What is Subsidence?

Posted on by Anthony Wakefield

Mullins House Jan 2014 022

With all of the wet winters we have experienced recently Subsidence problems to houses and buildings have not arisen too much of late.

However we are already seeing lower rainfall in the South of England this year and the prospect is for a glorious summer, if we are lucky!

When the ground starts to dry out it will start to put stresses on homes that can cause the brickwork to crack. This can be aggravated if there is an outside influence, such as a nearby tree, that dries out one area of the sub soil faster than in other areas. The building will shift downwards, or subside, and can become unstable.

Homes that are built on clay soils are more prone to Subsidence than those, say, on sand.

Once the cracks appear an insurer will probably first monitor to see whether the movement is permanent. Buildings are just as likely to heave upwards when there are periods of wet weather as they are to subside in droughts and the cracks to close up again. We had one client who knew when the house was moving whenever his long case clock ceased to work!

In the worst cases, part or all of the home will need to be underpinned or the structure floated on a concrete raft.

You can take action to reduce the chance of suffering Subsidence to your home by employing a tree surgeon to reduce the crown on any mature tree that is within 7 metres of the property. Removing a tree can actually aggravate an existing problem, rather than solve it.

When buying a property, ensure that you first have a chartered surveyor prepare a full structural survey report, which will cover all aspects of the construction and condition of the building and outbuildings. If the survey report highlights signs of historic Subsidence, Landslip or Heave losses and you still decide to buy the house you should ensure that the household insurance cover in force on the property can be transferred to you. Very few household insurers will provide fresh Subsidence cover for a home that has already shown signs of movement, but  most existing insurers will normally transfer cover to a purchaser.

For more information, contact Anthony Wakefield at 01306 734105 or by email at aw@anthonywakefield.com