What is subsidence?
Subsidence is the movement of a building’s foundations caused by the downward movement in the ground, usually after soil under the building dries and shrinks in hot weather, or when underground pipes leak and weaken the soil beneath the foundations. Damage often appears as cracks in the walls, ceilings and around windows or door frames.
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 are the signs of subsidence?
All buildings move and settle over the years, sometimes leaving hairline cracks, but these are rarely cause for concern and are only cosmetic. The difference with subsidence is that large cracks appear both inside and outside the property in a very short period of time.
Common symptoms of subsidence include:
- Doors and windows getting ‘stuck’ and becoming harder to open or close.
- Wallpaper buckling in the corners of rooms.
- Cracks appearing in plaster inside the house, often next to doors and windows.
- Cracks appearing in brickwork outside the house.
- Sudden cracks appearing after extremely dry weather.
- Diagonal cracks that are wider than 1mm and wider at the top than the bottom.
If you suspect that your property is showing signs of subsidence then you should refer to a builder or a professional surveyor for advice. If they confirm that your property is being affected by subsidence then the solution will often involve the removal of nearby trees (vegetation can draw moisture from underneath the building), relining leaking drains or strengthening its foundations.
I think I have subsidence. What should I do?
Contact your home buildings insurance provider who will guide you through the best course of action to take. Usually, a surveyor or engineer will be dispatched to make an assessment.
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.
How long will my subsidence claim take?
It’s impossible to give a definite timeframe as every claim is different and needs to be treated as such. Investigations need to be carried out to monitor the rate and patterns of structural movements, which could take as long as a year or more. Repairs will not be started until the building has settled.
Can I still sell my house after it has been affected by subsidence?
Assuming that subsidence damage has been properly repaired there shouldn’t be a significant impact on the value of your property, however, many buyers will perceive the risk of subsidence recurring as a deterrent. It can also be harder to insure a property with a history of subsidence, unless you use a specialist insurer.
What is subsidence damage?
Damage caused by subsidence will often present itself as growing cracks in the walls and ceilings of a home, particularly around the windows and doorways. It is caused by ground movements that impact the building’s foundations.
What subsidence 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. 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.
What is a subsidence claim?
Subsidence is caused by ground movements which impact the building foundations, often resulting in cracks in the walls and ceilings. A subsidence claim is when you have experienced this type of damage to your property and have made a claim through your insurance provider for repairs.