Your home is often the most expensive asset that you own, so when something goes wrong it, it can be extremely devastating. On discovering a problem, your immediate thoughts will be: how much will it cost? Will my house fall down? How can I fix it? Unfortunately, too many people discover a problem after it is too late, but there are many ways you can spot the issue before it becomes worse.
Subsidence can be one of the most serious problems a property can face. This happens when the ground underneath a property moves or weakens, and takes some of the foundations with it. This then affects the whole structure of the property as it can cause one side of it to move down or sink. Unfortunately, this can then cause cracks to appear, as well as causing other structural damage. We have taken a look at some of the warning signs to look out for before things get too serious.
Causes of Subsidence
There are many reasons that cause subsidence to occur, and one of the most common is due to tree roots from willow, ash and oak trees. If a tree has grown too close to a property, it can absorb moisture and water from the soil beneath your home. This, in turn, dries out the soil and causes it to destabilise the ground.
Another cause of subsidence is due to the soil which the property was built on. Clay is a spongy type of soil which can shrink when dry and then pull away from the foundations, weakening the support. Additionally, soils which have a high gravel or sand content are vulnerable from being washed away if any water leaks underneath the property.
In the South West, there are still signs of mining from hundreds of years ago, so properties which have built above old mine shafts or near quarries can be susceptible to subsidence. When a property is built on top of an area which has previously been mined, it may be positioned on top of poorly made-up ground, which is weaker than virgin bedrock, or there may be voids present below.
Another problem which may not seem too severe at first is leaking water. Water which leaks into the soil and under your property from broken drainage can wash away the soil from below the foundations. This can also happen if there is any flooding near your home, which can cause the foundation to give way and subside.
Signs of Subsidence
As mentioned above, cracks are one of the most obvious warning signs of subsidence. Many of the cracks that appear in your home can be harmless and can often just be natural shrinkage caused by changing temperatures. However, cracks which have been caused by subsidence have distinct characteristics. For example, these types of cracks are often more than 3mm thick and are also usually wider at the top than the bottom.
Subsidence can also cause cracks to form in the weak spots in your home in places like around doors and windows. Additionally, if your doors and windows are beginning to stick, this can also be an indication of subsidence due to the property moving from its original foundations.
If you notice any signs which you believe is subsidence, you should seek professional help immediately, as the sooner this problem is identified and diagnosed the easier it is to fix it.
Treatment of Subsidence
The first step you should take when you discover the problem is to seek professional help. The best course of action will depend on the cause of the subsidence which a Structural Engineer will be able to determine. A Structural Engineer will also be able to tell you the best way to resolve the problem.
If the roots of a tree have caused subsidence, you may have to have it removed to prevent any further damage happening. In the worst cases of subsidence, unpinning the property may be the only solution. This will involve increasing the size of your foundations with concrete or piles. However, it is important to remember that the Structural Engineer will be able to advise you on the best way to strengthen the property and reduce any further impacts of subsidence.
When subsidence affects your home, it can be devastating, so that is why it is essential that you seek the help of a professional. Here at Martin Perry Associates, we can assist you if you are looking for a surveyor or structural engineer in Cornwall. We often work with the insurance companies and the general public to help diagnose problems as well as guiding you through any remedial works that may be required.
If you require any advice regarding a matter similar to this, then please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us on 01579 345 777.