Subsidence damage, if left untreated, can cost homeowners anywhere between £3,000 to over £250,000 – meaning it could prove very costly to investors if they don’t deal with the problem before it gets out of hand.
Worryingly, recent research by LV= GI found that some 4.4 million homeowners aren’t aware of how to spot it.
Here, Alex Finch, new business & key client director at Geobear and a subsidence expert with more than 25 years of experience, has put together some top tips on the signs to look out for and what you can do to treat it.
Finch says there are many warning signs for subsidence in a property and they can be easily spotted if you know what you are looking for. This includes:
Cracks in walls - While not all cracks in a property will be a result of subsidence, it is important to be vigilant. Cracks caused by subsidence are normally diagonal. They are often found around doors and windows and will suddenly appear in plasterwork inside the building, and on the brickwork outside. Cracks usually emanate from ground level.
Sinking floors - This can be easily spotted. Inspect your skirting boards around the floor and if you find new gaps, or cracks further investigation may be required.
Windows and doors sticking - Even windows and doors can be affected by subsidence. If you are having difficulty opening and closing your windows and doors, then this could be a result of the foundations of the property having moved.
Extensions/projections moving away from the property - Subsidence cracks are common at points where an extension or projection meets the main building, indicating that the extension is pulling away from the main structure and that an intervention may be required.
Common myths and misconceptions
Finch says one of the biggest misconceptions of subsidence damage is ‘it’ll be alright, I’ll keep an eye on it’.
“Subsidence damage will almost always get worse so the last thing you should do is let an issue fester. With underpinning alone ranging from anywhere between £10,000 - £100,000, not dealing with the issue as it arises could accrue enormous costs,” Finch adds.
The second biggest myth surrounding subsidence, he continues, is ‘I can’t sell my house if it’s previously had a subsidence issue’.
“This really is not the case. While subsidence may devalue a property if left untreated, a property that has undergone the appropriate subsidence repairs is still a viable property to put on the market.
“I understand some people may be hesitant to buy a property that has been repaired for subsidence but to me, that’s not a good reason to avoid buying a property.”
“While it may have had some damage in the past, if done correctly, the issue has been dealt with and the property fully restored to its former glory.”
What should investors do if they suspect their property has a subsidence problem?
“My first piece of advice for any homeowner is if they suspect their home has a subsidence issue, contact your buildings insurance provider,” Finch says. “They will employ specialists to assist with a thorough investigation into the cause.”
He adds: “When you see a new crack or something that concerns you, don't consider leaving it and keeping an eye on it over the next 12 months, because it will usually just get worse. Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to get started with the process.”
“At this stage, insurance providers will usually get in touch with a specialist loss adjuster who will be involved in the inspection of the property and investigate the cause of the damage. After that, if subsidence has occurred, the experts can move in and deal with the issue.”
“For those who don’t want to go through their insurance company, reach out directly to the experts. This is actually very common as 40% of our business alone comes directly from homeowners who may not be insured or don’t want to go through the insurance process to deal with the problem, and that’s okay.”
“Regardless of which avenue you decide to take, the key thing with subsidence is about getting onto the issue early to address the cause and limit the damage done to your property and your pocket!”