However fine your house is, it won’t last long if the foundations are substandard. Even if they were good when the building was put up, many things can compromise them.
What Makes Foundations Fail?
Your foundations could be failing simply because they weren’t that good in the first place. A lot of older houses were built with minimal foundations, which after a hundred years or more might not be doing their job properly.
Usually, however, problems in the foundations derive from the ground either moving or becoming weaker, causing subsidence. Sometimes this is due to a specific problem. For instance, tree roots too close to the house can dry out the soil, or leaking drains can make the soil too damp. These can often be fixed just by pollarding the tree or repairing the drain.
More serious types of subsidence can be longer term, creating a cavity the building partially collapses into. This may be caused by a permanent change in soil quality, or by excavations below the building, such as old mine workings, and these cases require a more far-reaching solution.
How Do You Know There’s a Problem?
You don’t need to dig down to the foundations for signs of trouble. If you find substantial cracks in the building’s structure, it could well be a warning sign.
Some small cracks may be perfectly innocent, especially if the building’s old or a wall has recently been plastered. Larger cracks shouldn’t be ignored, however, especially if they’re around door or window frames, which may also have pulled away from the wall. And, of course, if the building is visibly leaning, don’t delay to take action.
What Can Be Done?
If you suspect the building may be suffering from subsidence, it’s important to call in a Chartered Surveyor to find out where the problem lies. If it’s a specific issue like drains or tree roots, fixing this may be enough.
If the subsistence is chronic, however, you may need to have your foundations underpinned. There are various techniques for this, but the most effective and least disruptive is usually mini-piling. This involves piles being bored or screwed down below the foundations to reach a depth where the soil can take the building’s weight.
The most important thing is under no circumstances ignore signs that there may be problems with your foundations, or what was a building could end up as a pile of rubble. If you think you may have a problem, you’re always welcome to contact us for a chat about your options.