What is Subsidence?

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Subsidence is caused by soil shrinkage (clay), non cohesive soil (sand and gravel), peat, mining activities, filled in sites, vibrations and changes in the water table, trees, leaking drains and water mains, excavations around foundations and removal of support around the foundations.

If your property suffers movement, your property will suffer from subsidence.

As temperatures rise and fall throughout the year, the ground can dry out in areas where there is a high clay or peat content.

Early signs of subsidence could include:

  • Cracks appearing in walls and ceilings with various widths from the top and bottom of each crack.
  • Windows and doors may stick when opening and closing.
  • Cracks may appear through a damp proof course to the foundations.
  • After a long period of dry weather, you may start to see cracks appearing.

The worst case scenario is that your property may need to be underpinned or rebuilt but there are other methods of dealing with the issue.

If you see newly formed cracks, follow these steps:

  1. Contact your buildings insurance provider.  Your insurer will send a representative to your property to assess the damage.  You will have to pay the first part of any claim (usually £1,000).
  2. If subsidence is suspected, the cracks may need to be monitored over a period of time by a qualified structural engineer.
  3. Once any works have been decided by the structural engineer you will need to find a contractor to carry out remedial works.

If your property or the area in which you live has a history of subsidence problems, your excess may be more. Your existing insurer will normally continue to cover you on renewal but they do not have to.  If you do struggle to find insurance following a subsidence claim click here.

If you believe the subsidence is caused by a tree planted too closely to your property, speak with your structural engineer.  If your tree is planted in your own garden, keep it trimmed or remove it under guidance from your structural engineer and local council (if the tree is protected).  If the tree is planted on a public footway, you can contact your local council direct. Check with your neighbours if they have suffered the same.  If the council are aware of the offending tree, they are responsible for removing it.

When the subsidence issue has been resolved and your property has been repaired, there should be no risk of subsidence happening again.

If your property has been underpinned, you may expect to pay a higher amount for your buildings insurance.

Before you purchase a property, check whether subsidence is a common problem in the area.  What soil is your property built on?

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