U&M Group


The History of Construction

The History of Construction


The construction industry is one of the foundations on which the modern world is built, so it’s not surprising this has always been so. The history of construction is not only as old as human civilisation, but even older.


Ancient Construction


The earliest forms of construction were merely temporary shelters made by weaving grass or stretching animal skins. As long ago as 11,000 years, though, more permanent structures were being built in a few areas, and this gradually spread through the ancient world.


A wide variety of materials were used, depending on what was easily available and what the building was used for. In Egypt and Mesopotamia, for instance, clay bricks were favoured, while timber-framed constructions were preferred elsewhere, such as China.


Besides dwelling places, most civilisations built massive monuments, and these were usually of stone. The Egyptian pyramids and the great Greek temples are examples, and the challenges of creating these often advanced knowledge of construction techniques.


Pre-Modern Construction


These trends continued through the middle ages and beyond, both in Europe and throughout the world. The technical achievements of the great European castles and cathedrals were more than matched by the great Islamic mosques with their magnificent domes and the temples of southern and eastern Asia.


At the same time, the growth of urban living (which saw Asian cities with populations of over a million) required new solutions. In Europe, the traditional wattle and daub gradually gave way to the brick buildings that are still familiar.


Modern Construction


Following key 18th century developments, such as the use of iron and glass in construction, two of the most important breakthroughs that heralded modern construction were concrete and steel frames. Concrete had been used by the Romans (for the Coliseum, for instance), but the technique had been lost.


These enabled the development of high-rise buildings, which were also aided by the introduction of cranes to make their construction possible and the invention of the lift, which made them practical to use. During the 20th century, prefabrication techniques created a revolution in fast, cheap construction.


The construction industry is still evolving. Perhaps one of the most significant directions of evolution in the 21st century is the quest to find designs and materials that are ecologically friendly. This could make the buildings of the future as different from those we’re used to as a Tudor house is from a modern skyscraper.


On the other hand, the essential principles of good construction have altered very little over thousands of years, however much the methods, tools and materials have changed. If you want to know more about great construction today, feel free to get in touch with us.

What Are the Signs of Structural Damage to a House?

What Are the Signs of Structural Damage to a House?


As a house ages, faults are likely to appear. Some will be minor issues caused by settling, but sometimes there will be signs of genuine structural damage. These require prompt action.


Signs of Structural Damage to the Foundations


The foundations of a house are crucial to the entire structure, and when they’re damaged, the symptoms may show up all over the house. This is because damage to the foundations will result in the building’s overall structure becoming uneven and extra pressure being put on some elements.


Typically, the signs to look out for include:


  • Substantial cracks appearing in the internal walls, especially above doors or windows, or where the wall meets the ceiling.
  • Doors or windows begin sticking.
  • The frames for doors or windows are pulling away from the wall.


All these may be due to causes other than damage to the foundations, while very small cracks are probably just due to settling. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s important to have the foundations checked.


The best way of doing this is to inspect where the foundation meets the crawlspace walls with a flashlight. Hairline cracks are no problem, but more substantial cracks may indicate that your foundations need repairs. This is especially true for vertical cracks that are wider at the top, or any large horizontal cracks.


Repairing Structural Damage to the Foundations


The first and most important step in repairing damaged foundations is to restore their stability. If the damage has been caused by an external factor, such as tree roots or damaged drainage, removing the problem may be enough.


If the problem can’t be easily removed, however, you may need to have your foundations underpinned. This can be done by excavating below them and putting in extra concrete, but in most cases a better option is mini-piling. In this case, piles are either driven or bored through the weak soil to a stronger level, where they can hold the structure secure.


Structural Repairs of Buildings


Securing the foundations is vital, but damage done still needs to be repaired. Typically, this may involve:


  • Stitching substantial cracks in walls, using helical wires.
  • Repairing and resealing door and window frames that have pulled away from the wall.
  • Repairing or replacing worn masonry.
  • Replacing worn or rotten timbers.
  • Repairs to a sagging roof.


However, the precise repairs that your house may need will depend on the damage done, and that requires professional assessment. If you think your house may need underpinning or other structural repairs, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us.

