Spotting subsidence

(11 Posts)
Poppyseed3333 Thu 14-Mar-13 18:10:42

We are currently looking for our forever family home. We are hoping to find a period property but nearly every one we look at seems to have signs of some movement.

How to we separate historical movement from ongoing subsidence. If you were to write a list of signs what would you include.

So far we are checking

Doors- that they open/close
Windows- that they are not wonky and open close.
Cracks - especially diagonal ones from the windows
Guttering in good working order.
General maintenance to the bricks
Bowing walls
Large trees

Anything else?

skandi1 Thu 14-Mar-13 20:34:33

It's much better to pay for a structural survey carried out by a structural engineer.

This will give you certainty.

Poppyseed3333 Thu 14-Mar-13 21:00:27

Thanks for the advice. We have paid out for structural engineers in the past. But we just seem to only view houses with problems. Maybe we should stop holding out for the dream of a period house

It's obviously costly to have to put out of a sale so after signs that might alert us to potential problems early on. Maybe we are more thorough than the average buyers

Oreocrumbs Thu 14-Mar-13 21:18:37

You have the main points already for what to look for. You can add to take a ball, to see if the floor slopes and a coin to put in any cracks. Also have a bounce on the floor joists to check they are not spongy.

But pretty much all old houses will have signs of movement. They all move to some degree or other.

It is part of the charm of an old house. You will need a structural survey to tell you what is what, and it is not always something terrible!

What you could do is take a local builder with you on a second viewing and they will be able to give you an idea of what looks like needs attention, and what that entails and costs.

Often there can be a simple solution that is affordable.

This is not a substitiute for a proper survey by any means and you really should get one - but it would help you have a better idea of what you are offering on before you pull out a chunk of money to pay for surveys.

Also remember that if the survey does throw up something you can go back and use that to renegotiate the price, or make a condition on the sale that the vendors complete XX work.

Poppyseed3333 Thu 14-Mar-13 21:43:13

Thank you that's really great advice. It seems to be the approach we taking, so I think we just need to keep it up.

The last property we nearly bought was amazing, but I suspect it was more than historical movement. There were cracks in the very new plaster work. One of the walls had been recently rebuilt, but the owners claimed they had done no work to the property. There was also some very large trees in close proximity to the house and it was London clay, so all in all I think it was too much for us to risk.

Lots of nice houses out there still, haven't given up on a quirky house just yet!

AllBellyandBoobs Thu 14-Mar-13 22:31:42

I live in a Victorian property and we have cracks all over the place, especially at the moment because we've had the heating on a lot and we've been running a dehumidifier. They look terrible now but they'll close up a bit once the heating is off. Always do. Having said that, the house has been underpinned in the past smile

Poppyseed3333 Thu 14-Mar-13 22:37:13

In many ways I would prefer an underpinned house. At least you know what you are dealing with. Did you know your house was underpinned or did you have to do it since buying?

AllBellyandBoobs Thu 14-Mar-13 22:52:55

No, we bought it knowing it was underpinned. The survey suggested there had been no new movement and the insurers were happy enough that we didn't need some ridiculously expensive cover. I did panic when we first moved in whenever i saw a new crack appear but I now know that old houses do that and it's largely an aesthetic problem

PolterGoose Fri 15-Mar-13 20:00:27

Do some reading up on old houses and traditional building methods. An old house with lime mortar and lime plaster inside can cope with a lot of movement. Modern cement mortars and renders, and gypsum plaster, can't.

Elansofar Sat 16-Mar-13 19:01:07

Hi. This sounds mad but have you tried looking at any books on subsistence and what to look for. Check out the RICS books web site or consider a trip to a university library (one that runs building surveying degree courses). This is how surveyors learn their trade.

DizzyHoneyBee Sat 16-Mar-13 20:19:29

Our house is built on a raft because there is a lot of subsidence in the area, some houses on our road had to be underpinned. We have windows that are hard to close but they haven't changed in 5 years, the floor slopes in one room downstairs but there are no cracks in the walls but there are gaps that are uneven between the floor and skirting board. You really need a structural survey.

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