With much of the country in a state of drought following two mild and dry winters, many of us are trying to survive with short showers and shallow baths. The recent rain in April and May, while a relief for gardeners, isn’t enough to fill the dangerously low reservoirs and rivers.
However, for homeowners brown grass could be the least of your worries. Dry weather and insufficient rainfall can also cause subsidence.
John Brady, Head of Commercial at John Lewis Insurance, discusses how subsidence could affect your home.
“Owning a home is something that many people look forward to, but occasionally unexpected things happen. It’s important to keep your property well-maintained and have a good Home Insurance policy.”
John Brady, Head of Commercial at John Lewis Insurance
Q & A with John Brady
Q. What’s your background and what experience do you have in providing advice about Home Insurance?
A. I've worked in financial services for 20 years, including banking, credit cards and insurance. The last five have been spent at the John Lewis Partnership, where I’ve helped to launch and develop John Lewis Insurance, including our personal insurance cover for cars, weddings, pets, events, travel and of course, homes.
Q. What is subsidence?
A. Subsidence is often a result of changing levels in moisture, usually when the soil is too dry or ground water levels drop. If there is a lack of moisture the ground underneath a building can move downwards unevenly, causing cracks in the walls, floors and ceilings.
Faulty drains leaking water can also lead to subsidence as the ground beneath your home can be washed away or softened.
Tree roots, particularly during a state of drought, can encroach beneath the foundations to suck the moisture from the soil.
Q. Are there other types of ground movement I should know about?
A. Yes, there’s also heave, which is where the ground swells, causing your home to move upwards, and landslip, where your home creeps down a slope over a period of time.
Q. How can I tell if subsidence has affected my home?
A. The way that most people can tell if their home is affected is when they notice large, diagonal cracks in the wall.
Cracks are quite common in new builds and extensions, so don’t panic unless these cracks are visible both inside and outside and are more than 5 mm wide.
These cracks are most likely to appear near the weaker areas of your home, such as around the doors and windows. If your doors and windows are sticking, this is also another sign of subsidence.
Q. What can I do about subsidence?
A. If you think your home has been affected by subsidence, then the first thing to do is contact your insurance provider.* The sooner you inform your insurer the better, as it can reduce the severity of the claim.
Your insurance provider will send a specialist to your home to examine your property and analyse their findings. It’s unlikely that anything will happen straightaway as subsidence often needs monitoring for up to a year to ensure the best outcome.
There are several solutions for subsidence:
- Removal or pruning of trees
- Repair of drains
- Repair of brickwork
Q. Are there any preventative measures I can take?
A. It’s important to take good care of any property you own, particularly if it’s built on clay soil which is affected by moisture. There are several things you can do which can help you to avoid subsidence:
- Regularly check drains, pipes and gutters for blockages or splits
- Keep trees, shrubs and bushes pruned correctly - speak to an arborist if necessary
- Make sure you plant new trees and shrubs away from your home