Subsidence can be a concerning prospect for any homeowner. If you are worried that you have spotted signs of subsidence, then it’s important to have your home assessed by a professional as quickly as possible as it could save you a great deal of time and money.
There is, however, no need to panic because even in some of the worst cases, action can be taken to put a halt to or correct the issue. We’ve got some great information here for you that covers exactly what subsidence is, the signs that you could have subsidence at your property, how to prevent it, and also how to fix it.
What is Subsidence?
In basic terms, subsidence is the sinking or caving in of a piece of land. When subsidence occurs, the concern here is that the ground located beneath your home will sink lower or collapse, subsequently taking some of the building’s foundations with it. Without fully intact foundations, the structure of your house then becomes weakened, leaving it susceptible to strain, and as one part sinks, cracks emerge.
A number of factors can cause subsidence. If the ground the property is built on consists of a softer material, such as clay, it can shift and expand depending on moisture levels. As a result, there is a greater risk of the foundations sinking. Trees and large shrubbery planted too close to a property can drain too much moisture from the ground, if the soil dries out too much it can sink, and movement may occur.
Poor initial building work during the construction of the foundations can also result in subsidence.
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What Are the Signs of Subsidence?
Sometimes it is only natural to assume the worst if you spot a crack appearing in your home. The important thing is to not to jump to conclusions, and firstly, thoroughly inspect the area.
There are plenty of occasions when suspected subsidence is actually signs of natural swelling and shrinkage as a result of humidity and temperature fluctuations. If you’re residing in a new home, the plaster usually shows signs of some small cracks as it dries and the structure ‘beds in’.
To spot signs of subsidence, these are the biggest tell-tale points to keep an eye out for:
· Cracks situated near to windows and doors
· Cracks that are more than 3mm wide (thicker than a 10 pence piece)
· Diagonal cracks that are wider at the top than the bottom
· You can see the crack both inside and outside the property
How Can You Prevent Subsidence?
If you still think that your home is at risk of subsidence, the first thing to do is to minimise the risks as best you can. Some ways to do this are as follows:
· Keep all external pipes, guttering and plumbing well maintained to prevent leaks.
· Avoid planting trees/shrubs too close to your property.
· Don’t dig up any existing trees/shrubs, as this can cause instability or waterlogging. Instead, prune regularly and consult a tree surgeon for guidance.
How Can You Fix Subsidence?
If you think that your house may be subsiding, contact a structural engineer. Our Cornwall-based team are available to help throughout the Devon and Cornwall regions.
You should also get in touch with your insurer as they will be able to offer advice on what kind of steps they’d like you to take from their perspective. It is important to note that some insurers can charge a high excess for damage caused by subsidence, so be wary.
In many cases, subsidence is monitored. This necessitates that a hole beside your home is dug out to discover the root cause of the problem. It also allows the inspectors to track just how far the property is moving and at what rate.
The process typically takes around 12 months; most cases end with experts sourcing and removing the cause of the subsidence. For serious cases, your house could require structural support through underpinning while works to strengthen the foundations are conducted.