What is settlement, subsidence and heave?

Settlement is the normal downwards movement of a building into the ground simply as a result of its own weight on the ground.  Most new buildings experience some settlement during the first year or two after construction until they finally stabilise.  If major structural alterations are carried out on an existing property, again some minor settlement may occur while the ground readjusts itself to the new weight pattern of the property. Settlement may cause minor cracking but this is usually not serious or progressive.

Subsidence is the downward movement of a building foundation caused by loss of support of the site beneath the foundation.  In other works, subsidence is caused by the ground moving away from the underside of the foundations of a property.  This may be due to a variety of reasons.

Heave is, in simple terms, the opposite of subsidence and is caused by the ground pressing up against the foundations of a property and forcing the foundations upwards.

The effect of subsidence or heave on a property is that it may develop cracks or may distort – sometimes it does both.

Structural Engineers are the most appropriate experts to advise on subsidence/heave matters. The IStructE advise that clients need to ensure the Engineer visiting your property is a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers as not all people who claim to be Engineers are.

All our Engineers are Chartered and members of the Institution of Structural Engineers and/or members of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Ground Floor Slab Problems can also include Sulphate Attack