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Devon Underpinning and Foundations
Devon Foundations Underpinning
01297 678138
Foundations & Underpinning
Devon Underpinning and Foundations
Foundation Specialists
Tel. 01392 202946
Exeter Structural Engineer Devon

Exeter structural engineers offer advice on subsidence, what it is, how to spot it and how to fix it.

Subsidence is where the ground around the foundations of a property moves. This can cause structural damage to the building. Subsidence can be very expensive to fix, so it is always best to get expert advice before you agree for a lot of expensive work to be carried out.

Subsidence can be caused by several factors, but the most common are:

  • Mining activity has been carried out in the past near or under the property. This will collapse eventually as the shaft props are not maintained, this causes a corresponding volume of earth of shift. This is an issue in certain parts of the country, and it is always worth checking with a qualified surveyor about how to check on this. This isn't a problem in Exeter, but other man-made voids in the ground can collapse and cause a problem.
  • With clay rich soils, sometimes the water table can drop, especially during to a long period of dry weather. It can also be traced back to tree root drawing water from the soil. This lack of moisture in the soil causes it to shift, settle, swell or contract. As the soil moves it pulls at the foundations causing structural damage to buildings. Different clays are affected by water at different rates.
  • Water can wash the soil away. This is occasionally a issue with particularly heavy or repeated floods. It is, however, more often caused by a leaking drainpipe or water supply pipe. Even if the rate of flow is quite low it can go undetected for a long time and move a surprisingly large amount of soil. This then causes the remaining soil to move into the vacated space.
  • Tectonic movement, also know as earthquakes. However we are fortunate enough in the UK not to be close enough to a fault line for this to be an issue.


Underpinning involves digging around the foundations and supporting it with additional concrete. This will usually prevent any further movement as the property will be more fully supported. Underpinning can be a lengthy, costly and disruptive procedure. Bear in mind that depending on the size and layout of your property it can cost anywhere upward of £5,000 to carry out a proper underpinning.

As an estimate, only around a quarter of all properties which suffer from some form of subsidence actually need underpinning. The Institution of Structural Engineers recommend underpinning only as a last resort. As professional members of IStructE, Jon Oates can advise you on the correct means of protecting your home or business from further damage if you are affected by subsidence.

Diagnosing subsidence

Always remember: if subsidence affects your property, it is best diagnosed early. Also, don't panic, subsidence can usually be rectified and needn't cost the Earth.


Exeter Underpinning and Foundations

Exeter Structural Engineers

Exeter Subsidence Repairs

Exeter Foundations Specialists

Woodhouse Farm,
EX13 5UF
Tel/fax: 01297 678138

A building may be suffering from subsidence if it displays the following symptoms;

  • Newly appearing or suddenly expanding cracks through your interior plaster work or external brickwork
  • Doors or windows that start to stick for no reason, especially in dry weather.
  • Ripples occurring in dry wallpaper.
  • Noticeably displaced floorboards, against especially in dry weather.

If you notice these problems (any of them) and there is no obvious reason for them to occur. It is best to get a specialist to look into it, as soon as possible.

Your buildings insurance should cover occurrences of subsidence. Most reputable insurers will always aim to be helpful, and will offer all assistance you may need with a claim. They may recommend a particular specialist or may allow you to find your own. The purpose of a foundation survey in these instances will be to establish whether subsidence has affected the property or not. It will also determine what the most likely cause of it is and suggest the most suitable remedy.

The initial diagnosis will often be carried out by a chartered surveyor, they may pass the job over to a structural engineer, especially if the problem is not straightforward. As chartered structural engineers Jon Oateshave the training, expertise and experience to handle any subsidence problem.

It may also be that you will need a specialist geological or drain survey to be carried out. The moving soil can shove with great force and crack drains or water mains. Of course this may have been the problem in the first place. Once again always check that your insurance policy will cover the cost of any investigation and repair of your pipe work.

We can deal with your insurance company for you, helping with any claim you need to make. We will also design and manage any work that is needed to fix the problem and ensure no further damage occurs.

Determining whether there actually is a problem can take time, unfortunately it's not just a question of lifting the house up and looking underneath. Don't immediately panic if some cracks appear. Rarely is there any cause for alarm unless the cracks appear suddenly and start more than 3mm wide (an eighth of an inch).

The time involved in solving a case of subsidence varies on the cause and the specifics of the property affected. It can be quite a lengthy process, taking up to two years to complete. But again this depends a lot on the details.

Structural Engineer Devon
Exeter Structural Engineer
Exeter Strcutural Engineer
Devon Structural Engineer

Exeter Structural Engineers, Jon Oates offer a wide range of services, From underpinning to new build designs for domestic and commercial properties across the South West.

Devon Underpinning and Foundations
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