Subsidence: How to Spot it, What to Do

Large Cracks In A Brick Wall Due To Subsidence

If you own your home, there is little more disconcerting than the appearance of a large crack in one of your walls. Some cracks are purely cosmetic and have no cause for concern, but others could be an early indication of subsidence.

The question is: what can you do if you spot the signs of subsidence or believe your home may be at risk?

How can I spot the warning signs of subsidence?

Local mining activity and issues with soil are the two main causes of subsidence. One of the earliest and most common indications of subsidence is the appearance of diagonal cracks in walls, which are wider at the top than at the bottom.

Windows and doors that start sticking for no apparent reason can be indicative of subsidence, as can wallpaper that begins tearing with no obvious cause. In all instances, a survey should be conducted at an early stage by a qualified professional.

Precautionary steps can and should be taken by homeowners to reduce subsidence risk. Examples of this include periodically checking guttering and water pipes for leaks, pruning trees and shrubs to prevent the soil from drying out, and laying porous materials (like grass or gravel) around the property.

However, subsidence caused by local mining activity or major soil issues cannot usually be prevented with these basic precautionary measures. Homeowners in areas where subsidence risk is elevated must therefore check their buildings’ insurance in order to ensure they have the appropriate level of coverage.

If you believe you have spotted an early indicator of subsidence, call your insurer immediately. They will tell you what to do next, which will usually include hiring a contractor to examine your property and determine the cause of the issue.

Most issues with subsidence are fairly minor in nature, resulting in equally rudimentary damage that can be repaired right away. But there is also the possibility that the subsidence detected could be ongoing, which will call for a more comprehensive long-term solution. The foundations of the property, for example, may need to be repaired and strengthened to prevent any further damage.

Does home insurance cover subsidence?

Whether you are covered against subsidence will be determined by your policy’s terms, inclusions, and exclusions. A good home insurance policy will cover most types of structural damage caused by subsidence.

Cover may also be provided for temporary accommodation costs if it becomes necessary to leave your home temporarily during the repairs.

Ensuring you are covered against subsidence is advisable, given the potentially high costs of funding the repairs out of your own pocket. A typical subsidence repair can easily cost tens of thousands of pounds, depending on the nature of the damage.

What if I want to sell my home?

You are legally obliged to inform prospective buyers of any issues with subsidence affecting your home, rather than attempting to hide them.

This need not be an issue in all instances, as a study carried out by LV found that 43% of prospective buyers would still go ahead with a purchase after being told of issues with subsidence. In addition, 7% said subsidence does not concern them at all when looking to purchase a property.

Either way, it is in your best interests (and those who take an interest in your home) to ensure the necessary repairs are conducted fully and professionally ahead of time. Not just for peace of mind, but to make sure you get the best possible market price for your home.