Can You Build a House Without a Foundation?

We assume that any building needs a foundation. It’s so obvious that we use it widely as a metaphor — the foundation of arguments, beliefs, organisations and so on. The foundation is what makes anything safe and secure.

So can you really build a house without a foundation?

What Is the Foundation For?

The simple answer is that of course, you can — as long as you don’t need it to stand for long. Historically, houses without foundations have tended to be simple affairs, built around an earth floor, which weren’t designed to last.

Although a building may be able to support the downward thrust of its load without a foundation, it’s the sideways motion that creates the problem. As the ground changes temperature with the seasons, it expands and contracts, causing instabilities that make the building lurch.

This means that, unless it’s built on a rock so solid that there’s no variation, stability depends on having the structure’s base resting on a level deep enough to maintain a constant temperature. This should ensure that lateral movement is kept to a minimum.

Are There Houses Without Foundations?

Substantial buildings have been successfully constructed without what might be thought adequate foundations. Perhaps the best known is Salisbury Cathedral, built on marshy ground, which supports a spire on foundations of just four feet depth. This can be achieved by building on a “raft” in soft ground, which acts in a similar way to traditional foundations, but it’s not an easy technique to get right.

Other types of buildings that can be created without foundations are those built on piles or stilts. This usually happens on flood plains or marshy coastal areas, but these homes do actually have foundations, if not traditional ones. Here, the weight is distributed down through the piles to a stable level, essentially doing the same job as a more standard foundation, with the added load capacity created by ‘skin friction’.

What If My Home Doesn’t Have Adequate Foundations?

Although you’re unlikely to have a home today without any support, some older houses were built with shallow foundations. Other houses may have had what seemed adequate foundations, but subsidence or other movement has weakened them.

In these cases, the foundations of an existing building can be extended down to a more stable level. This is known as underpinning and can be done either by excavating below the existing foundations or by sinking piles to transfer the weight to a safe level.

If you have any concerns about whether the foundations of your home are adequate to support its weight, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us.

Most Popular Basement Design Ideas for 2019

If your home has a basement, or if you’re thinking of adding a basement, you already have an advantage over most properties. What are you going to do with space, though?

Traditionally, basements have tended to be relegated to marginal uses such as storage or utility rooms, but that doesn’t have to be the limit of your imagination. Here are a few currently popular ideas for using your basement.

Home Office

There’s a revolution in working methods, with more and more people working from home, and the basement is a perfect location. Cut off from the living areas, but still only a staircase away from home comforts, it can be effectively soundproofed and fitted out with office furniture — or even a comfy chair to curl up with your laptop.

Guest Suite

If you regularly have guests coming to visit, your basement could make an ideal guest suite, especially if it features a light well to bring in the daylight. Besides a bedroom, the suite can include a bathroom, and more if there’s room, such as a lounge and a kitchenette.

Home Gym

Do you love to keep fit? But do you have the choice between constantly heading to the gym and trying to exercise in the middle of everything going on at home? Your basement could be a dedicated gym, with the equipment kept out of the way and space where nothing matters but reaching your targets.

Games Room

Even if you’re not dedicated enough for a home gym to be worthwhile, your basement offers the perfect space for games such as pool, table-tennis or air-hockey. Whether you want to play with family or friends, a games room in your basement means you can dive straight into it without having to set up the tables.

Home Cinema

Watching TV casually in the living room is fine, but for a more immersive experience for watching films, how about a dedicated home cinema space in your basement? Depending on how far you want to go, you could set the room up with rows of seating — and even have popcorn on tap.

Extra Lounge

Your basement doesn’t have to be for unique use. If there are competing claims on the main reception rooms upstairs, you could simply set it up as an extra lounge for members of the family who want a little quiet.

These are just a few of the many popular basement designs. You’re very welcome to get in touch with us for more ideas.

Which Soil Is Best Suited to a Pile Foundation?

Pile foundations are most commonly associated with strengthening a building’s existing foundations through underpinning, but this isn’t its only use. Piling is also sometimes the most suitable technique for new-build foundations. The crucial factor is frequently the type of soil below the structure.

