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The SkinnyBrace by Quake Bracing

Updated: Aug 25, 2020

Earthquake Braces Invented to Protect Your “Soft Story” Building

If your soft-story building has a garage door, or gas or electric service, or lower-level parking, chances are you do not have a whole lot of room to install a steel "moment-frame" that may be needed to brace the building to resist earthquakes. Now there is an alternative:


SkinnyBraces were invented by a California structural engineer for just such buildings. Says owner Thor Matteson, "We saw how much money building owners wasted on moving an electrical panel (or gas meter, sewer line, garage door opener, etc.) before they could even start installing the steel frame around their garage door opening to brace a soft story condition."

SkinnyBraces install faster than welded steel frames. In one configuration it took less than eight minutes to raise the SkinnyBrace off the floor and secure it in place to the structural framing above the garage. All the components bolt together or fasten to wood framing with self-drilling structural screws--no need for on-site welding (or the fire hazard and special inspection costs associated with welding). Our special connection brackets adjust to fit between existing wood framing members typically found in older buildings. In addition, built-in connection points allow you to attach a hoist for positioning the SkinnyBrace assembly.

Benefits of SkinnyBraces  SkinnyBraces fill a need that their inventor, structural engineer Thor Matteson, saw for years: an efficient bracing method for vulnerable soft-story buildings that could fit into congested garages. Benefits include the following:

  • Compact: An 8-inch wide (or should we say 8-inch skinny?) SkinnyBrace can resist 2,400 pounds of earthquake force—a good size for bracing a house over a garage. Our largest SkinnyBrace is rated for 11,875 pounds, and is only 13 inches wide. No other commercially available system can provide this capacity in such a narrow space. A plywood shear wall would need to be at least 13 feet wide to provide this strength.

  • Easy to install: Our engineered steel brackets adjust to fit between the wood framing members found in most existing buildings, and can be installed using tools that most contractors already have.

  • Easy to inspect: SkinnyBraces come preassembled, and the unit connects to the steel connection brackets with four bolts. All connections are visible and easy to access. We even provide feeler-gauges used to confirm that the bolts are tightened properly!

  • No welding: Custom steel frames almost always require onsite welding. This requires an additional specialty contractor, a third-party Special Inspector (who will typically charge $500 per site visit in the SF Bay Area), and every once in a while will set your project on fire.

  • Replaceable parts: The Structural Fuses can be replaced after an earthquake by removing just three bolts and reinstalling them after placing new Structural Fuses. Competitors’ products are either not replaceable at all, or require removal and reinstallation of 40 to 48 bolts.

  • Efficient: The Structural Fuses are engineered and precision manufactured to maximize earthquake energy dissipation; this means your engineer can design the entire earthquake force resisting system in your building based on reduced earthquake forces (Engineers refer to the “R factor”, where higher is better; SkinnyBraces have an R of 6-1/2; custom steel columns use an R of 2-1/2. This means an earthquake retrofit system that uses a custom steel column must be designed to resist over twice as much earthquake force as a the same system using a SkinnyBrace).

  • Ductile: The Structural Fuses in SkinnyBraces are precision cut from very ductile “high-strength, low alloy” steel plate that can deform repeatedly under high seismic loads. This means that the Structural Fuses absorb the earthquake energy instead of transferring it into your building, thus reducing earthquake damage.

For more information visit, or watch this more detailed video.


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