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Digital Subscriptions > Build It > August 2018 > Subsidence know-how

Subsidence know-how

Most movement in the ground beneath your home is harmless, but more acute shifts can cause damage. Tim Doherty explains how best to tackle this issue
If major cracks appear on a wall, it could be a sign of subsidence

All buildings are subject to fractional but constant movement: bricks, timber and concrete will expand and contract based upon changing environmental conditions over monthly and seasonal cycles. Normally, a building’s superstructure can comfortably accommodate this, but more acute movement may lead to evidential cracks in walls, floors and ceilings.

These are normally categorised as either a failure in the initial design, building settlement or subsidence.

Settlement versus subsidence

Issues with the initial design would be channelled straight back to the architects and engineers, but what about settlement and subsidence? The former describes the compaction of a building’s individual material components under its own weight. Most settlement occurs shortly after it has first been constructed, for example, as materials like timber joists lose a fraction of their moisture content and become squeezed under the weight of the roof structure. A typical building will settle into position over one to 10 years and cracks may manifest where stiffer elements are adjacent to others that are less so.

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About Build It

Build It magazine's new August 2018 issue is packed full of ideas and practical advice to help you successfully create your dream home. Here's our pick of some of the top features this issue: - Cover house - a characterful oak self build home on a garden plot - Design & build special: the companies who can take the stress out of your project - Wow-factor extensions that add space, light & value - Are heat pumps worth the money? - Why you should invest in rooflights - Create a summer-ready outdoor living space ... and more!