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Crack down on subsidence

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01/06/2012
With many parts of the UK now officially in drought, worried homeowners may be looking out for tell-tale cracks that could be the first signs of subsidence.
Crack down on subsidence

With many parts of the UK now officially in drought, worried homeowners may be looking out for tell-tale cracks that could be the first signs of subsidence.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued guidelines about what can be taken to reduce the risk of subsidence and what to do if you suspect your property has subsidence.

Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground supporting a building caused by changing moisture levels, usually when the soil dries out or ground water levels drop. The movement is uneven, causing damage, such as cracks in walls, floors and ceilings. Heave, the upwards movement of the ground which can occur when dried-out soil becomes saturated, can also cause damage, as well as landslip, the sideways movement of foundations.

There are several key causes of subsidence: large trees too close to a property, escape of water and clay soil.

Cracks wider than 5mm are usually the first sign of subsidence. They tend to be visible from both inside and outside the building, tapered and extend below the damp proof. Other signs are distortions such as doors that no longer shut evenly and windows slanted in appearance.

If you suspect your property has subsidence, contact your insurers as soon as possible. Subsidence damage is covered as standard under home building insurance policies. Your insurer will send out a specialist to investigate the cause of damage and arrange for repair work. Some investigations can take some time to ensure proper and lasting repair work is carried out.

Nick Starling, director of general insurance at the ABI, said: “There are steps homeowners can take during drought conditions to avoid potential subsidence damage. Regular maintenance of the home and outbuildings is key to preventing any damage and detecting signs, such as cracks, early on.

“Many minor wall cracks may not be caused by subsidence and can be dealt with by routine decoration. Insurers will be able to make a correct assessment of suspected subsidence and homeowners can also seek specialist advice on trees near to the home.”

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