Subsidence is a concerning prospect for any homeowner, but it’s not necessarily cause for panic. If caught early on, subsidence can be solved rather quickly; even in worst-case scenarios, some actions can be taken to halt and sometimes resolve the issue.
If you’re concerned about subsidence in your home, contact us and speak with one of our chartered surveyors in Cornwall today.
What is Subsidence?
To put it simply, subsidence is the sinking or caving in of a piece of land. Of course, if this occurs on the land where your home is built, then there’s the chance that 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 will become weakened, leaving it susceptible to strain; as one part sinks, cracks emerge.
While this may seem like a terrifying prospect, it does tend to be the worst-case scenario. Just because you see a crack in your home doesn’t mean your home is subsiding.
There are plenty of times when suspected subsidence is actually just a sign of natural swelling and shrinkage due to 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’.
Before you jump to any conclusions, thoroughly inspect the area for signs of subsidence. Some of the tell-tale signs to look out for include:
- 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.
If you notice any of these signs, make sure you contact a chartered surveyor or structural engineer.
What Causes Subsidence?
Several factors can contribute to 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 also drain too much moisture from the ground, and if the soil dries out too much, it can sink.
Another key cause of subsidence to be aware of is poor initial building work. If the construction of the building’s foundations wasn’t done properly, then this can also lead to subsidence.
How to Fix Subsidence
As with most things, the best way to ‘fix’ subsidence is to prevent it entirely. There are several ways you can do this, such as:
- Keep all external pipes, guttering and plumbing well maintained to prevent leaks.
- Avoid planting trees and shrubs too close to your property.
- Don’t dig up any existing trees or shrubs, as this can cause instability or waterlog. Instead, prune regularly and consult a tree surgeon for guidance.
If the problem is past this point, it’s time for you to get in touch with a professional. You should also contact your insurer and see what advice they can offer on what steps they’d like you to take.
Typically, a professional will need to find the root cause of the subsidence, which in turn will allow them to track just how far the property is moving and at what rate.
This process typically takes around 12 months, with most cases ending with experts sourcing and removing the cause of the subsidence. In serious cases, your house could require structural support through underpinning while works to strengthen the foundations are conducted.
Here are Martin Perry Associates, not only can we aid in the initial diagnosis of subsidence in your home, but we’re also able to restore your property to its former glory. You can view the wide range of services we offer below.