Should your home be subsiding it is essentially sinking into the ground as a result of soil shrinkage. Properties which have been built on clay soil are especially vulnerable to subsidence due to the soil being more likely to shrink when dry. Hence, a long hot summer minus any rain is worrying for properties suffering from subsidence.
Moreover, trees and shrubs can suck moisture from the soil, particularly during long periods of dry weather. Leaking drains can also cause subsidence; should water escape from a damaged drain it can wash away the ground under a house’s foundations.
What Constitutes Signs of Subsidence?
Cracks in a property’s walls are the most evident signs of subsidence. However, there is not need to panic at the sight of a hairline crack. Should subsidence be the cause, the crack is going to be visible from inside and outside the house and it is also going to be tapered, that is, wider at one end than the other. The crack could also extend below the damp proof course.
Should you note that the doors and windows of your house are beginning to stick you ought to investigate further as this could be a result of movement in the building.
Wet weather can cause minor cracks of up to about 5mm wide to close up. However, should the cracks not close or they get wider than 5mm, you need to contact your insurance company. A specialist normally monitors the problem, often for up to 12 months. Underpinning may be necessary for the most serious cases.
Is there anything that I can do to Prevent Subsidence?
Usually where you find subsidence, you find a tree, often a sycamore, willow, oak, plane, ash or poplar. Hence, experts recommend you do not plant trees or sizeable shrubs near your house or other outbuildings. They also advise that it is best for you to remove any trees close to your property, unless they are older than your home. Should you pull up an old tree you can disturb the ground below.
How Can I tell it My Home is at risk of Subsidence?
The majority of properties in Southern England are built on shrinkable clay. Subsidence can impact properties elsewhere too. However, it is not as common. Should you be buying a property, your surveyor or conveyancer ought to be able to discover whether or not the property is at risk of subsidence. You can contact your insurer, as the majority of firms are able to access invaluable geological and claims data.
Can I Purchase Subsidence Insurance?
The majority of home insurance policies include subsidence cover. You may be able to agree a higher subsidence excess, usually £1,000. So if you have to make a claim for subsidence damage, you will need to pay the first £1,000.
Should you live in a property which is at high risk of subsidence, you will nearly always have to pay a higher premium for your insurance as claims can be expensive. Insurance companies paid out £175m in subsidence claims in 2009 alone.
Should you be considering purchasing a property with a history of subsidence, you may wish to check whether or not the present insurer is going to continue to cover the property. Specific specialist firms do offer subsidence insurance cover for especially vulnerable properties.