Top five subsidence FAQs

What is subsidence?

Subsidence describes the downward movement of the ground beneath a property's foundations. This can cause damage to the property when it occurs beyond the initial “settling”, which should be accounted for in the construction and will take place in the first few years after completion.

Damage caused by subsidence can be recognised by characteristic tapering cracks that spread diagonally across walls and ceilings. These cracks often spread from doorways or window frames, becoming wider at the top than at the bottom and do not close up on their own over time. Doors and window "sticking" may also be an indicator of a subsidence issue.

What causes subsidence?

The most common cause of subsidence is the shrinkage of soils, particularly clay types, as moisture is extracted from them. Often this might occur as a result of tree roots growing under the property, which becomes more likely in extended periods of hot and dry weather conditions.

Another common cause is drain leakage, where water escapes from underground pipes and washes away (or softens) soils so that they are no longer able to support the weight of the foundations. It can also occur as a result of a history of mining excavations beneath or around your home, so it is always worth checking for these before making a purchase.

What can be done?

Often cases of subsidence can be handled quickly and effectively without requiring foundation repairs, but where foundation work does become necessary it can be costly and disruptive.

To give yourself the best possible chance of avoiding underpinning (or similar repairs) then it is in your interest to contact your insurer as soon as you notice a potential problem. Tree control measures might be taken, or leaky pipes surveyed and repaired, and in some cases little more will need to be done than some cosmetic repair/redecoration.

Call your home insurance provider immediately if you spot any of the symptoms of subsidence. They will be able to help you identify the cause of any damage, confirming whether or not it is genuinely a subsidence issue, and advise how you should proceed.

What damage will my insurance cover?

Most home insurance policies will include subsidence cover as standard (unless stated otherwise which may be an issue with many insurers if you have had subsidence issues in the past).

Typical practice will involve despatching a qualified professional to inspect damage, which you will probably not have to pay for if arranged by your insurer, and the expert will be able to establish whether or not the damage undergone is covered by your policy.

An excess for subsidence claims is usually applicable, generally starting at around £1000 but dependant on what you agreed to when you took out the policy. This excess will usually be chargeable to you if and when repairs are undertaken.

What if my home has had subsidence in the past, but has since been fixed?

If your property has had problems with subsidence in the past, you are likely to have trouble getting the cover you need when you look to purchase home insurance, even if the problem has already been fixed for some time.

With HomeProtect, this is not the case. We aim to deliver a competitive online quote for subsidence insurance, based on the risk your property represents now, not on the risk it represented whilst being repaired.

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