‘Subsidence’ is when a piece of land begins to sink. As you can probably imagine, this can present a very serious danger to any properties built on the land; try to imagine ground movement that causes parts of your property to pull away from each other and you will have a basic idea of the dangers involved.
When subsidence causes a major problem it can be hugely expensive to fix, to the extent that most home insurance policies cover subsidence as standard. It can also make or break a property sale, as a homebuyer must have been informed about any previous issues with subsidence when making an offer on a property.
In short, subsidence can be a huge problem for a property! It pays to keep a close eye out for signs of subsidence so that any issues can be identified and fixed before they become a disaster.
A ‘subsidence survey’ is a careful inspection of a property to see if it is suffering from subsidence and, if so, whether it will continue to make the building deteriorate. It will be handled by a qualified structural engineer, who will pinpoint any damage and inform you about any necessary corrective work.
At first, your engineer will perform a standard visual inspection, where they will look for signs in your walls, ceiling and flooring. They may also need to perform an ‘intrusive inspection’, where they will also examine hidden structural elements.
Depending on the extent and cause of your problem, other Pros may also need to be brought in for your inspection. For example, a tree surgeon could be called in to examine how plant life is impacting your property and whether it needs to be removed. Similarly, a drainage specialist could be asked to pinpoint drainage defects which are causing leaks and subsidence.
After the survey, your Pro may offer a quote for the corrective work outlined in their findings. You should not feel any pressure to accept the offer immediately, especially if the danger is still in an early stage, so try to take the time to collect more quotes if you can. Having said that, you should still make the repairs a priority. If the subsidence get worse, your issue will only become more expensive to repair.
Luckily, it can be fairly simple to identify signs of subsidence in a property:
Certain signs of subsidence can actually be caused by other issues. For example, your doors could be sticking because the lintels above them have worn down and need to be replaced, or cracks in your walls may have been caused by thermal movement instead of subsidence.
You may be at more or less of a risk from subsidence depending on the type and location of your property:
One of the first things to do if you believe that your property is showing signs of subsidence is to check to see if it is common in your area. Take photos of the signs that you notice and speak to a local structural engineer as soon as possible. You should also check your home insurance policy to see if you are covered against subsidence; if not, you could have a very expensive repair job on your hands!