As part of the reconnaissance team of the Canadian Association for Earthquake Engineering (CAEE), the authors visited the epicentral region of the January 17, 1994, Northridge earthquake. This paper reviews the various potential weaknesses of some residential timber framed buildings. The damage observed during the Northridge earthquake as a result of these weaknesses is used to illustrate the need to introduce engineering concepts in the seismic design and retrofit of residential wood structures. Typical mitigation procedures to strengthen and increase the earthquake safety of wood buildings are discussed. Recognizing the close similarity between residential construction practice in Canada and the U.S., the information presented is topical for Canadian engineers, architects and owners. Key words: earthquake, seismic, timber, wood framed buildings.