U&M Group

When Might Structural Repairs Be Needed for a Property?

Monday, June 20th, 2016 AT 09:22AM

Structural damage to your property can seem like a major disaster, but sometimes it’s easier to fix than you might expect. If substantial work is needed, it may be covered by your insurance, and the building will be left strong and sound.


The most common cause of structural damage is subsidence, where the ground has shifted and no longer supports the building as intended. It’s most often shown by substantial cracks in the walls, either inside or outside, or else by the frames of doors and windows pulling away from the walls. The solution will depend on which of various issues is causing the subsidence, so it’s important to have a survey by a structural engineer before making a decision.

Subsidence can happen when the water content of the soil is affected, for instance by leaking drains or tree roots too close to the building. These cases can often be resolved by correcting the cause, such as repairing the drains or pollarding trees. Root barriers of rigid plastic can also be inserted into the soil to prevent roots encroaching too near the building.

Often, though, subsidence is caused by longer-term changes to the soil, or by excavations such as mine-workings under the property, and this generally requires some kind of underpinning of the foundations. Traditionally, this was a long, painstaking process that involved digging beneath the foundations and refilling with concrete. Nowadays, the method usually recommended is mini-piling, where piles driven down to the subsoil provide extra support. This is not only more effective, but also quicker and less disruptive.

Failure of Building Materials

Not all structural damage is caused by problems in the ground. Particularly in an older building, elements like the masonry, woodwork or lintels may have worn out, or the use of substandard materials or methods could lead to problems even in newer structures.

Some problems have relatively straightforward solutions (though they’re still skilled jobs) such as replacing lintels or wooden beams, or inserting new ties for cavity walls. Cracks can also be “stitched”, using resin grout or steel bars, either as a sole solution or in combination with underpinning. On the other hand, if bulging or cracking is caused by poor building techniques, it’s sometimes necessary to rebuild the wall.

The one thing that’s certain is that ignoring any of these problems will result in more problems and a higher cost further down the line. If your property has any of these issues, give us a call and we’ll be happy to offer an assessment.