Underpinning: what impact might it have on your home insurance?

If your house has subsidence and needs underpinning, you may be wondering what effect it will have on your home insurance. Let’s take a look at the main points.

If your house has subsidence and needs underpinning, you may be wondering what effect it will have on your home insurance. Let’s take a look at the main points.

Chris King
From the Home team
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Posted 26 JANUARY 2021

What does underpinning a house mean and why do people do it?

Underpinning is a process that strengthens the foundations of a building to make it more secure. It’s often used when a house has subsidence – that’s to say, the ground beneath the building moves or sinks downwards.

How much does it cost to have your house underpinned?

The cost of underpinning a house depends on a whole range of factors, such as the size and the extent of work that needs doing. Generally speaking, you could be looking at somewhere in the region of £15,000. If you live in a large house, or the situation is complicated, that figure could be far higher.

Can you insure an underpinned house?

Insurance providers can be wary of insuring a house that’s been underpinned, as it’s a sign of structural weakness. However, finding buildings insurance for underpinned houses shouldn’t be too hard as numerous providers offer this type of cover. But it could be more expensive.

Should I buy a property that’s been underpinned?

If you’ve fallen in love with a house that’s been underpinned, one of the first things to consider doing is getting a full structural survey. This will tell you whether there are any ongoing issues affecting the property.

Bear in mind that there’s a risk the property could be harder to sell in the future. It’s impossible to generalise, though. In some areas where subsidence is common, people aren’t so concerned about an underpinned property. And remember that just because a property is underpinned, it doesn’t mean it’s suffered from subsidence – although it does pay to be wary.

If you do buy an underpinned property, don’t forget to have your buildings insurance in place from the day you exchange, rather than waiting until you move in. As soon as the exchange takes place, the property becomes your responsibility.

How do I know if my house has subsidence?

If you’re worried that your house might have subsidence, here are a few tell-tale signs to look for:

  • Cracks in the building. Not all types of cracks are a sign of subsidence. Most of them are caused by settling – especially in new-builds. But keep an eye on any cracks that appear quite suddenly, around doors and windows. Subsidence cracks are often diagonal and appear wider at the top.
  • Windows and doors won’t open. If you find you’re struggling to open and close doors, it could be that subsidence has caused the building to shift. Doors can swell and shrink with changes in temperature and moisture levels, or it may be that a couple of screws in the hinges need tightening. But you should contact a building expert if you have any concerns.

Is my home at risk from subsidence?

Some houses are more at risk from subsidence than others. Risk factors may include:

  • The type of soil you have. Clay soil is a particular risk as it can shrink and crack in dry weather, making the ground unstable. Clay is more common in the south-east.
  • Water damage. Leaking drains can soften the underlying ground.
  • Trees close to the house. They drain the moisture from the soil, causing it to dry out and sink.
  • Living in a period property. Older houses tend to be at higher risk of subsidence, as their foundations aren’t always as deep as new-builds.

What should I do if I think my house has subsidence?

Call your insurance provider. The sooner subsidence is dealt with, the better.

Can you get a mortgage on a house that has been underpinned?

Typically, a lender can offer a mortgage for an underpinned house – if the structural survey report proves the work has been finished to a high standard. Also, there should be no ongoing issues with the property’s structure. A house with subsidence that’s not been repaired may be more difficult to get a mortgage for.

How do you know if your house needs underpinning?

The most obvious signs to look out for are large deep cracks in walls, especially on the outside. But you can spot first signs of subsidence inside, too. These cracks often appear around windows and doors. But be mindful that not all cracking comes from subsidence. For example, fine lines around the door can appear through natural house settlement.

Do you have to declare subsidence when selling a house?

When selling a house, you should let the estate agent and buyer know that your home has been affected by subsidence in the past. If you have made a claim for subsidence in the past, you may want to pass on the insurer’s name, so the new buyer can continue the cover in case another subsidence claim needs to be made in the future.

How do I get cover for subsidence and underpinning?

The ideal way to find the right insurance policy for you is to compare quotes from a range of insurance providers. All you need to do is give us a few details about yourself and your property and we’ll do the rest.

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