Soil Quality and Pile Foundations

The reason soil quality often determines the need for pile foundations is that weak soil or soil that’s saturated with water may be unable to support traditional foundations. The soil is likely to give way, resulting in the foundations — and therefore the structure they’re supporting — sinking further down.

If these conditions persist to a depth of over 2m, piling can be the answer. This solves the problem by taking the weight down through the weak soil to a firmer layer of soil or rock below, allowing the weight to be distributed down to a secure basis that can support the building.

Which Soils Are Weak?

The types of soil that most often require piling are those with high clay or silt content since these are fine-grained soils. They tend to collapse more easily, or else cause more uplift when they freeze.

Sandy soils are stronger but can still cause problems, while soils with high organic content can also be too weak to support traditional foundations. This is most likely to be on land previously used for agriculture or horticulture, but it can be found elsewhere.

Clay and silt are especially vulnerable if they’re saturated since they liquefy easily. However, anywhere that has a high water table or shows signs of being marshy are potentially vulnerable, and piling should be considered.

New-Build Foundations and Underpinning

If you’re planning a new build, it’s vital to commission a thorough survey of the soil quality before deciding on how to proceed. If the survey shows the soil as very weak, it may be necessary to abandon the project altogether, but piling can be used to take advantage of stronger levels deeper below the surface.

On the other hand, an older property that’s suffered from subsidence can benefit from being underpinned by piling. The soil may not have been properly surveyed at the time of building, or conditions may have changed — a rise in the water table, for example. Quite apart from often being a more cost-effective technique than traditional underpinning, piling becomes a must if the soil is weak.

If you want to know more about which soil is best suited to a pile foundation, feel free to get in touch with us.

What Is the Work of a Piling Contractor?

Few buildings will last without solid strong foundations, and various foundation types are best suited to different situations. Increasingly in recent decades, the technique of choice has tended to be piled foundations, largely driven by innovation as well as increased costs in spoil removal and concrete (as well as the environmental considerations).

What Is Piling?

Piling is a very old construction method, but recent improvements in techniques and equipment have made it the most popular approach to foundations. It involves inserting long columns, either in situ or pre-cast, usually of steel or concrete, into the ground. These reach a strong layer of either soil or bedrock, allowing the weight of the building to be securely distributed down to this solid level.

Piling can be used for large structures, particularly when they’re built in water (wind turbines, for instance), but one of the most common uses is for strengthening existing foundations. For this process, known as underpinning, mini-piling is often used. This technique is also very suited to new house foundations or extensions where access for larger CFA rigs is an issue.

What Are the Types of Mini-Piles?

There are broadly two types of mini-piles — bored and driven. For the bored type, the machinery removes the earth and inserts sections to support the side of the hole, if required. When this is complete, steel reinforcement cages are inserted (dependent upon the design) and grout is poured or injected to form the permanent pile.

Alternatively, ready-made piles can be driven straight into the earth, displacing the soil around them. This has the advantage of compacting the soil surrounding the pile, making it stronger. The method used will depend on issues like the quality and type of ground conditions and working conditions on the surface.

What Does the Piling Contractor Do?

Before anything else can happen, it’s essential to examine and assess both the site in general and the soil in particular. Issues like the strength and type of soil, the level of the water table, headroom if the piling will take place in a confined space and access to the site will all affect the type of pile best suited and the machinery that can be used.

After detailed plans have been made, the contractor will bring in their piling experts and machinery. This is one of many reasons why using a specialist piling contractor is important since they will have these resources available, rather than having to hire them in.

The piles will then be inserted, by whichever method has been chosen as the most appropriate. For mini-piling, this will often mean restricted access piling rigs, that have remote power packs considerably reducing the amount of site space required. A professional piling contractor will clear up and make good the site when finished. If you want to know more about piling, feel free to get in touch with us.

Does It Affect Your Insurance if Your House Is Underpinned?

If you’re thinking of buying a house that’s been underpinned due to subsidence, people may suggest you’ll find insuring it difficult and expensive. You may even be advised by well-meaning friends not to have your existing house subsidised, for much the same reasons.

The second case flies in the face of reason since even if the warnings were true, the property will still be far safer after underpinning. But is it really true that an underpinned home is harder to insure?

