation. “Putting Down Roots in Earthquake Country” by Utah Seismic Safety Commission at
  6. “Building a continuous load path”
  7. Structural upgrades for unreinforced masonry houses: “The Utah Guide for the Seismic Improvement of Unreinforced Masonry Dwellings” by Structural Engineers Association of Utah at
  8. Earthquake Preparedness and Natural Gas at
  9. Retrofitting contractors  Home-Tech, Inc., 333 W Hope Ave, Salt Lake City, UT. 84115.  Contact: Michael Mahffey, T 801.484.9360, F 801.461.0110 at


–Lynn Kennard Pershing, Ph.d.

Event Tuesday – Seismic Retrofitting

Seismic Retrofitting Your Home

The board of K.E.E.P. Yalecrest is excited to present another free workshop providing information on upkeep for your historic Yalecrest home.

This is a valuable session geared toward homeowners interested in preventing severe damage or loss of their home should a major earthquake occur.
WHAT:      Seismic Retrofitting Your Home
WHO:        Donald Hartley, Historical Architect, Utah Division of State History
WHEN:      Tuesday, March 25, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
WHERE:    Anderson-Foothill Library, downstairs, 1135 S. 2100 E.

Researching Your Yalecrest Home

HP Model Home

Are you curious about the history of your home?  Wondering about others that also found shelter under its roof, passed through its rooms, cared for it, and called it “home?”   If so, here is a list of resources you might want to use… with some commentary added to help you.

Polk Directories
I love these books!  I like starting with them.  If you pick up a Polk directory published in 1925 or later and go towards the back of it, you’ll find a street index.  Look up your address in the street index and you’ll see a name listed as living in your home (generally a man’s name).  Look up the the name in the front of the directory and you’ll see their occupation, where they worked, and probably the name of a wife.  Adult children at the same address might also be listed.  Look up the name in an earlier Polk directory and see if they were living in your home before 1925, or if they lived elsewhere in the City.

These books can give you an idea on who lived in your home, for how long, and who were its longtime residents.   Getting familiar with the residents’  names can help you spot information more easily when you’re utilizing the other resources that follow.   If your home was built before 1925, you will likely want to come back to these directories again later.

Where can you find these books?  I’ve seen them at multiple locations.  I tend to use the sets at the Downtown Library and at the Utah History Research Center.  Keep in mind that no Polk directories were produced in: 1943, 1945, 1947 and 1954.

Utah State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
Visit this office.  It is UPSTAIRS in the Rio Grande Depot (300 S. Rio Grande St).  Because Yalecrest is a National Register Historic District, it’s possible that some extra research has already been done on your home— including information on its architecture, architect, builder, and first residents. Not every Yalecrest home has information this complete.  But, it will still give you an idea on the building date and architectural style.  The basic data came from the Yalecrest Reconnaissance Level Survey done in 2005.

Utah History Research Center
Combine your trip to SHPO with a trip here. It is on the MAIN FLOOR of the same building, the Rio Grande Depot (300 S. Rio Grande St).   This is where you’d go to hunt for the original building permit for your home.  The information isn’t digitized so you’ll need to load up the microfiche reader.  Having an idea on what year to start with (from upstairs) should help you scan through to find the month and year for the building permit, and the name attached to it.

At the UHRC, you can also find Polk directories, books on Utah’s history, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, cool old photos by Shipler (early Utah photographer), a collection of old East High yearbooks…

Salt Lake County Archives
Email the County Archives and schedule yourself an appointment.  The SLCo Archives is a windowless building with records dating back to 1852!

It can be interesting looking at your home’s early tax appraisal cards.  You’ll see the early owner names and a footprint sketch.  You might find original old photos of your home here.  I like looking at the building date info… because it tells you when and how they came up with the building date recorded.   Like, maybe when the City came knocking on your door nobody was home so they recorded an estimate given by a neighbor!  Or maybe the owner was home and had a record showing the date.  Or maybe the City guy decided to make an educated guess himself.  Looking at a record’s source, I can’t help wondering if some of these dates might’ve gotten copied and reused (incorrectly) through time.

