Emergency on Planet Earth : Your need to know guide about weather and subsidence
(September 13, 2019)

The weather is becoming more unpredictable than ever. Heatwaves last for weeks, interspersed with long or unexpected periods of rain. We prepare for every possibility, often smothering on the suncream under our raincoats and umbrellas. But it’s not just ourselves we should protect from the weather.

Extreme climates impact the state of soil and therefore the buildings on it, putting them at risk of subsidence. Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground which causes the foundations of a property to collapse or sink lower, affecting its entire structure. It is important to properly fix subsidence issues as soon as you spot them.

The ground can be unpredictable in long periods of hot weather, especially following heavy rainfall. Dry spells suck the moisture out of the soil, shrinking the ground and making houses shift. Clay-based soils are on average more susceptible to shrinking, cracking, and shifting. They are most common in the south-east of England, especially around London.

 

Troubled waters

The weather causes a domino effect of problems affecting ground moisture, and it doesn’t happen exclusively during record-breaking heatwaves. Large quantities of water are just as dangerous. Heavy rainfall softens the ground and therefore its load-bearing strength, as well as washing away any finer soil particles. This is particularly dangerous if you have a drywell too close to your house, as it won’t effectively remove rainwater from your property.

Extreme conditions such as storms or freezing temperatures can damage pipes,and burst pipes or leaking drains also aid in the softening or washing away of the ground beneath a house.

Lack of water in the ground causes trees and shrubs to push their roots further in the search for nutrients. Vegetation consumes large volumes of water, adding to the dryness of the soil. As roots stretch further, they can also disturb the ground’s surface, upheaving lighter structures such as pathways and sheds, and even breaking pipes or blocking drains.

Weather is a difficult cause of subsidence to prepare for, as there’s nothing you can do to control it. Mitigating the effects can also be difficult, especially on clay soil. Make sure trees and shrubs are pared back, pipes and drains are regularly maintained, and most importantly, stay vigilant to any signs of subsidence, particularly after extreme bouts of heat or rain.

 

Warning signs

Homeowners are becoming more aware of the dangers of subsidence caused by weather. After the crazy 2018 summer heatwave, subsidence claims were at their highest level in 12 years. £64 million in claims were made – a massive 357% increase on the previous quarter.

However, a crack doesn’t necessarily mean your house is subsiding. Fine cracks appear naturally in walls, especially with new properties, as the building settles on its own weight. It’s only when a crack is more than 3mm wide (about the width of a 10p coin) that you should be concerned. Subsidence cracks are diagonal, can be seen from both inside and outside, and are often near doors and windows.

Regardless of how insignificant a crack like this may look, it’s important not to ignore it. Call your insurance company, and they’ll send someone out to assess the risk. In most instances the damage can be fixed, but there’s no point in filling in cracks without getting to the root of the problem.

If subsidence has occurred, this will need rectifying. The traditional solution is underpinning. However, this is often a costly process, taking anywhere up to 18 months to complete the work, and in extreme cases requires evacuation of the property. However, Geobear’s unique and patented subsidence solution can be completed within as little as a day, and without forcing you out of your home or workplace. With our resilient geopolymer resin, we can improve the bearing capacity of an inadequate foundation without the disruption of a building site. Whether the ground under your property requires re-levelling, stabilising, or void filling, Geobear can help, and fast.