What Is Underpinning?

Underpinning can describe various techniques of strengthening a building’s foundations. This could be done for a number of reasons — subsidence (where the structure is slipping into the weak ground) is the most common, but a building might also be underpinned to provide extra support for a substantial extension.

The two most common methods are mass concrete underpinning and piling. The mass concrete method, also known as traditional underpinning, involves trenches being dug out under the building and filled with concrete.

While this is still the best solution in some cases, it’s being largely replaced by mini-piling, where piles are drilled or driven down to a level where the ground is stronger. The piles then transfer the building’s weight down to the strong soil or bedrock.

Will Underpinning Affect My Insurance?

Insurers tend to be wary of any structure that has ever suffered from subsidence. While underpinning should be seen as a problem solved, they can still be nervous that the subsidence could return.

In the past, that has tended to mean insurance for an underpinned home has been hard to get and more expensive. However, the situation has improved in recent years.

While many mainstream insurance companies are still reluctant to touch an underpinned property, an increasing number recognise that it’s not always bad. Some companies have dedicated underpinning teams, while there are also specialist brokers.

You may need to get specified work done, such as having your drains tested to ensure they’re watertight. However, if you can demonstrate that the underpinning has done its job, you can often find insurance at a reasonable price.

A Good Job Is Essential

This depends, of course, on the insurer being satisfied that the underpinning is secure, making the further risk to the building acceptably low. Consequently, it’s essential that you’ve had an expert job done, not a fix-up by a general builder.

If you want to know more about how specialist underpinning can make your home secure and keep your insurance costs down, feel free to get in touch with us.

Top 10 Construction Trends in 2019

The world is changing faster each year, and the construction industry is no exception. 2019’s top trends may not affect you directly this year, but it’s almost certain that they’ll all soon be commonplace. So what do we all need to prepare for?

1. Designing in the Cloud

Cloud computing is transforming many industries. In the case of construction, it cuts out the need for multiple copies of the building data, eliminating the risk of slight variations creeping in. Everyone involved can use a single version, held in the cloud.

2. Modular Construction

This isn’t a new idea. Since the days of prefabs, modules have been manufactured elsewhere and then assembled on site, but applications for this approach have exploded. Perhaps all buildings will be constructed this way in the future.

3. Robots and Drones

Automating heavy, repetitious and dangerous work is just common sense, and we have the technology now for this. Whether robotic heavy lifting or using drones for hard-to-reach inspections, this is set to grow in the industry.

4. Wearable Technology

From health monitors to smartwatches, wearable technology is growing. Its applications to construction are wide-ranging, from improving health and safety on site to more efficient monitoring of the project.

5. Augmented Reality

A long step beyond virtual reality augmented reality uses an actual view of reality with extra information overlaid. This will allow detailed planning of construction projects using fully augmented simulations.

6. Smart Buildings

Like phones, buildings are starting to become smart, with inbuilt technology that can be upgraded. This means that we’re going to start seeing digital user manuals for buildings, to allow owners to make the best use of the technology.

7. Onsite Construction Labs

For custom-made components of a building, construction labs can use LiDAR data from drones to produce precise designs, which can then be produced using 3D printing technology.

8. Less Use of Cranes

Cranes aren’t always the most efficient technology for constructing or refurbishing buildings, and sometimes they aren’t practical at all. Instead, robotic machinery can be used to deliver components to the relevant place.

9. Waste Management

We’re all conscious these days of how our actions impact the environment, and the construction industry is no exception. The sector has improved on its record of waste production, and this will grow through 2019 and beyond.

10. Quality and Experience

Not all trends are new. The need for experience and high quality in construction projects will never go out of date. If you want to take advantage of U&M’s long experience, why not get in touch to see how we can help you?

Masonry Repair — Everything You Need to Know

The walls of your home do two vital jobs — they support the structure, and they keep out the weather. If they become worn or cracked, their ability to do both jobs is compromised and they need to be repaired. But there are a number of things that can happen to your walls, and it’s important to recognise them.