The archives also have tax assessment rolls on microfiche.  You can see how the value of a lot changes before and after the street gets paved, or how the land value varies depending whether or not you’re on a corner.  You can see who owns the land and is holding the mortgages or who outright owns the home.  You can see which homes appear to be under construction longer than the others.  The exact abbreviations used, or the order of the letters, changed from 1929 to 1930 to 1931.  All seem to have BH as Built Home, FG as Full Garage, DFG as Double Full Garage.  A ‘P’ might mean partial.  An ‘R’ for recently.  It all depends on the year.  You can look at what’s being taxed and see if your “building date” makes sense.

Salt Lake County Recorder’s Office (and Assessor’s website)
The Recorders Office is located at 2001 South State Street #N1600.  To dig through the records here, you first need to know the legal description of your lot.  You can look it up on the Assessor’s website:

On the website “submit” your address.  This should bring up your property.  Near the top, choose the tab labeled “Legal Desc.”  Make note of your lot number and subdivision name.  Or walk up to the desk and give them your address and they’ll be happy to look up the legal description for you.

Let the office worker know you’re researching your home and they’ll print out a list of the books and corresponding pages where information for your lot is recorded.  You might want to bring good reading glasses or a magnifying glass, along with a ruler or something you can use as a straight edge because the information (that is freely available to the public in the red abstract books) is hard to read.  The desk can help you get started in understanding and reading the info you’ll see in the books.  For example, under “Kind of Instrument” you’ll want to pay attention to lines marked with the initials W.D. since that represents a Warranty Deed.  The Grantors and Grantees will probably match the names you saw in your Polk directory research.  For a nominal fee the office can print you a copy of any records of interest if you give them the Entry Number associated with it.

Census records
Check out the federal census records that are digitized and available online.  By law, the government cannot release census records to the public until 72 years have passed from when the Census was taken.  The 1940 Census is the most recent census available, having been released in April 2012.  It can be accessed online for free at  You can get free access to census records from earlier years at

Census records show you the ages, occupations, number of kids living in your home when the census takers came around.  The 1930 census will tell you what state or what country both the residents and their parents were born in.  You can see how educated they were, if they were war veterans, how old they were when they first got married, and whether or not the home had a radio set.

Digital Newspapers
There are quite a few newspapers already digitized and more are coming online all the time.  Check out:

Use the search engine and search for articles of interest using your street name or the names of past residents.  Reading these old newspapers can be very entertaining.

The Internet
You may be able to find info already written on people that built your home or lived in it by surfing sources on the internet.  Check out the University of Utah’s Special Collections.  They have some interesting documents, old publications, transcribed oral histories, and Sanborn maps.  (The historic Sanborn maps can show you the evolution of a city, neighborhood, or specific building site.)  Investigate genealogy websites.  The internet is full of family blogs and articles around history.

Your Neighbors
Talk to them!  Particularly the old-timers and anyone whose family has lived in Yalecrest for generations.  There is a wealth of information all around us.

K.E.E.P. Yalecrest
We’ve been gathering so much information, but there isn’t enough time/people to write it all down.  Consider becoming a KEEPer and helping us uncover, organize and celebrate the history of our wonderful neighborhood.

Thanks for reading this far.  I hope you found this information helpful!

–Kelly Marinan

Revisiting Duffin’s Grocery Store

Built in 1925 with same set back as residential homes.

Built in 1925 with same set back as residential homes.

