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What Is The Difference Between Subsidence and Settlement?

16th February 2013

Subsidence has caused misery for many homeowners and some owners may be tempted to take insurance that excludes subsidence cover to reduce premiums.

If you have a home with a history of subsidence you may have difficulty getting insurance cover – and this is where Horner Blakey Insurance Brokers may be able to help.

Chris Konstantinou of Horner Blakey Insurance Brokers explains the difference between “settlement” and “subsidence”.

Settlement usually occurs in new or relatively new buildings. They are very heavy and cause the ground to compact, but this normally stops after a short while.

Additionally, most buildings are constructed in a variety of materials, all of which need to settle down and have different shrinkage rates. It is not unusual for a builder’s contract to require them to come back in six months to make good those settlement cracks that have appeared, for instance, between the walls and ceilings. In older buildings of a more flexible construction, cracks can appear in the summer that close up in the winter when the materials absorb moisture. These are known as “summer cracks” and are usually completely harmless.

Subsidence on the other hand is far more serious and occurs when the ground beneath the building is unable to support it. To rectify the problem, in most cases the property will be underpinned, which is a combination of steel and poured concrete underneath the property, to make the affected area stable.

What makes this happen?

Trees and clay are a bad combination, especially when the clay is highly shrinkable because it then has a propensity to expand when wet. In normal circumstances, deep below ground, the moisture level is maintained but trees remove water from the subsoil so that the clay shrinks, causing the foundations to sink. Collapsing drains, culverts and, in rare cases, hidden mine shafts or bell mines can also remove the integrity of the supporting ground. The presence of buried organic material, which then rots or breaks down can also destabilize all or part of a foundation.

Horner Blakey Insurance Brokers can offer quotations for properties that have suffered subsidence and settlement. All we require is the surveyor’s report which insurers require to offer a quotation. The survey is normally where the buyer finds out about the previous issues with the property as most of the time you are unlikely to be aware.

For a no obligation insurance review and to find out more about how we can help you please call Horner Blakey Insurance Brokers on 020 7929 0108 or visit our Subsidence web page.

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