The Effects of Subsidence and Submitting an Insurance Claim
Building structures actually often move naturally, but these movements are of such a small magnitude that they are not noticeable - however, movement can also be caused by defects within the foundation of the building, resulting in cracking of the building itself. The cracks can both be visually unattractive and worrying for the owners and occupants of the building. In addition, these are likely to worsen over time and if left untreated can compromise the integrity of the building’s structure.
The four main causes of subsidence are:
- The proximity of trees to the property
- The underlying ground
- The age of the property
- Poor workmanship within the property
Properties built prior to 1965 were usually built with shallow foundations, making it more vulnerable to subsidence.
Subsidence can become more noticeable during long, dry spells of weather due to the shrinkage of soil beneath the property.
Evidence of subsidence include:
- Sticking of doors and/or windows
- Rippling of wallpaper, especially in corners of rooms
- Cracks appearing after long, dry spells of weather
- Appearance of cracks in walls, ceilings and exterior brickwork
You may notice doors and/or windows sticking where they did not previously, which can indicate movement of the building. In extreme or advanced cases, windows may become cracked or broken.
Altered appearance of internal decoration can indicate movement of the building – wallpaper may ripple or plaster crack, particularly in the corners of rooms.
Long, hot, dry summers in particular can cause the ground to shrink as it dries out, thereby allowing movement of the sub structure, which can then transfer to the super structure: i.e. the building itself.
You may have noticed horizontal cracks in external brickwork that might also be visible inside the building – this is the most common indication of subsidence, although the appearance of vertical cracks should not be ignored - they too can indicate subsidence.
What Can Be Done?
Once the proximate cause is established, the most usual course of treatment is underpinning the foundations in order to add to the depth of the foundation; this procedure will increase the stability of the building, but this is a last resort and expensive to execute. It is also highly involved, can be disruptive to occupants and can only be carried out by specialists.
Unfortunately, insurers feel that nowadays their most cost-effective solution is to use a light mechanical repair of the cracks to try to prevent further damage and to address the decoration issues. This does not always solve the problem and in many cases, the damage reoccurs, resulting in the Policyholder having to endure further disruption and inconvenience whilst insurers plan their next proposal.
Property Defects' Role In The Claim Process
We identify the actual cause of movement of a building and take specialist advice from engineers as to the correct long-term solution for the problem. In representing the property owner we ensure that insurers fulfil their obligations under the terms of the policy/warranty and acquire an equitable solution to return the owner to a pre-loss position.