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Subsidence vs Summer; keeping your business safe this season

Subsidence vs Summer; keeping your business safe this season

August 13, 2018

The warm summer weather is a welcome change for many, but for business owners it can mean costly repairs to their buildings. Subsidence typically occurs following dry weather, thereby damaging property and making it unsafe. But why does warm weather increase the risk of subsidence and what measures can be taken to avoid it?

Summer and Subsidence; the link.

Subsidence is caused when buildings are damaged due to the collapse or sinking of ground beneath the property. This damages the building's foundation and usually results in the tell-tale cracks of subsidence.

As the weather gets warmer, moisture is removed from the Earth- most notably from clay soil, which shrinks, cracks and shifts. This makes parts of the ground uneven, potentially causing sinks and dents and making the surrounding buildings structurally unsound.

The warmer weather also means that vegetation such as trees and shrubs require more water. As they take up moisture through their roots, the ground dries up even further, causing cracks in the soil. Trees have large and far-reaching roots which, when close to your property, could further destabilise the ground. A large proportion of the subsidence cases we see are caused by tree-related issues.


What else causes subsidence?

There are a number of other factors affecting subsidence risk.

Quarry sites and mining activity are often a cause for concern, as fill-material used to replace the lost Earth could decompose, causing areas to sink.

Drains which are leaking, such as due to a blocked or cracked pipe, can wash away surrounding soil and change its structure.

What happens if a property subsides?

Although new cracks in your property’s wall can be daunting, not all of them are a result of subsidence. Many are a result of natural shrinkage and changes in the buildings structure as the temperature and humidity fluctuates. Also, traditional buildings are made using materials such as lime mortar, which allows for some natural shifting of the structure. Generally though, subsidence indicators include cracks which are:

  • More than or equal to 3mm wide
  • Diagonal and more narrow at the bottom than at the top.
  •  Visible both inside and outside of the property.
  • Closer to weak areas of the property, such as windows and doors

Doors and windows may also become harder to open, as they may stick- this could be a result of the building's foundations having shifted.  


How is subsidence prevented and repaired?

Repairing subsidence and installing preventative measures is often an expensive process, so it’s important that your business is covered against it.

To protect your business you should consider:

  • Regularly pruning and pollarding any trees within a 5/10 meter radius to keep their root size to a minimum
  • Ensuring that all external pipes and plumbing are well maintained, for example, free of leaks, blockages and cracks.

Underpinning is usually only required in extreme or prolonged cases, but it is an expensive and slow process which may require your property to be vacated for several weeks. This process involves laying a solid foundation, usually made of concrete, below ground level to support a building's foundation.


How you can make a claim and what happens next.

It’s important that you contact your insurer directly with the contact details given as soon as you suspect subsidence damage. If you are unsure with who to contact you can get in touch with us by telephone (01843 293614) or email (enquiries@bridges.insure). You will be asked a series of questions about the damage made and if necessary, we will refer the case to your insurers for a review and possible pay out.

We will assist you throughout the entirety of the claim, offering guidance and always giving support.

If you are unsure about whether it is subsidence or how to proceed, feel free to contact us and we can advise you on what to do next.