The meaning of subsidence
and other forms of movement

We get asked about the meaning of subsidence a lot and there tends to be a little confusion over whether subsidence and settlement are the same thing (as the Oxford English Dictionary would seem to suggest).

I’ve already written about settlement in another article which you can read here. So in this section I’m just looking at subsidence.

The Meaning of Subsidence:

From a surveyors point of view it means the downward movement of the structure of the house caused by a failure in the ground rather than a failure in the structure of the building.

What causes Subsidence in Houses?

In addition to covering the meaning of subsidence it’s also worth realising that there are many things that can cause subsidence; form trees removing too much moisture from clay soils causing a reduction in load bearing which can allow part of a property to sink. To water washing sub soils away from beneath foundations etc. 

What can it mean to your house?

Just like settlement you really don’t want subsidence to affect your home as it’s usually expensive to repair. It can mean having to underpin your foundations, repair services and other potentially very expensive remedial works.

What is Subsidence in Houses

The Residential Surveyors Role:

Your residential surveyor will be looking for signs of its presence. Which means being able to spot and diagnose cracking inside or outside the property and being able to read site conditions. Once they spot an issue they need to be able to differentiate between non-serious cracking and serious cracking and figure out what the likely cause is, before advising you what you should do next.

We can all spot that big crack in the ceiling of the reception room, but your surveyor needs to know it’s serious not and they also need to be able to spot the other associated risks that may indicate the presence or risk of movement.

Other types of movement:

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Settlement and subsidence may be the terms everyone uses when the talk about “movement” but they certainly aren’t the only ones we come across. You can have lateral movement to roof structures typically caused by poor design or owners replacing roof coverings with coverings that are heavier than the structure was designed to support.

We also see cavity wall tie corrosion in lots of homes in Belfast and the surrounding areas. Which is where the wall ties begin to rust within the wall. At the rust they expand in size and can literally lift all the brickwork above the wall tie. Soil heave can also cause expensive problems where the building or parts of it can be lifted by simple changes such as removing a mature tree in the garden etc.

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of the meaning of subsidence and some of the other forms of movement that we as residential surveyors will look for and just how serious they can be. 

meaning-If you’d like us to provide you with a residential survey in County Antrim or County Down please request a call back and we’ll call you to discuss your requirements.

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