Repairing Cracked Walls

Walls often develop small cracks as a result of ageing, and the damage can be easily repaired. Sometimes, however, and especially if the cracks are more substantial, they may be symptoms of subsidence. In this case, it’s essential to repair the foundations with underpinning or piling before patching up the walls.

Hairline cracks can be repaired simply with caulk, but more substantial cracks need to be stitched, once underpinning or other structural work is complete. This is normally done from the exterior, using helical wires.

Repairing Worn Masonry

Worn brick or stone can give an old building period charm, but if the wearing becomes too bad the walls are no longer protecting you. In any case, once the external face is gone, deterioration is likely to carry on more quickly.

Various methods of repair are available, depending on the type and severity of the damage. These range from applying clear sealant or lime mortar over the damaged surfaces to partially rebuilding the wall.

Repairing Render

Whether the rendering on your walls is stucco, pebbledash or roughcast, it performs the crucial job of protecting you against the elements. When it starts cracking or bulging, or when patches start falling off, it’s no longer doing the job as effectively.

Except in the most serious cases of render damage, only localised patches need to be replaced. The damaged render should be hacked off, and the exposed wall allowed to dry out, before applying the new render.

Repairing Damp Walls

Damp can get into the walls due to damage to masonry, render or windows, or else because of leaking gutters or internal condensation. Signs to look out for include smells, blistering paint or peeling wallpaper inside, or either white salt or black mould on the walls.

Repair methods will vary depending on the cause of the damp. This may involve repointing the walls, with softer lime-based mortars better for this purpose than modern cement mortar. The damp will also need to be expelled with extractor fans.

A Professional Job

While a few of these jobs (repairing hairline cracks with caulk, for instance) could be done by an expert DIYer, it’s generally best to get professionals in. In any case, you’ll need a professional analysis of the problems, otherwise, you risk missing a serious problem, such as subsidence.

You’re very welcome to get in touch with us for more advice on masonry repair.

ASUC Awards November 2018!

On the 23rd November, we attended the ASUC Awards, at One Moorgate Place in London.

We are delighted to announce that we received a lovely glass trophy as winner of our category and a certificate for ‘Highly Commended’ recognising our commitment to training.

Guidelines for Underpinning Your Basement

There are many excellent reasons for adding a basement to your home, from creating an independent flat to having an indoor swimming pool. It’s a major job, though, and one of the most important aspects is ensuring the foundations of your house remain strong. This means underpinning to form the basement.

Why Have a Basement?

Growing families eventually outgrow their homes, and one option is to move to a bigger place. That’s not only a huge upheaval, though — it’s also prohibitively expensive for many people at current house prices.

An increasingly popular alternative is to add a basement to the existing house. This could be used as an extra bedroom or living room, or else as a playroom for the kids or a games room for the whole family. It could even be converted into a flat, perhaps for an older teenager.

Why Would Your Basement Need Underpinning?

If you’re having space under your home excavated for a basement, this means digging under its existing foundations, leaving the whole structure at risk. Underpinning will replace the lost foundations and restore the building to full strength.

There are various approaches to underpinning, but the most likely methods to be used when constructing your basement are either mass concrete underpinning and/or mini piles. The method adopted is chosen for a variety of factors: ground conditions, groundwater, access and proximity to other structures to name a few. The ultimate aim is to transfer the load from the existing structure to the proposed basement level while providing a retaining structure for the ground surrounding the basement.

What Needs to Be Done?

The process of underpinning is an integral part of creating a new basement. It’s therefore preferable to employ a contractor that specialises in both underpinning and constructing basements. The things you’ll need to do include:

  • A professional survey of the site, especially the state of the soil, which will help to determine which kind of underpinning should be used.
  • Check the contractor’s record and specialisation before hiring — it’s important not to hire a general builder with no record of underpinning.
  • Check with your local authority whether you need planning permission.
  • Find out if the work will affect any party wall agreement.
  • Plan ahead for how you’ll deal with the disruption while the work is being carried out.
  • Make sure the contractor you hire will fully clear up and restore the site when the job is over.

Feel free to get in touch with us if you want to know more about underpinning your basement.

Five Reasons for Choosing Us as Your Piling Contractor

In spite of being a highly specialist field, you’ll face a wide choice if you’re looking for a piling contractor. How do you tell which will offer the most effective and professional job?

