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Home inspectors: Generally not much to worry about concerning Wichita earthquakes

Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 11:07 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - A magnitude-3.9 earthquake registered in east Wichita early Wednesday morning generated enough force to wake people up across town. The U.S. Geological Survey, which varied slightly from the Kansas Geological Survey in recording the earthquake with a magnitude of 3.8, has a map showing that people as far away as Oklahoma City and Omaha reported feeling the Wichita earthquake.

“It’s not Henny Penny, the sky is falling right now, but yeah, it does get your attention,” said Fred Minte, who lives near the epicenter.

The Kansas Geological Survey said Wednesday morning’s excitement marked the 20th earthquake in Wichita since Thanksgiving.

“All of the sudden, there was a bang, and it didn’t last very long. A couple of seconds be we were aware things were falling the shelf over the bed landing around our head,” said Minte. “So that got us up. Then we started finding things lying around our pillows. Picture frames, decorator plates, little figurines. One of them had legs broken off by that time.”

The latest quake also had some viewers reaching out to ask what it means for their homes. Eyewitness News took the question to two home inspectors. Generally, both say there is nothing much to worry about for most homeowners when it comes to the recent local earthquakes.

“Not with the magnitude that they are right now. You’d typically see higher-magnitude earthquakes cause damage than what we have here,” said Brad Hoffman, a home inspector with Hoffman Home Inspections.

“More earthquakes we continue to have, of course, that can cause issues. The frequency of earthquakes, especially if they start to get larger,” said Kansas Real Estate Inspections Owner/Certified Master Inspector Larry Cox.

Where the relatively small earthquakes could lead to a problem is by worsening an existing issue.

“Typically, a lot of times where we see structural with basements in this area, it revolves around water damage. All that external pressure caused by water settling along the foundation can cause cracking, and anything that causes the foundation to move or shift can definitely exacerbate those existing problems,” said Hoffman.

The inspectors said there are some places in your home worth checking after an earthquake.

“One of them are utilities and appliances. You’re going to want to look around your furnace, water heater, gas fireplaces, check for any gas smell that may be coming from loss connections,” Cox said.

It’s also worth checking your home’s plumbing.

A big one is the house’s foundation.

Cox said, “Look for any new cracks that are forming in the foundation walls. It’s common for older homes to have typical cracks that occur. So anything that’s a hairline crack or about a 1/8th inch in width or smaller isn’t typically a concern. If you’re seeing something 1/2 inch or wider that’s definitely going to tell you, you need to get someone to come in.”

Cox said it’s also worth looking in crawl spaces and along the foundation to see if there’s any shifting.

Other areas to watch are the roofline for dips and chimney.

“If you have a fireplace, you really want to go outside and make sure that the chimney is not pulled loose from the house,” said Cox. “Look at the brick of the fireplace and make sure there’s nothing loose or cracking there. You could open up the damper from the inside and see if you’ve got anything that falls through.”

Inside, around doors and windows are also important.

“They have what’s called corner cracking, and those are cracks that kind of just shoot off from the corners or above and around windows. Those are typically the places that you’re going to see those cracks more often,” Hoffman said.

“A sign you might have some framing damage, you want to look around the windows and doors and see if there’s any cracks that are at the corners of those.” Cox said, “Make sure your doors and windows all open smoothly and operate properly for you.”

However, inspectors said it is important to document any damage you see

Cox said, “If you do notice some significant damages, you do want to document that, take some photos and look at getting those repaired. So that could be a structural engineer or just a general contractor. May also be something you want to contact your home insurance company about.”

If you are concerned about anything regarding your home and possible damage, you should have an inspection done to determine the next steps.

“Find anything new that’s opened up or anything structurally that may be concerning, in crawl spaces or basements, foundation walls,” said Hoffman. “We always recommend that any repairs that are done are done by a foundation repair company. That’s always the best way to go about doing repairs, but we can definitely come out and take a look at and see if that’s a necessary thing.”

Hoffman Home Inspections is currently offering earthquake damage inspections for $75.

Most in Wichita, the earthquakes don’t leave behind much more than a desire for them to end.

Minte said, “This year has been kind of crazy. I’m hoping they stop at the end of 2020.”

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