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Ask an expert

The following frequently asked questions are listed below to assist you when you are thinking of contacting us. Whatever the issue please feel free to contact us using our contact us page. We will respond to you as quickly as possible. Remember to complete as much information as possible. Our response will be more effective if we have more information!

How do I know if my house has subsidence?

Subsidence manifests itself as cracking in the external and possibly internal walls of the house. Progressive subsidence tends to generate diagonal cracks and such cracks are visible inside and outside at the same time and in the same location. It is unlikely there will only be cracks at first floor level. Subsidence cracks can often be followed down to ground level. It is rare for subsidence to generate just one crack in isolation; there will be other cracks and/or distortions. Subsidence can also cause distortion to windows and doors and reduce their functionality. Another problem is whether or not a crack in a wall is recent. All buildings move and crack. It is quite common for cracks to be identified when they have in fact been present for many years. If you are worried your house is suffering from subsidence then contact us and we will be able to help.

Repairs to your home following damage caused by a sudden event such as vehicular impact, escape of water or storm?

If you have suffered damage to your house or garden, you might be tempted to accept the first offer that comes along, but this doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll be pleased with the result. Be prepared for the dodgy cowboy builders and repair companies who may try and exploit the situation. Never agree to have work done by someone who knocks on your door. If you believe the damage needs dealing with urgently speak to your insurance company first. If you need to be represented or need a professional to supervise the repairs and also ensure that repairs are being reinstated under the terms of your insurance cover then contact us.

Why do I need an independent chartered engineer?

You require a chartered engineer to diagnose whether you have subsidence or any other type of structural problem. Anyone can call themselves a surveyor or an engineer. Check that the person inspecting your building has either CEng MICE or CEng MIStructE as a qualification. Contact us to get a qualified professional to inspect your property if you suspect you have subsidence or structural building defect damage.

What is monitoring and how long does it take?

Monitoring refers to the measurement of cracks and distortions in a property to determine if structural movements are taking place. Typically, such monitoring is restricted to using tell-tales (studs) fixed across certain cracks in the walls. Level monitoring is another method for determining if a property is stable or continuing to move. This technique in most cases can be completed by simply taking relative levels around the building. If your property needs to be monitored then we can monitor it for you.

Why do my trees have to be cut down?

Clays shrink and swell depending on how much moisture they have in them. Trees extract moisture and cause shrinkage and foundations, therefore, move down and maybe up again and cracks appear. Removing the tree is an appropriate remedy. Taking the tree out enables the clay to take up moisture and the clay swells literally lifting the house back close to its starting position. Once this has taken place, the house should remain stable and foundation underpinning is likely to be needed. We can arrange for a tree report to be prepared for you or we can appoint one of our recognised tree contractors to remove the tree for you. Just get in touch and contact us.

What is underpinning?

Underpinning is defined as the downward extension of a foundation to a firm formation within the ground. The purpose is to transfer the building loads to more stable soils that exist at greater depth. Depending on the depth required and the extent of superstructure damage, underpinning may be undertaken in the “traditional” form which is with mass concrete. Where the extended foundation needs to reach beyond say 2.0m, piling is the preferred method. Contact us if you require design assistance.

What is crack stitching?

Crack stitching is a method for repairing cracks in masonry. To make sure the bond and integrity of the masonry is properly reinstated, cracks are raked out and short lengths of stainless steel are embedded into the mortar to transfer the load and stresses across the broken joints. The repair is simple and is well within the capabilities of a competent general builder. We can design and supervise repairs where crack stitching is required.

What is thermal cracking?

Thermal cracking affects most masonry structures. All building materials move as a function of expansion and contraction caused by variations in temperature. These movements generate stresses within the materials. When the stresses reach a certain level, the material cracks and effectively forms a joint to allow the expansion and contraction to continue. Please contact us if you need us to reassure you that the crack has just occurred as a result of thermal movement.

What is roof spread?

Roof spread is a problem where a timber roof becomes distorted because there are inadequacies in its design. Sometimes roof spread happens because the roof covering has been changed from slates to heavier concrete tiles. Roof spread is not a sudden event and collapse is very unlikely unless it is left for a long time. If you have concerns, then please contact us.

What is the Party Wall etc Act 1996?

The Party Wall Act is a piece of legislation that requires building owners to advise their neighbours of certain works that could affect a party or boundary wall or any building within certain distances of certain types of work. The Act confers rights to building owners and adjoining owners but fundamentally it seeks co-operation between the parties.
Where work to a property fall within the Act, party wall notices are served. Provided there is agreement between the parties for the work to be carried out, the requirements of the Act are fulfilled. If there is disagreement, then the Act sets out the procedure to be followed to resolve any dispute. Accordingly, if there is a dispute, repairs to a property may be delayed. If you need further advice or assistance then please contact us.