Subsidence or settlement? Learn the difference

Settlement often appears in new buildings as the ground adjusts to support the weight of a new house
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Settlement often appears in new buildings and is a common sight as the ground adjusts to support the weight of a new house. Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground beneath a house, where the supporting soil moves away from the building and makes it unstable. Subsidence cracks that appear because of structural movements are far more serious than cosmetic settlement cracks.

Cracks due to subsidence

Hairline cracks tend to appear in newer properties but are also common in most homes, appearing as the seasons change. Temperature and moisture changes in the air often result in fluctuations in a building’s construction materials and are not structurally significant. This is why it’s not uncommon for builders to come back to a new property, to repair any settlement cracks that have appeared in the few months since the build’s completion.

Cracking in walls does not necessarily mean that there is a serious issue like subsidence. However, cracks that grow in width over a long period of time, reaching 20mm or more, are believed to be severe and will require professional help to treat not only the visible damage to the walls but also the root of the problem.

Subsidence insurance claims

If you suspect that subsidence is the cause, then you should get a Chartered Structural Engineer's Report to confirm it. Your home insurance provider can help you too.

Once subsidence is confirmed your insurer will arrange for a Loss Adjuster to visit your home and assess the damage alongside the Engineer’s report. They can then process your insurance claim for subsidence with your provider and repairs can get underway.

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