How serious is building subsidence


Many people worry about the long term costs and safety of buying a house with subsidence. Subsidence refers to unstable building foundations which cause parts of the structure to slowly sink downwards. As with all building issues, levels of subsidence vary greatly, with home owners having to endure great costs and distress in more severe cases. If you are a landlord, subsidence is never a welcome sign for functional property management, so if you suspect your property has subsidence or the problem is getting worse, spotting the signs early may help you avoid larger worries down the road.


The most common causes of subsidence are due to geological, natural causes. Clay soils are a common culprit for the problem as they lock in moisture for long periods of time which then causes it to expand. Once dried, it then shrinks, making the foundations of a building unstable. These soils are usually found along river banks so the location of your property can be a...

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Sinking concrete floors are an indication of building subsidence (when the ground sinks due to movement of underground material). A building can sink at various points or the collapse can be spread across the entire footprint of the foundation, depending on where the affected ground is and how large an area it is. This can be very serious, and if left untended is likely to worsen, creating further building subsidence and other consequent damage.

There are many different causes of subsidence and various contributing factors. All involve some sort of change in the ground, which, in turn, generates movement of the soil. For example, droughts dry the ground, resulting in the soil (especially clay) contracting. Seismic activity shakes the ground, often resulting in liquefaction which ‘squeezes’ liquid up from the ground. Excavation and construction, even heavy traffic and machinery vibration, can move, displace and alter the condition of the ground. As well, different types of...

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Subsidence Information for Homeowners

Special publication 26:

Subsidence Above Inactive Coal Mines: Information for the Homeowner

by J.E. Turney

Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado Mined Land Reclamation
Division Inactive Mine Reclamation Program
Denver, Colorado
Department of Natural Resources
State of Colorado

This report was funded by the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Division, Inactive Mine Reclamation Program Through U.S. Government Grant No. G5137081

Table of Contents


The dictionary defines subsidence as the action of sinking and settling. The earth’s surface can subside because of underground mining.

Subsidence or the sinking of the ground surface due to mining starts with the removal of coal from underground (Figure 1). Gravity and the weight of the overlaying rock causes the layers of rock to shift and sink downward into the void...

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When looking for appropriate subsidence cover, insurers may ask for specific details about the property. To help you prepare for getting the right insurance we’ve listed a few example questions :

How long ago did the property suffer from subsidence, heave or landslip? What was the cause of the subsidence, heave or landslip? How was the problem fixed? Has there been any movement since? Do you have any documentation to confirm that there have been no problems since? If there was a claim made, how much was this for?

When getting insurance for a building with subsidence, insurers may ask to see some of the following documents:

Structural Engineers Reports
There are two main types:-

A specific structural inspection - This report provides a visual inspection of a particular structural problem or concern. Often parts of the property not related to the specific problem may not be inspected. General structural inspection - An engineer or surveyor will inspect the...
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Subsidence usually refers to problems whereby a building is damaged by a failure in the ground. Settlement refers to a failure of the components of a building.

Signs of subsidence and settlement in buildings are very common and can be the result of many causes, (sometimes a combination of more than one cause). In some cases a building can reach a state of equilibrium and if the problem is not too serious nothing further will need to be done. The main reason for an investigation will be to establish the cause of the problem, whether it is likely to get worse and if so what actions should be considered to rectify the situation.

To get estimates and contact details for Structural Engineers who can inspect subsidence please fill in the following form giving us as much information as possible. We will instantly email you estimates and contact details. Alternatively, call our freephone number on 0800 0147 453.

Please Proceed...

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buildings insurance: subsidence

This section of the website describes how we approach complaints involving buildings insurance disputes about subsidence.


Subsidence is the downward movement of the site on which a building stands -where the soil beneath the building's foundations is unstable. The movement is not caused by the weight of the building.

Most household insurance policies - and some commercial property insurance policies - cover loss or damage caused by subsidence, heave and landslip. However, they only cover the cost of repairing the loss or damage. They do not cover the cost of preventing further subsidence.

This means the cost of repairing damage (such as cracks) to the building's superstructure is covered. But the cost of stopping the building from moving in the future is not covered.

In reality, to ensure an effective repair that will last for a reasonable period of time, the insurer will usually have to carry...

