What is Subsidence and how to deal with it
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:
- Contact your buildings insurance provider straight away. Your insurer will send a representative (usually a loss adjuster) to your property to assess the damage. You will have to pay the first part of any claim (usually £1,000).
- If subsidence is suspected, the cracks will need to be monitored over a period of time by a qualified structural engineer before they can be repaired.
- You have the option of finding one yourself or your insurance company can recommend one to you.
- Once any works have been decided by the structural engineer you will need to find a contractor to carry out remedial works or you can use your insurers contractors.
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 close to your property, click here for guidance on how to deal with it. If the tree is planted in your own garden, keep it trimmed or remove it under guidance from a structural engineer and your local council (if the tree is protected). If the tree is planted on a public footway, you can contact your local council direct and ask them to deal with the issue. Again, for tree subsidence guidance click here. Check with your neighbours if they have suffered the same issue. 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.
If you are buying a property for the first time or buying and selling a property at the same time, check whether subsidence is a common problem in the area or if a property is in a former coal mining area. What soil is your property built on?
We hope you found our what is subsidence and how to deal with it guide useful.
Insurance claim guidance:
If you need to deal with an insurance claim click here.