What is subsidence

One of the most common structural issues that occur in homes and properties in London and the Home Counties is concern by home owners, tenants or landlords that their property may be suffering from subsidence.

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One of the most common structural issues that occur in homes and properties in London and the Home Counties is concern by home owners, tenants or landlords that their property may be suffering from subsidence.

Subsidence is an emotive word for property owners but it is often a good deal less critical than it may seem. 

Subsidence simply means a downward movement of some or all of the foundations of a building.  Settlement is another word which actually means the same thing.  To the lay-person, downward movement of the foundations may sound alarming but in reality all building of all sizes, from your two storey house to a forty storey office 

building, will experience subsidence or settlement.  Problems arise, though, when the amount of subsidence exceeds what is acceptable and causes cracking or occurs more in some areas of the property than others. 

A good deal of London and the Home Counties have homes and properties that are  supported on the natural clay ground that lies across the much of  the region.  However, clay is not an entirely stable material due to how it changes its behaviour under different moisture conditions.  As clay is impermeable, if water is added or removed from one particular area such that the moisture content of the clay changes, then that effect will be very localised and an adjacent area of clay will not experience any of the same changes.

If we have a dry summer, then the water content in the ground will reduce and this will happen more in areas more exposed to the elements.  An example of this might be the ground outside your house rather than the ground directly under your house.  Alternatively, a tree might be drawing water from the soil directly around it. 

The clay in these area will shrink as it becomes dryer, withdrawing away from the foundations above.  As it withdraws, the foundation will follow it under the force of gravity, so the foundation will move downwards.  This downwards movement is the settlement or subsidence.  It happens to all buildings but becomes a problem when the extent or location of the downwards movement is problematic.

As leading structural engineers with extensive experience in this field, Structures-Made-Easy can inspect your home or property and report on whether such issues have arisen and how best they might be addressed.

If you would like to discuss further please feel free to contact us using our email support@structures-made-easy.co.uk or call us on 0207 965 7376

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