Dealing With Subsidence

Subsidence is a problem that affects various people around the UK, we talk with Uretek about the their recommended methods of dealing with subsidence and the effect it can have on the value of your home.

What is subsidence damage?

Subsidence damage is the result of ground movement surrounding building foundations. There are several ways in which damage can occur and they are mostly a result of moisture being taken from soil or shifts in soils, affecting the ground’s ability to effectively support foundations.

What are the common causes of subsidence?

A number of factors can contribute to subsidence. Trees, shrubs and plants taking moisture from foundation soils, leaking drains and pipes that wash soils away, poor construction work and materials and environmental changes to the ground beneath the building can have a huge impact. As soils shrink, their capacity to support structural integrity is impaired and buildings can begin to sink.

How can I tell if I need to treat my home for subsidence?

The major giveaway is cracks appearing in walls. Subsidence cracks tend to be diagonal, thicker than average hairline cracks and appear both inside and outside. Windows and doors may show signs of sticking or not opening and closing as they should. You may notice other signs such as uneven floors, water damage, water running in the opposite direction in the sink and visible symptoms including a leaning building, chimney breast or stack or gaps between main property and extensions.

What are the steps I need to take if I think there is subsidence damage in my home?

The obvious place to start is by confirming the presence of subsidence. A ground or structural professional should assess the property to determine if this is the case. They will provide the relevant points for a repair company to take into account. There are two major options with subsidence repair; traditional underpinning and resin injections. They both aim to improve the ground and ensure that foundations are effectively supported.

See also: Choosing the Right Builder

How long is the process of dealing with subsidence damage?

The time frame of dealing with subsidence damage all depends on the size of the task and the methods involved. The initial assessment can end up spanning twelve to eighteen months as monitoring is not a quick process.

Underpinning involves excavation of surrounding areas and filling grounds again once complete so can take a while from start to finish. This can be anything from a couple of weeks to a month or two depending on the size and complexity of the job. Resin injections work by pumping a geopolymer resin directly to the source of subsidence. As a result, there is no time needed to account for excavation. Injections are self-expanding and can be carried out in as little as one day in some cases, although a week or two is usual. In some lucky cases, simply removing thirsty plants or repairing broken drains may be all that is required for dealing with subsidence.

How much does resolving the damage usually cost, will damage to my house affect my insurance and can they cover it?

Costs can vary wildly depending on the extent of damage, what needs doing and repair methods. Most home insurance policies should include a policy cost and excess of around £1000 that would have to come out of your own pocket. Of course, every policy is different so it’s highly advisable to check yours specifically. Underpinning is usually time and labour heavy and can run into the tens and thousands of pounds. You’d be required to pay the excess at minimum. Even if you were to cover the entire cost yourself, you’d still have an obligation to inform the relevant people, including the policy provider. Premiums are likely to rise and some companies, other than specialist ones, may be hesitant to cover you if you wanted to switch, meaning you could be stuck with a large sum. Of course, you won’t have had to pay a substantial amount for repair works.

Injections usually have no impact on insurance and carry no obligation to be stated on deeds. You’d have to front more than the £1000 excess and go it alone in most cases. It may not be a cheap process but could save you a significant amount in the future.

How will the fact that I have had subsidence in my home affect the value of my home and saleability?

Value and saleability might totally depend on who is valuing the property. Whilst some will be discouraged by a home previously affected by subsidence, others will take repair works as a good sign and be convinced that foundations are almost like new. Unfortunately, most estate agents and insurers tend to fall into the former bracket and see subsidence affected homes as risky investments, decreasing the property’s value. This is particularly true where the type of soil has played a role.

If the right buyers are involved, saleability may not be impacted as much. Depending on the viewpoints of the interested party and the probable decrease in value, a sale may not be too difficult to negotiate. It’s worth noting that dealing with subsidence through resin injections won’t have to be declared on property deeds and can effectively secure value and saleability.

See also: Raising the Roof 

What is the Party Wall Act?

The Party Wall Act of 1996 governs the need to inform neighbours of any works to be carried out that may have an impact on their property. It is in place to protect neighbouring buildings and disputes. In most subsidence cases, a designated surveyor is assigned and the correct procedures followed with minimal fuss.

If there is subsidence damage in my basement flat, would I still have to let my neighbours know as part of the Party Wall Act?

Part of the Act covers special foundations. This is essentially for foundations that are to be reinforced via underpinning. The Act states that expressed consent needs to be obtained before any works can begin to start dealing with subsidence in a shared property. As such, seeking this consent is vital from the offset. Refusal requires reasoning from the declining party so it’s in the best interest of everyone involved to get it sorted early on.

Uretek is a global group of contractors specialised in geopolymer technology for ground engineering. URETEK has pioneered in offering the most advanced and accurate systems for concrete slab lifting and stabilisation and a non-disruptive alternative to conventional underpinning to solve foundation subsidence problems. To find out more about their products and services visit their website: uretek.co.uk/

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