Subsidence or heave could cause lasting and costly damage to your property, so it pays to take the right preventative measures and have insurance in place.
But what exactly are subsidence and heave, and how do you know if your home insurance covers you?
What is subsidence?
Subsidence occurs when the foundations under your home begin to sink, causing structural damage to the property.
There are a number of things that can cause subsidence, including:
Nearby trees absorbing moisture from the soil
Leaking drains washing away your foundations
Your home being built on unstable terrain (eg clay soil)
What is ground heave?
Ground heave is the opposite of subsidence but can cause similar structural problems.
Heave occurs when soil becomes saturated with water, causing the ground to swell and the foundations of your home to move upwards or sideways.
How to spot subsidence
The first and most noticeable signs of subsidence are cracks on the inside and outside of your home. These are caused by movement under the building and can get progressively worse in periods of dry weather.
Other signs of subsidence include:
Expanding cracks in the interior walls, ceilings and outside brickwork
Appearance of cracks, worsening in dry weather
Torn or rippling wallpaper that isn’t caused by damp
Sticking doors and windows
Structural damage caused by subsidence can be dangerous. It can also make it difficult to sell your home and invalidate your insurance if you fail to act on the warning signs and seek advice from a surveyor.
How to prevent subsidence damaging your property
Minimise the risk of long-term damage by following these steps:
Don’t plant trees or large shrubs close to your home
Control the growth of nearby trees
Consider removing trees planted after your property was built (never remove any tree with a preservation order, or without professional advice)
Keep gutters and drainage systems clear from leaves and debris
Carry out regular maintenance checks, keeping an eye out for emerging cracks
Which types of trees can cause subsidence?
Ash, willow, elm, poplar and oak trees are all known for causing subsidence issues as they soak up a great deal of water.
If you are concerned about subsidence, it might be worth asking a landscaper to install a root barrier, giving your home some added protection.
How to fix subsidence
Catching subsidence early is the best way to reduce its impact. Finding the source of the subsidence can often lead to easy fixes at one-off costs, saving you from lasting damage.
If your property is only experiencing minor subsidence, you may be able to keep on top of the damage with routine maintenance and decoration.
However, if cracks grow wider than 5mm, you may need a specialist to help repair the damage.
What to do if you find subsidence after getting home insurance
According to the ABI subsidence claim handling agreement, if you discover subsidence damage within eight weeks of switching insurance providers, your previous insurer is responsible for your cover.
Between eight weeks and a year, the cost is shared between your previous and current insurers.
Does John Lewis offer subsidence insurance?
John Lewis buildings insurance offers protection against subsidence as standard towards repairing damage caused to your home. Emergency accommodation will also be arranged if your home is too unsafe to sleep in.
John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Home Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative of Munich Re Digital Partners Limited, a company authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to carry on insurance distribution activities.
John Lewis Finance, John Lewis Insurance and John Lewis & Partners are all trading names of John Lewis plc. Registered office: 171 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NN. Registered in England and Wales (Registered Company Number 233462). John Lewis plc is an appointed representative (Financial Conduct Authority no. 416011) of Covea Insurance plc which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority (registration no. 202277). John Lewis Specialist Home Insurance is underwritten by Covea Insurance plc. Registered Office: A&B Mills, Dean Clough, Halifax, HX3 5AX. Registered in England and Wales (registration no. 613259).