This issue creates the most concern. Many old buildings are showing signs of some previous movement, but the issue is whether it is an ongoing problem.
As part of the survey, I will assess how the different elements of the building are tied in and supported and whether further action is needed. I will analyse soil maps and give advice as to the likelihood of foundation-related movement.
In the Fens, to the east of our region in particular, the silty clay and peat soils can result in subsidence. Older properties were usually built without adequate foundations to cope with the movement in these weak soils and this can result in cracking. This can be an ongoing problem, particularly if there are nearby trees, leaking drains etc.
Sometimes movement or weakness is not obvious until it is addressed properly; a roof structure may be undersized or need strengthening. Fairly minor deterioration or weakness in one element can result in overloading and stress in another. Ongoing movement may require significant and costly repair, but equally evidence of movement may require no action or only minor maintenance.
Poor or ill-advised repairs can weaken a building. A house I surveyed in Peterborough, where the buyer had been advised by the agent that a survey would be a waste of money, had a chimney breast which had been partly removed to create space and the rest inadequately supported. This had resulted in significant weakening of the structure and movement which if left would have resulted in the collapse of the rear supporting wall.
The buyer needs to be fully informed before purchase but equally should not be put off unnecessarily by issues which have not be fully or properly analysed. It is too easy to jump to conclusions unless adequate time and attention is given to a building during a comprehensive survey.
At Gowers Surveyors we specialise in high quality surveys. We’ll point out the good and bad, putting it all into context, so you can move forward with the purchase, with confidence.
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