Subsidence is the lowering or gradual collapsing of earth. A property built on ground suffering from subsidence can have its foundations severely compromised, and that can lead to cracks in walls and, in serious cases, structural instability. The damage this phenomenon can cause can be very costly to repair, so you need to know whether or not your insurance policy includes coverage for subsidence.

How Is Subsidence Caused?

In particularly dry areas with low water tables, ground with a high concentration of clay, chalk or sand can crack and slip over time. Subsidence can also occur when the roots of large trees and shrubs grow into a property’s foundations. However, the most common form of significant subsidence in buildings is caused by historic mining activity. Old mine shafts can undermine the solidity of the ground, and that can lead to movement in a building’s foundations. In serious cases, mine shafts can completely give way, swallowing up entire homes in the process.

How to Spot Subsidence

Subsidence can manifest itself in several different ways. Cracks of more than 3mm should be investigated in detail by a structural engineer, as well as any cracks that continue to widen over time. Wallpaper can suddenly become rippled if the walls it covers are moving, and ill-fitting doors and windows could be a sign that the property has shifted relatively recently.

What Should You Do if You Suspect Subsidence?

The first thing you should do if you suspect subsidence is occurring is to check your property insurance policy. However, subsidence is not usually included as a named peril in the average property insurance policy. In many cases, mine subsidence is often referred to in a policy’s exclusions statement. If you are covered, a surveyor will visit your property in order to assess the damage and ascertain the cost of halting the subsidence and the cost of repairing your property.

Consider Expansive Soil Coverage

It is estimated that around half of America’s homes are built on areas of expansive soil, and that makes them all susceptible to varying degrees of subsidence. While some insurers will offer coverage for subsidence, such coverage will often be impossible in areas prone to this phenomenon. The most prudent course of action is to arrange for a professional inspection of the soil and surrounding land before purchasing a property. Otherwise, you could be faced with a huge repair bill that your existing home insurance provider will not settle.

The long-term effects of subsidence can be devastating. In some cases, the structural damage to a home can be too severe to repair once it has been identified, so vigilance is the best defense. If you’re considering a house purchase, pay for a geological survey before any funds are exchanged, and check out the United States Department of Agriculture website for more details.

In Texas, subsidence is most common around Houston and the bay areas. However, Texas ground shifts constantly and it can happen anywhere. If you’re concerned about the Round Rock home insurance implications of subsidence, call Integrity Network Insurance Group today at 512-989-6006, and one of our experienced insurance agents will be happy to discuss your options with you.
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