Dealing with Subsidence

As a homeowner, you’re probably all too well aware that things sometimes don’t go to plan. There’s a pretty high chance that your property has at some point needed a little work to rectify any damage, big or small, and get your home back in shape.

Quite often, there’s very little to do to restore the building and everything is as good as new in a very short period of time. Unfortunately though, there are also cases where restoration is a task only suited for professionals and the primary example of this is subsidence.

What is Subsidence?

Subsidence is the movement of soils and grounds on which your building and foundations are built. This is usually due to shrinking soil and causes foundations to move from their original positions and results in cracks appearing in the walls, both inside and out.

Of course not every crack is an indication of moving foundations. Most are harmless and occur naturally due to buildings shifting into their settlements or changing temperatures and conditions.

Subsidence cracks will be diagonal and a few millimetres thick at the top before tailing off. Doors and windows may not close properly and wallpaper may look bubbled or rippled as a result of the house moving from where it should be.

How to Deal with Subsidence

If you suspect subsidence is playing a part in your building’s ill fortune, call a structural engineer to assess the situation and confirm whether this is the case. Depending on how badly affected a building is, there are a few methods of getting the house back to how it should be.

  • Traditional Underpinning

The most common of these solutions is underpinning. It involves digging beneath foundations and filling the spaces with concrete preventing any chance of the building moving, sinking or caving in the future. It is a very useful technique of dealing with the problem but it is not without its drawbacks.

It is a very time consuming and fairly expensive solution. All areas to be excavated must be inspected by a structural specialist and that cost needs to be added on top of the approximately £500 per metre charge. It’s also highly likely that insurance premiums will rise as a result of underpinning, which is perhaps unfair as your building is probably going to be stronger than ever when work is completed. Nevertheless, many insurers won’t go anywhere near a treated home so you may be stuck with your current policy provider for a very long time.

  • Geopolymers

Perhaps the most impressive of underpinning alternatives is the use of geopolymer technologies for foundation remediation. It involves injecting a special resin directly into the soil. This resin sets and expands by itself making building integrity almost instantly return. What’s more, there’s no excavation needed and it comes at a cheaper rate than underpinning.

Geopolymer injections do not need to be declared on the property deeds either meaning that insurers and policy issuers have no grounds to increase premiums because of subsidence.

  • Plants

If you’ve gotten lucky, your home’s subsidence won’t require anything as dramatic as underpinning or geopolymers. Around 70% of subsidence cases are a direct result of plant roots sucking the moisture from the soil that your foundations rest on.

If you manage to catch this before any major damage is done, pruning, clipping or removing the plant in question may be enough to remedy the situation. Of course, it is essential that you get the proper advice from an expert in regards to what exactly to do with pesky plants.

  • Water Damage

Another contributor to subsidence is leaking water, either from drains or pipes that wash away the soil supporting building foundations.

Again, if you get to the cause early enough it may be a simple fix. Repairing or replacing these water carriers may be enough to save you from having to lay out a large chunk of money.

What Next?

Once you’ve got your foundation and subsidence issues under control, it should simply be a case of carrying on as normal. If you’ve had underpinning or geopolymer injection works carried out, you should be safe for many years, if not forever.

Regular maintenance of large trees and plants, as well as drains can help you avoid the nuisance of subsidence in the future and help your home be as structurally sound as possible.

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