At U&M, we’re confident that we can compete with anyone for expertise and professionalism. Here are five reasons why.

1. We Have the Resources on Hand

U&M has forty years’ experience delivering piling solutions. This means that, unlike general construction companies, we have both the experts and all the equipment normally required for a job. We can be available when you need us and won’t have to pass on the costs of hiring in equipment and consultants. Even in the unlikely case that your piling job is so unusual that we don’t have a particular piece of equipment, we have the contacts to acquire it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

2. We Fully Project Manage Your Job

Instead of simply turning up and doing the work as directed, U&M offers full project management on our jobs. From arranging surveys on your behalf to ensuring the site is handed back to you clean and tidy, we’ll cover everything for you. We also guarantee to maintain the highest standards of health and safety, as well as meeting environmental concerns.

3. We Offer Bespoke Contracts

Every piling job is different, whether that’s because of the condition of the soil, the nature of the building, problems with access or the wider environmental concerns. One size certainly doesn’t fit all in piling. We’ll discuss all aspects of your needs with you before drawing up a bespoke contract that enables us to deliver the solution you require in the best possible way.

4. We Have Multiple Accreditations

Accreditations by professional bodies provide a clear demonstration that a company satisfy exacting standards in areas such as technical ability, quality management, health and safety, environmental, training, and insurance and financial audit. U&M is accredited by five of the leading professional bodies in construction, and we’re constantly working to raise our bar still further.

5. You Don’t Have to Take Our Word for It

In the course of our forty years of experience, U&M has delighted large numbers of customers with our expertise, professionalism and standards of service. A small selection of recent testimonials is available on our website, and we can supply a larger range if you need further reassurance.

If you want to know more about why U&M is your best choice as your piling contractor, you’re very welcome to get in touch with us.

Ten Advantages of Driven Piling

Of the two main methods of inserting piles to support foundations, driving is the preferred method across most of Europe. In the UK, though, there’s a stubborn loyalty to the more traditional technique of boring, also known as drilling.

While bored piles certainly have their place, the advantages of driven piles are clear for the majority of situations. Instead of creating a hole and then filling it with grout or cement, driving involves pushing a metal tube into the soil. This is then filled while in situ and can be withdrawn when the filling has solidified.

Here are ten advantages of driven piling.

1. Precasting Piles

Piles can be precast in a variety of sizes and shapes and brought to the site, helping work to proceed faster.

2. Extra Strength

Because driving compacts the adjacent soil, the pile will be more securely fixed into the ground. Its load-bearing capacity will, therefore, be significantly increased, whereas boring techniques can occasionally lead to subsidence.

3. No Spoil

Unlike boring, driving piles doesn’t involve excavating any soil. This means that no spoil will accrue on the site, making it far easier to keep the site neat and tidy.

4. Suitable for Sites with Groundwater

On some sites, it isn’t advisable to bore holes in case of groundwater. Because driving doesn’t create an empty hole at any point, this isn’t a problem.

5. Maintaining Shape

Unlike bored piles, driven piles don’t bulge in soft ground. It’s also rare that they’ll be damaged when subsequent piles are installed.

6. No Curing Time

Because driven piles don’t need time to be cured, they can be installed on the site in their natural sequence. This makes the process more efficient, saving time and cost.

7. Superior Structural Strength

Driven piles will tend to have greater structural strength than bored piles, with high levels of lateral and bending resistance. This makes them suitable for challenging conditions, as well as for more normal use.

8. Shorter Piles

Because driven piles tend to adhere better to the sides, it’s often possible to use shorter piles to achieve the same results.

9. More Eco-Friendly

The combination of more efficient deliveries to the site with no need to dispose of spoil reduces the CO2 footprint of driven piles.

10. Cost Effective

All of this combines to make driving piles a more cost-effective technique than the alternatives. That’s better piles for less money — a win-win situation.

You’re very welcome to get in touch with us if you want to know more about the advantages of driven piling.

