Cracks in buildings

Cracks are a major concern for every property buyer and homeowner. However, buildings can crack for various reasons, and some cracks are more serious than others. The main question when it comes to cracks is, have I got subsidence? 

Firstly, we need to understand subsidence to determine the cause of the cracks; Subsidence is the progressive movement of load-bearing soils. This means that the soils under the foundations are moving due to some external factor.

Causes of subsidence:

  • Tree-root-related subsidence, whereby nearby trees consume water in the soil, resulting in a change in the soil volume.
  • Defective drainage – defective drainage is a common cause of subsidence, whereby the constant saturation or washing away of load-bearing soils results in a lack of support under the foundations. when there is no support under a foundation, downward movement occurs.

Common signs of subsidence are:

  • new or expanding cracks in plasterwork
  • new or expanding cracks in outside brickwork
  • doors or windows sticking for no particular reason
  • rippling wallpaper that isn’t caused by dampness.

Although subsidence can often be fixed, The main concern is the ability to obtain insurance. If the building was insured at the time of subsidence, then once remedied, the work would be issued with a certificate of structural adequacy in most cases, the existing insurer will continue to ensure the building, however, it will be difficult to change the insurer.  As part of our level three building survey, we will report on cracks and probable cause and provide recommendations for the next steps where necessary.

Some other causes of cracking in a building range from:

  • Heave – heave is the opposite of subsidence. which can cause also cause cracks in a building. Heave can occur when the load-bearing soils become saturated resulting in n upward movement within the building. This is very common in older buildings built on plastic clay soil.
  • Thermal Cracks – these are caused due to normal thermal expansion or contraction of building materials. There are, in most cases, not serious and can be remedied with decoration.
  • Lateral movement – Some cracks can be caused by lateral movement due to the delamination of brick bonding in party wall junctions and flank walls in period properties. Such cracks can often be fixed by partial rebuilding or helical steel ties. Some bulges may be non-progressive but may need to be remedied by partial rebuilding before extending the property.
  • Settlement – Some cracks in buildings can be caused by settlement, meaning they are non-progressive, and in most cases, a simple repair and decorations are required.

There are lots of things to consider when buying a property. However, with our wealth of experience, we can check out your home before you leap so that you don’t suffer the consequences later. If you would like a quote for a survey, get an instant quote using our quote calculator or call us at 0203 691 0451.

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