What if your Property is Affected by Subsidence?

Subsidence is a tricky problem for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to prove without lengthy and time-consuming tests. Secondly, there is no ‘home remedy’ – the only way to solve the problem is to hire expert professionals who deal with soil erosion, structural foundations and the like. And thirdly, the longer you leave it unresolved, the worse it will be.

There are many factors that can cause subsidence. It could be because of soil erosion due to inadequate drainage under your property, or if significant tree felling occurs in the vicinity of the building this can cause soil to shift under the foundations. Signs of subsidence include widening cracks in walls or diagonal cracks rather than cracks that run along the joining corner of two walls.

Subsidence

Repairing the visible damage without addressing the problem itself is literally ‘smoothing over the cracks’ – the damage will reappear and will be worse each time. Not only does this leave the problem of subsidence unsolved, it’s also a waste of money, can devalue your property, and will cause ongoing problems.

Unfortunately, if you suspect your property may have subsidence damage, the only thing to do is begin the process of surveying, draining, testing and monitoring with a team of expert professionals who will devise the best course of action. At this point, before any major expenses have been incurred, it is vital to contact a loss assessor. The assessor will visit the property, document the damage (both to the property and to your business as a result), and compile a definitive report which you should then submit to your insurance company to aid your claim. Loss assessors are completely impartial, have expert knowledge, and will work to make sure the most accurate result is achieved from the insurance claim.

To minimise the risk of subsidence, check drains and pipes regularly for blockages or leaks. Make sure that any trees in the vicinity of the building are pruned regularly to reduce their water uptake, and if any new trees are to be planted in the area, they should be a minimum of the length the adult tree will reach from the property. Of course, keep an eye out around the building for tell-tale cracks too, and if necessary, take photos of them periodically to assess whether they are widening or not.

What to do in the event of an escape of water below ground.

An escape of water below ground usually comes in the form of burst pipes or damaged plumbing systems which cause damage to properties either by water seeping into the building from below, or in less severe cases, by affecting water pressure and flow in the plumbing system of the property.

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In both cases, if the problem is left unnoticed or unfixed in the long term, significant damage can occur. If such an incident occurs, here is some advice on how to handle the situation:

  • Find the location of the leak (or leaks): This should be done by a plumbing professional. The operator will locate any leaks by closing off controlling valves, which will reduce or stop the flow to the affected water main. At this stage you will have a reasonably accurate idea of the impact and severity of the escaped water. Once this has been done, shut off the water valve until repairs have been completed.
  • Find what caused the leak: In the case of water escaping below ground, this could be many things; the age of the pipes and material they are made from, soil conditions that may have caused corrosion of the pipes, ground or water temperature causing the pipes to expand and contract, or changes in water pressure exacerbating weak spots in the pipes..
  • Making an Insurance Claim: Most insurance policies will cover escape of water claims. Contact Clearys Loss Assessors to get a professional account of the damage. Take photos or videos of the affected parts of the property as soon as possible, in case there is a delay in arranging for the assessor to visit the site. He or she will take a full record of all damage and the losses inflicted in order to process an insurance claim. Contact with the loss assessor should be made as soon as possible, preferably before repair works have begun.

In cases where below ground escape of water has been occurring for years, subsidence can be a problem. This is when the soil under the property’s foundations has become unstable due to water washing away the soil particles. As a result, the foundations of the building begin to subside. A thorough check on this should be carried out in any significant case of escape of water below ground.