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Why Does Hot Weather Cause Building Subsidence – All You Need to Know

The early summer of 2018 saw the UK and Europe baked with scorching heatwave temperatures, but while some Brits were welcoming this holiday weather, there are a number of things that these rising temperatures may impact. One of them is our buildings and in particular their structures. The hotter temperatures may see a rise in problems regarding building subsidence. Today’s post will delve into the exact details of how heat can cause building subsidence and what you should look out for and do to protect yourself.

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What Causes Building Subsidence and How is it Different from Settlement?

Subsidence is the sinking of the earth’s surface. It can be caused by many reasons, including building and extracting activities as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes, or atmospheric reasons. The surface area of the ground that can be affected can range from a small portion of our garden to a whole state.

While subsidence to a building may be a cause of many or a combination of things, settlement is more narrowly identified. Settlement has the same symptoms of subsidence in that the building will have had a downward motion into the earth. Yet, settlement is seen in new buildings where the foundation is adapting to the new weight.

How do I Spot Subsidence in My Property?

There are a couple of tell-tale signs that your building may have lowered into the ground. It is important to identify building subsidence early to treat your structure early before it worsens and becomes more expensive to fix, or worse, unsafe to live in.

Cracks are one of the key signs that building subsidence has occurred. Yet, in many other instances, cracks can be a sign of something else. To determine if your cracks are the result of subsidence, assess if they are:

  • Thicker than 3mm?
  • Wide at the ends?
  • Diagonal?
  • Can be seen from inside and outside the property?
  • Found near extensions?

Another sign is if your doors and windows begin to stick against their frames. Although, it is always best to consult an expert for an accurate understanding.

How Does Hot Weather Cause Building Subsidence?

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) perfectly explains why the hotter weather can cause building subsidence. The foundations of a house include clay soil. When we experience hot weather and heatwaves, our property’s underlying clay becomes dried out and shrinks. As this clay shrinks, it pulls our foundation downwards and our home with it. The clay does not always shrink evenly, and it can cause building subsidence at different rates across the base of the house, causing structural weakness. Hence why certain cracks are a great method of identifying what caused building subsidence.

Does Building Insurance Cover Me?

As we have experienced record temperatures in all corners of the planet over the last few years, home insurance companies are prepared for a surge in claims surrounding building subsidence. To make sure you are also prepared, it may be time to check whether your home or building insurance covers subsidence. Many insurers do include this in their cover, but it is always best to be safe than sorry.

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