In June of 2013 we posted the pictures and a brief caption of 1604 E. Princeton Ave. Many have walked and driven by this house and wondered… Subsequently we received two comments, from brothers, about that property, originally known as Duffin’s Grocery Store. And serendipitously enough one of those brothers currently LIVES in the home! After contacting him and visiting several times and having K.E.E.P. Yalecrest’s historian research the property, it is our pleasure to share some more on this one of a kind gem that exists in our Yalecrest neighborhood. It has a rich and colorful history. We are so very fortunate to have Kara and David living in and being the caretakers of a significant piece of architectural and cultural history in our neighborhood. We owe them a debt of gratitude for ‘saving’ this structure. And that is why they are one of two recent recipients of the KEEP Yalecrest Excellence in Preservation Award.

As previously noted this was the original grocery store in Yalecrest.

Then in 1970 or 1971 was purchased by the infamous Kingston family and operated as Princeton Hair Fashions.

1604 Princeton Avenue, when it was a beauty salon.

It was purchased by its current residents in the 1990’s and transformed into a truly amazing living and working space. It was featured in the July/August 1999 Salt Lake Magazine.

It is a blend of original and modern living at its best. The pictures show the blasts from the past incorporated into the modern and functional living environment.

Included is the repurposing of the very thick wood original meat locker door that now leads to the pantry just off the kitchen. And contained within that pantry are storage baskets with the original signage that were actually used in the grocery store.

This door is about 6" thick!

This door is about 6″ thick!

What's the shelf life of this?

What’s the shelf life of this?

...still serving the same purpose today.

…still serving the same purpose today.

Pork Chops and .....

Pork Chops and …..

Across from the kitchen is an original Duffin’s cooler which is now backlit and provides glassed door storage.

Now used for display and storage in kitchen area.

Now used for display and storage in kitchen area.

And perhaps the most ‘treasured’ piece is the original safe! And it has never been opened; just imagine what could be in there (or not!).

Imagine what's inside...

Imagine what’s inside…

The original hard wood floors have been saved and patched with a unique and wonderful twist. There are thick square Plexiglas cutouts in the floor that are illuminated from the basement lights. During the day the house is brightly lit by the large skylights.

Several squares on main floor allow muted light up from the basement when lights are on.

Several squares on main floor allow muted light up from the basement when lights are on.


There is no wonder why this house was featured in Salt Lake Magazine and why K.E.E.P. Yalecrest wanted to recognize its owners, their vision and the dwelling itself for its historic place within the neighborhood.

—Jon Dewey

Coasting Lanes

boy riding sled

Fifteen coasting lanes were set aside Tuesday by Salt Lake City commissioners under an admonition to the motoring public that coasters have special rights.” 

So begins an article published Nov 18th, 1941 in the “Salt Lake Telegram.”  The City Recreation Department would post barriers at the top and bottom of each hill.  And every year the City’s children got their annual warning to coast only on designated lanes.

The increase in personal automobiles saw an increase in sledding accidents each winter.  The City had a goal:  No traffic accidents involving sleds.  So they designated coasting lanes and wrote regulations to go along with it.  It had to be a tough job for our police.  They didn’t always get full parental cooperation.  They were forced to play the bad guy and confiscate sleds being used outside the designated lanes.

The designated coasting lane within Yalecrest was the ravine running west from 15th East, just south of 9th South.  (Does anyone have pictures of “our kids” sledding here?)

In 1943 the City was still dealing with its designated coasting lanes.  The County, which used to designate county roads for sledding, had gotten out of that business years earlier citing the traffic hazards involved and the difficulty policing the areas.  Instead the Sheriff appealed to rural property owners to notify him if they had off-highway areas suitable for coasting lanes.  He said his office would endeavor to inform the children.