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Experts: Fukushima ‘ice wall’ could destroy reactor units, turn site into swamp — Risk of fractures, ground movement, building subsidence — Must be frozen for 200 years — Officials: High cliffs just behind plant may become unstable — Gov’t: “Observable heaving” and deformations possible (VIDEO)

AP, Apr 29, 2016 (emphasis added): Fukushima No. 1 plant’s ice wall won’t be watertight, says chief architect… Even if the frozen barrier… works as envisioned, it will not completely block all water… because of gaps in the wall… said Yuichi Okamura, a chief architect… Tepco resorted to [this] after it became clear it had to do something drastic… [Okamura said,] “We have come up against many unexpected problems.” The water woes are just part of the many obstacles… No one has even seen the nuclear debris…

Huffington Post, Apr 1, 2016: ‘Ice Wall’ Is Japan’s Last-Ditch Effort To Contain Fukushima Radiation… [It's] a desperate attempt to stop radiation that’s been leaking from...

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Subsidence Index | Coal Mining Index | Diagnostic Characteristics | Geographic Occurrence | Investigation & Mitigation | Key Contacts & Expert Advice | Photo Gallery | Essential References & Further Reading | Definitions & Glossary |

Subsidence of the ground surface can be regarded as ground movement that takes place due to the removal of mineral resources from within the ground, whether they be solid, liquid or gas, in other words due to mining of metals or stratiform deposits like coal or the abstraction of water, oil or natural gas. Subsidence is an inevitable consequence of mining, however the effects of subsidence depend on the type of deposit, the geological conditions, in particular the nature and structure of the overlying rocks or soils, the mining method and any mitigative action

Unfortunately, subsidence can have serious effects on surface structures, buildings, services and communications, and can damage agricultural land through the disruption of...

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Shanghai’s skyline glitters with sleek financial skyscrapers and glossy residential towers, but below the city’s lustrous facade lies an enduring problem. Thanks to mass urban migration, soft soil and global warming, Shanghai is sinking, and has been for decades. Since 1921, China’s most populous city has descended more than 6 ft. Across China, land subsidence affects more than 50 cities, where 49,000 sq. mi. of land have dropped at least 8 in.

It’s not just the numbers that are frightening: the problem has manifested itself tragically and more frequently of late. Earlier this month, a young woman unexpectedly fell through the sidewalk into a 20-ft.-deep sinkhole while walking along the street in Xi’an. In April, a woman died after falling through the sidewalk into a pit of boiling water in Beijing. Scientists have continuously warned of dire repercussions if the government does not implement more stringent guidelines for urban planning, water usage and carbon emissions —...

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Subsidence or Settlement? Either way there's no need to panic!

If you find a crack in your home, or have a Valuation Survey or Homebuyers Survey and the surveyor identifies cracking, you need to get a Chartered Structural Engineer's Report to clarify the problem. Cracking to buildings can be caused by many things and in most cases we will be able to spot the probable reason during our inspection. If the cracking is suspected of being due to subsidence then we can help you resolve the problem. Before covering how we are able to help it is worth you understanding exactly what subsidence is.

What is the difference?
With subsidence the supporting soil moves away from the structure taking away its support and allowing the structure to move. Settlement is where the structure moves the soil due to application of load.

Settlement normally occurs early in the life of a property whereas subsidence can occur at any time. In a large part of the South...

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Baldwin Hills Reservoir after 1963 failure, view south. The gash through the dam corresponds to the alignment of a fault.

The Baldwin Hills Dam disaster occurred on December 14, 1963, when the dam containing the Baldwin Hills Reservoir suffered a catastrophic failure and flooded the residential neighborhoods surrounding it. It began with signs of lining failure, followed by increasingly serious leakage through the dam at its east abutment. After three hours the dam breached, with a total release of 250 million US gallons (950,000 m3), resulting in five deaths and the destruction of 277 homes. Vigorous rescue efforts averted a greater loss of life.

The reservoir was located on a low hilltop in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, California. It was constructed between 1947 and 1951 by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power directly on an active fault line, which was subsidiary to the well known nearby Newport–Inglewood Fault. The underlying geologic strata were...

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Subsidence in an old building can be indicated by long, wide cracks.

Rising damp will make other damp problems worse — and mould is a key indicator.

Dry rot can take hold in warm, unseen parts of a building and can be difficult to see for some time.

Subsidence, rising damp, and dry rot are the big three when it comes to bad news about your home, but there are some cracks that you should simply never paper over. Let’s stare these villains down and take a look at the options in dealing with such daunting challenges.


Subsidence is downward movement in the supporting structure of the house, its walls and foundations. With even a slight sag below ground, small signs become apparent above ground, and they can be discreet. The earth under the house may have slightly given way because of the soil make up, or because of underground water activity from drains or subterranean streams.

Trees with roots too close to the foundation may...

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