What is property subsidence?

What is property subsidence?

property subsidence

Property subsidence explained

Subsidence means that gradual sinking or caving in of an area of land beneath your property. As well as this, it is possible for a ground heave to happen, which means that the land beneath a property begins to rise.

Neither are very convenient at all.

Property subsidence can cause a lot of structural damage to your residential or commercial plot, however, there are many ways to help prevent subsidence in the first place.

We outline the causes, and warning signs as well as some of the ways that you can avoid damaging effects if there is a ground heave or subsidence.

What are the causes of ground subsidence?

  • The property has very shallow foundations. This is more common in older properties.
  • The level of moisture in the ground. Dry ground can cause the soil to shrink and crack. In the same way, too much moisture in the ground can cause problems.
  • Subsidence is renowned in mining areas due to underground activity.

Subsidence can also be caused by something as inconspicuous as traffic or nearby construction work. Poor or faulty drainage can also cause subsidence.

How to avoid subsidence?

The risk of subsidence doesn’t mean that you can’t build a property on that land, but it is an important factor to consider.

If you want less risk and more solidity with your project, then it might be worth ensuring that there is minimal risk of subsidence before you buy and build.

The main causes of subsidence can be resolved relatively simply:

  1. Ensure that your project includes strong and properly planned out construction and foundation elements.
  2. Pay for a property surveyor to survey either the property or the land in order to alleviate any risks, and therefore avoid spending money on repairing damage in the long run.
  3. Make sure you are aware of any subsidence issues or risks before you buy a plot or property.

If subsidence is minor then it is often not really anything to worry about, however, if you own a property and you experience major subsidence, then this needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

Warning signs of subsidence:

  1. Cracks in interior and/or exterior walls – these can be relatively straight, or jagged.
  2. Uneven and sloping floors 
  3. Doors or windows not fitting into frames or sloping
  4. Loosening of skirting boards
  5. Moisture in the house in the forms of puddles – with no evidence of a leak

How do I treat subsidence?

If you experience subsidence in your property then there are a number of ways to treat it.

The most expensive treatment is underpinning. This means that a solid foundation is laid below ground to support or strengthen the foundations of your property.

This will usually have to be done if your foundations are shallow or if you have a major case of subsidence.

To avoid being stung with costs of treating subsidence, it can be a good idea to seek out some insurance for your home. 

Seek professional advice

When considering any kind of building work or property development, it’s important to seek professional advice.

Make sure that your costs can be covered, or that you have the right finance option for you. For more about the property finance lending process, click here.

Before you buy a plot of land to build on, you will need a surveyor. They will check the area for pre-existing flood or subsidence risks.

A property survey is carried out in 3 steps. 

  1. Legal research: They will research the history of the property deed, which will include a title search.
  2. Field surveying: The property surveyor will visit the land, and draw out the boundaries, characteristics, regulations and risks.
  3. Reporting: They will provide a map which outlines the legal boundaries of your land, along with the address and any allowed improvements you can make to the land.

Read more about the process of property surveys here.