Wednesday, 24 September 2014
Planning permission and underpinning
As a general rule, you should not require planning permission to complete any maintenance on your foundations.
One notable exception to this rule arises if your property is listed or situated in a "designated area" (such as a conservation area, national park or area of outstanding natural beauty), whereby you should check with your local planning authority before any works are undertaken.
Underpinning is increasingly becoming recognised as a last resort by industries concerned with subsidence management, so you should always check with your underpinned house insurance provider before agreeing to any work.
Building regulations apply if your house requires underpinning, as the activities are specifically defined within the regulations as "building work". The regulations associated with underpinning are there to help ensure that the appropriate steps are taken to stabilise any adverse building movement. This means that all nearby installations, such as sewers and drains, will need to be paid particular attention. When underpinning is not carried out correctly, the risk posed to both property and your personal safety is extremely pronounced.
A construction method
Underpinning is a construction method that involves increasing the depth that your building's foundations extend to. This means that the soil underneath the existing foundations has to be excavated and replaced with concrete. This is not something that can be carried out quickly, and must be implemented in phases to make sure that the property is not damaged further. If close attention is not paid to design, methodology and safety procedures during underpinning, then the consequences can be catastrophic.
Main reasons why underpinning may need to be carried out
There are two primary reasons why underpinning may need to be carried out. The first is if the ground beneath the property has moved as a result of changes to the soil conditions, or existing poor soil, and subsidence is occurring. The second is if another storey is being added to the building, either above or below ground, and the existing foundations are no longer adequate to support the modified building or its load. The underpinning process can be lengthy, expensive and extremely disruptive, especially in cases of subsidence where the work is unlikely to be expected.
If your home has encountered subsidence issues in the past and you were forced to resort to underpinning to put the problem right, you are likely to know that there is another less obvious expense associated with the process. Obtaining underpinned insurance can be problematic to say the least, as many mainstream insurers will refuse to offer you cover. Those insurers that are able to cover you will probably charge you a much higher premium, even if the subsidence problem has long-since been repaired. This is because the study of subsidence issues is still a fairly recent science, and data about reoccurrence is still quite limited. But not all underpinned insurance providers are the same.
With HomeProtect you can obtain a competitive quote for underpinned house insurance, as we assess your cover based on the risk you are at today and not while your house was still subsiding.