Structural Repair — Bring Your Property Back to Health and Safety Standards

If your property is showing signs of structural damage, the worst thing you can do is leave it alone. Furthermore, hope everything will be all right. If you’re a landlord renting out a property, you have a legal obligation to ensure that it’s structurally safe and meets all Health & Safety requirements. In any case, any property owner would be liable if a collapsing building were to cause any injury or any damage to other properties.

What Are the Signs that You May Need Structural Repairs?

The most common causes of structural damage are subsidence, failure or damage to building materials, and poorly restrained walls, although it can also be caused by a traumatic impact. Crucial signs to look out for include:

  • substantial cracks in the walls, either internally or externally
  • door or window frames pulling away from the walls
  • bulging brickwork on the walls
  • sloping floors
  • leaning chimney stacks

If you notice any of these, it’s vital to call in a structural engineer or a company specialising in structural repairs to find out what needs to be done.


If the problem is subsidence caused by poor soil quality or excavations beneath the building, the usual remedy is to have the foundations underpinned. This can be done by adding an extra layer of concrete beneath the existing foundations, but the more popular method today is piling. Here, piles are driven or bored down to a more secure level, allowing them to support the foundations.

In most cases, underpinning the foundations will prevent any further deterioration. However, it may also be necessary to repair damage already done, and this may need various methods.

Repairing the Structure

If the problem hasn’t been caused by subsidence, or if the subsidence has caused structural damage that won’t right itself naturally, a number of techniques are available. These include:

  • crack stitching to repair failed building materials, using stainless steel or resin grout
  • replacement of cavity wall ties, sometimes without having to replace the old ones
  • resin repair and replacement to strengthen structural timbers
  • replacement of lintels without any demolition needed

Structural repairs may seem expensive. However, in many cases (especially in the case of damage through impact) the costs may be covered by your building insurance. In any case, it’s cheaper than writing off the building — or risking legal action.

If you have any suspicions that your property may need structural repair, feel free to get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to have a look at it.

Piling — The Way It Works

In recent decades, piling has become the method of choice for the majority of underpinning needs. Compared with other methods, it’s quicker, less disruptive, requires less concrete and spoil disposal and is therefore much friendlier on the environment. It can also provide ‘stronger’ underpinning in more poor-quality soils.

What Is Piling?

Piles are either metal or concrete shafts which are inserted into the ground to distribute the load of a structure down to a secure sub-surface layer. They’ve been traditionally used for building large structures, but piling is now widely used in underpinning solutions, although more traditional methods still have their place.

Piles can be either driven straight into the ground or concrete poured into drilled holes. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and one is usually recommended for a given project and ground condition.

Why Use Piling?

If your home is at risk of subsidence, it may need to be underpinned. This could be because the soil quality is weak, there’s a high water table or there are old excavations beneath it.

Piling has the big advantage over other methods of underpinning that the piles reach down much further into the ground. This means they can be anchored in a stronger layer, redistributing the weight of the building down to a level that can hold it.

At one time, the disadvantage of piling was that it required large, disruptive machinery, which wasn’t practical in a domestic building. Modern mini-piles, however, use far more manageable machinery that causes relatively little disruption.

What Are the Types of Piling?

Broadly, piling can be divided into two types. Driving piles, which can focus the power either at the top or toe of the pile, is best suited to soft, squeezing soil. Among the options for driven piles are:

  • Steel Cased Bottom Driven Piles, where the energy is delivered directly to the toe, are an extremely efficient system. This means the machines can be relatively small, so this approach suits confined spaces.
  • Steel Cased Grundomat Driven Piles are powered by compressed air. Sections of casing are inserted and welded together, causing less vibration than other forms of driving.

With augered piles, a hole is bored first and then filled with (reinforced) concrete or grout to make the pile. This tends to have the advantage of causing less vibration than driving. Options include:

  • Sectional Auger Mini Piles are very versatile, especially in restricted spaces. Here, multiple flight sections are inserted.
  • A Grout Injected Continuous Flight Auger is drilled in a single flight or hollow stem. This supports the sides of the hole throughout the process.
  • Helifix Dixie Pile which is a helix ‘screwed’ into the ground providing end bearing capabilities under each helix

If you want to know more about how piling could help you, feel free to give us a call.