–Kelly Marinan

All photos used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.

snowball fight sledding dec

Batchelder Tile Fireplaces

Arts and Craft Fireplace

People remodel kitchens and bathrooms, sometimes removing all traces of the original elements, but fireplaces are almost always left original and I must admit – I am totally obsessed with original fireplaces in old homes. Each time I enter an old home I must sneak a peek at the fireplace to see the tile and marvel in its mesmerizing colors, beautiful glazes, some with decorative motifs, some more simple than others but each one unique.  In my obsession I have seen many beautiful original fireplaces in Yalecrest homes.  Have you ever wondered about your fireplace or the tile around your fireplace?  If your home was built during the Arts and Crafts Movement Era, roughly 1910 – 1930, there’s a good chance that the tile around your fireplace is Batchelder Tile.  That is the era that many of the homes in Yalecrest were built and many of the fireplaces feature Batchelder Tiles in the Arts and Crafts Style, done in soft earth tones with a matte glaze – a perfect example of the Arts and Craft Movement.

The tilemaker, Ernest A Batchelder came to Pasadena, California in the early 1900’s to teach at Throop Polytechnic Institute.  In 1909 he set up a kiln in a shed behind his home and with some of his art students he began making tile and soon became the leader in hand-crafted Arts and Craft tiles.  When demand for his tile went crazy he moved his operation to a larger facility to meet the demand and in 1920 moved to Los Angeles.  Soon his beautiful tile was gracing homes all across America.  Field tiles were done in soft earth tones, mostly browns and earthy greens with soft matte glazes.  Relief tiles, many done with inset colors featured some of Batchelder’s favorite figures and revolved around geometric design, birds, foliage, flowers, nature and Mayan motifs.  Tiles were made for many purposes such as fountains and pavements but the Batchelder name is primarily associated with fireplaces as these are the most beautiful and decorative tiles.  Like many businesses of the time, Batchelder’s operation fell victim to the depression and it closed in 1932 but as a testament to the beauty of the tile and superb craftsmanship many fine examples of this tile still adorn fireplaces today.

Some people in remodeling their homes and attempting to “Modernize” have painted their Batchelder Tiles or worse taken them out or covered them with marble or granite surrounds.  Many have done this not realizing that this tile should be coveted, is highly collectible and very much in demand by Arts and Crafts Era collectors as well as old house aficionados and  self-proclaimed tile nuts. Small decorative tiles measuring a mere 3” x 3” can sell upwards for $150 per tile depending on the design and motif. Full fireplace surrounds salvaged intact have sold for thousands of dollars.  If you have one of these fireplaces and are considering a remodel, don’t commit a serious tile crime by removing the tiles, painting them (YIKES) or covering them up—cherish them. The soft natural colors blend beautifully with modern décor and are easy to incorporate into many design styles. At the very most if you absolutely, simply cannot help yourself and must remove the tiles, let an architectural salvage company remove the tiles so that some lucky individual who truly appreciates the tile can repurpose or reuse it.

Shown are some of the beautiful Batchelder Tile Fireplaces in Yalecrest.  Do you have an unusual or beautiful fireplace that you would like to share?  We would love to see your pictures.  Please email them to  with a brief description.  We also have notecards with pictures of the tile above and picture collages in our store if you would like to purchase them

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- Kelly White

Presenting the Original Uinta(h) Elementary School Sign

Uinta (6)

The spelling of UINTA(H) — in the 1800s the H was sometimes used and sometimes left off. John Wesley Powell left it off when he spelled the word as part of his 1869 expedition, because he said it was unnecessary for pronunciation of the word.

The U.S. government standardized the spelling later in the 1800s by setting the rule that Uinta without the H would be used for natural features such as the Uinta Mountains or Uinta Basin, and Uintah with the H would be used for man-made entities such as Uintah School or Uintah County. So that is why the school name has the H in it.

So why was the sign above the main door of Uintah School misspelled by leaving off the H? I don’t think it’s known for sure, but it probably involves one of these reasons: (1) In 1915 when the school was built, the spelling guidelines from the government were still so recent that there may still have been some confusion on the issue; (2) The contractor who made the sign might have simply left off the H by mistake, or ran out of room on the cement slab by spacing the letters too far apart and having no room at the end for the H. It might just be that simple.

Thank you to Phillip Snow for his research on the spelling of Uinta(h). This gentleman was also the one who was able to save this piece of history!