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Understanding and Preventing Subsidence: A Guide for Property Owners

Subsidence, a problem that can significantly affect properties, often leaves homeowners in the UK grappling with its challenges. Understanding the early signs of subsidence and knowing how to prevent it are crucial steps in safeguarding your home.

What Are the First Signs of Subsidence?

Understanding and Preventing Subsidence: A Guide for Property Owners

Subsidence manifests in various ways, with the earliest signs including new or widening cracks in walls, especially around doors and windows. Unlike seasonal cracks, these are often wider than 3mm and diagonal, and they don’t close up.

What Happens When a House Has Subsidence?

When subsidence occurs, the property's foundation moves due to unstable ground, leading to structural damage. This can result in decreased property value and potentially unsafe living conditions.

Best Ways to Avoid Subsidence

Preventing subsidence involves several proactive measures:

Understanding and Preventing Subsidence: A Guide for Property Owners
  1. Maintain Trees and Shrubs: Regular pruning, advised by a tree surgeon, can control root growth. Trees and shrubs near the house can absorb moisture from the soil, leading to subsidence, particularly in clay soil areas.
  2. Proper Drainage: Ensure good drainage around your property. Waterlogged soil can swell and then shrink during drier periods, causing movement.
  3. Mindful Planting: When planting trees, consider their mature size and distance from the house to reduce the risk of subsidence.

Can Subsidence Be Stopped?

While not always entirely preventable, understanding the factors contributing to subsidence, such as the type of soil and presence of vegetation, can help in taking appropriate measures to reduce its likelihood.

Stopping House Subsidence

To stop your house from subsiding, consider these tips:

  • Monitor any cracks and seek professional advice if they worsen.
  • Ensure gutters and downpipes are free of blockages to prevent water saturation around foundations.
  • Regularly inspect and repair any plumbing leaks to avoid soil softening.

Insurance and Subsidence

Subsidence can be a complex issue when it comes to insurance.

  • Home Insurance and Subsidence: Buildings insurance policies will often cover damage caused by subsidence. However, the specific terms can vary, and premiums may be higher if your property is in a high-risk area.
  • Making a Subsidence Claim: If you're suffering from subsidence, contact your buildings insurer promptly. They’ll typically send a surveyor to assess the damage and determine if it’s related to subsidence.
  • Underpinning and Insurance: Underpinning, a method used to stabilize foundations, can be expensive. Some home insurance policies may cover the costs, but it's essential to check with your insurance broker.
  • Disclosure: Always inform your insurance company about any subsidence issues. Non-disclosure can lead to a void policy.

British Insurers and Subsidence

British insurers have a wealth of experience dealing with subsidence claims. They can offer advice and guide you through the process of repairing the damage and preventing future occurrences.

Guarantee on Subsidence Work

The guarantee on subsidence repair work, such as underpinning, can vary. Typically, it ranges from several years to a decade, depending on the nature of the work and the contractor.

Conclusion

Subsidence is a concern for many property owners, but with proper knowledge and preventive measures, its impact can be mitigated. Regular maintenance, mindful planting, and understanding your insurance cover are key. If you suspect your property is at risk, seek professional advice promptly to protect your home and investment.

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