Is Your Home Earthquake Proof?

In the wake of last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, prospective home buyers may be asking themselves what about a house makes it more able to weather a natural disaster.

There isn't a huge difference in the way residential homes are built in Japan compared to in the U.S., although the Japanese are more likely to invest in special earthquake engineering, particularly in commercial and higher-end residential buildings.

Home builders in both Japan and the U.S. use a lot of wood-frame construction, which is flexible and tends to ride out a quake fairly well, said Heidi Faison, outreach director at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Berkeley, Calif. But wood frame structures do have potential vulnerabilities in two key areas: the foundation and the wall that supports a crawl space, which is called a cripple wall.