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Most properties experience problems at some point, and as a homeowner it is a good idea to have a contingency in place in the event of any property problems as it is likely that you will have to cover costs of repairs or general maintenance during your time as the homeowner. However some problems can be more serious than other, and if you have purchased an older property, it is more likely that you will have to deal with things such as damp, rot or even subsidence. Subsidence occurs when we have long spells of dry weather combined with clay type soils beneath the property which is made worse by tree roots. This can cause shifting of the sub-soils which together weakens the property foundations causing the property to become unsafe and at risk of subsiding. Signs of subsidence could include cracks down the exterior or internal walls of the property, but there’s no need to start panicking as many cracks can be caused by other factors and don’t necessarily mean that your home is at risk.
If you have many trees surrounding your home, then you are more at risk of subsidence as many cases are due to thirsty tree roots. A full survey when purchasing your home should detect any risk of subsidence and older properties are particularly prone to subsidence as they were built with much shallower foundations. Subsidence occurs when the ground shrinks and lowers causing the foundations to become unsteady. Other factors can also cause subsidence such as local mining and the more recent controversial fracking. The type of soil you have beneath your home can also affect your risk of subsidence. Clay soils tend to shrink and create movement when dry and sandy soils can cause the ground to wash away from the foundations if you have flooding or a water leak.
As well as obvious cracks in the wall, doors and windows can become out of sync due to the movement of the frames and wallpaper within your home may appear rippled as walls move. If you live in a new property, cracks could simply be caused by the ground settling beneath and buildings may move throughout different seasons due to different weather conditions but these tend to be harmless. If you suspect subsidence within your home however, then you must contact your insurance company first to arrange an inspection and work out any action that needs to be taken. If you delay in contacting your insurance company, you could make your insurance void and they may not pay out. You can also get a specialist to come and survey the property and monitor any cracks for changes over a period of time.
If subsidence is confirmed you will then need to begin treating the problem. If it is caused by factors such as tree roots then it could be as simple as removing nearby trees or making repairs to pipework. However in worst cases, the property may need underpinning which is both costly and more complicated, causing the area of your home to be dug and pile foundations be put in place to secure the existing foundations. If left untreated, subsidence can cause major problems and prevent you selling your home quickly in the future.
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