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  • Subsidence warnings amidst the current heat wave

    Subsidence problems

    With the increased shortage of rain properties are currently at a heightened risk of subsidence, particularly those in Central and South East of England where high levels of clay are present in the soil. Many insurance companies are predicting a surge of claims over the coming months. A warning to all landlords and property owners alike is advised to ensure you have sufficient buildings insurance or specialist subsidence insurance in place.

    The effects of subsidence can be devastating and cause serious structural damage to a property requiring expensive underpinning work to prevent catastrophic consequences. In many cases a home can even become inhabitable whilst repairs are being carried out and the safety of the building is at risk, so it is important to check that your insurance also includes the cost of alternative accommodation in such circumstances.

    What is subsidence?

    Subsidence is caused by the downward movement of the ground that supports a building which will in turn cause the foundations to become unstable. Often more modern houses with deeper foundations aren’t as much of a problem, but older houses will need keeping an eye on.

    Subsidence will most often occur during the warmer months where lack of rain causes shrinkage of clay soils and the presence of trees and plants can add to the problem, further draining the soil of moisture.

    What should you look out for?

    Subsidence will most commonly be identified by visible cracks in walls from the outside or inside as well as extending below the damp course. It is advisable to be aware of any cracks that appear diagonally and those that are mirrored on the internal plaster and outer brickwork, in particular those that widen at the top.

    Check your cracks with a 10 pence coin and if they are thicker than the width of the coin then you should contact a surveyor to review the property. Doors and windows that start to become difficult to open or shut can also be a sign of distortion of the building and that you need to assess your risk accordingly. Typical cracks associated with subsidence will spread out from the corners of windows and doors and will go right the way through the wall to the other side.

    Where trees are situated close to properties this can often cause greater problems as their roots will be absorbing as much moisture as they can and amplifying the effects of shrinkage.

    It is important to be aware that unfortunately many insurers will be unwilling to insure a property once you have had a subsidence claim or if your home is underpinned, and it’s not ideal to become trapped with an expensive cover where you have difficulty to move. Fortunately, specialist insurance brokers such as Bluedrop Services have expert knowledge and experience in this area and can advise on making sure you are correctly covered, and that your insurance is underwritten to encompass your needs moving forward.

    What can you do to prevent subsidence?

    If you know that your home is situated within a shrinkable clay area, then minor cracks with widths of up to 5mm can occur in unusually dry spells and these can easily be treated with redecoration. It is important to deal with early warning signs quickly to prevent as much future damage as possible. However, if the cracks do not close or continue beyond 5mm it is likely there could be a longer-term problem and it is time to consult your insurance company.

    You should carefully select planting locations for trees and shrubs around your property, if any are already located too close to the supporting foundations then it is probably worth considering careful removal. Willow trees are a common cause of subsidence issues and should be planted at least 40m away from your home. Similarly, Poplars, Oaks, Horse Chestnuts and Planes should be planted 20 to 30m away.

    Proper maintenance of gutters, downpipes and drains are also important to prevent leaks and the improper discharge of rainwater which could cause fine soil particles to wash away and create cavities in your soil.

    Want to find out more about Bluedrop's Subsidence Insurance?
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