Damage bills roll in

ALMOST a month after Latrobe Valley homes were shaken to their foundations in the 19 June earthquake, building inspectors phones are still ringing.

The building inspection business has boomed because of initial callouts from authorities for homeowners to inspect properties for structural damage.

Churchill building surveyor Rhys Hardy, of Mulgrave-based building contractor 4 Dimensions, said after weeks of surveying damage, the local cases have ranged from “a few cracks” to entire house and garage-length splits in masonry and brickwork.

Mr Hardy said after talking to a number of qualified inspectors working in the region, there were anecdotal tallies “upward of 450 properties” having sustained damage, with reports one Morwell home being written-off after its stumps twisted in the ground.

“While there’s been some large properties with quite expensive claims, there’s been nothing too surprising at this stage; as people are talking to each other and realising they are actually able to get some damage covered under insurance, we are getting more calls,” Mr Hardy said.

“We would’ve responded to about two dozen calls, but a lot of assessors and structural engineers working for us are going through the process of doing a lot more reports; there’s going to be a lot more trickling through.”

Working on behalf of an insurance company, Mr Hardy said his main role was to determine whether cosmetic and structural damage was pre-existing or had occurred as a result of the earthquake, adding most callouts regarded genuine earthquake damage.

“While many of these visits will result in re-plaster and patch up jobs, some people will actually have to pull down their brick work and start again as a result of some of those major cracks.”

Mr Hardy said 95 per cent of damage had occurred in significantly older buildings, with a couple of instances caused as a result of “poor build quality”, while the Moe and Newborough area, 10 kilometres from the earthquake epicentre, had the most households affected.

“We had to have a look at one as far away as Bairnsdale, but I don’t think that one will be covered (by insurance); that issue will come back to a poor quality build.”

Environmental Systems and Services head of seismology Adam Pascale said while warnings for landholders to check the structural integrity of dams after the earthquake were prudent, concern was only warranted in poorly designed physical structures.

“The more rigid the building, the more likely it is to break; wooden houses have more give in their frames than reinforced masonry, which was more common 50 years ago and tends to get damaged in these larger events,” Mr Hardy said.

After being involved in inspections and repairs after the 2011 Korumburra earthquake, having completed a Jeeralang structural repair recently, Mr Hardy said the damage in the Valley was more extensive.