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Help - Removal of trees - heave

Question

Hi everyone, 

 

I am about to exchange on a house, 3 bed semi in NW London. The vendors claimed for subsidence in 2018, whereby the experts on behalf of the insurance company believe it was caused by "byroot exacerbated clay shrinkage subsidence". The property suffered cracks to the rear extension, the rear elevation and to a dividing wall. The pattern of damage indicated downward movement to the rear extension. The level of damage to the property was classified as category 2 in accordance with BRE digest 251. 

 

The remedial works included superstructure repair works, and the removal of a large number of trees to the rear (please see pictures attached). 

 

My buildings surveyor noted that it is usually unadvisable to remove the trees in their entirety given the ground is clay and there is an equilibrium between the trees and the house. He also noted it was a particularly hot summer in 2018 and with the buildings damage being minor, it seems like an extreme measure. 

 

My question to the group (and my concern) is the potential for heave in the upcoming years. Given the trees were only removed approx 18 months ago, would you have concerns in purchasing the house. 

 

Appreciate any advice that you may have. 

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Wouldnt touch it with a barge pole. No mention of structural factors such as how the shrinkage affected the structure. Just done  a once over on a friends 1890 3 storey terrace. Drain fractures all down the street from recent piling activity,  with soil washout. All occured in 6 months. Everyone was blaming this one big tree...... Definately suspect. K

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I think the simple question to the insurance company would be can you guarantee there will be no damage from soil heave in the future. if the answer is no - bin it

  

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10 hours ago, Paul Cleaver said:

Superstructure repair works - that vague. Has it been underpinned below the the level of soil dessication.

 

No, no underpinning done or ant work to the foundations. They purely fixed the cracks and put some heli bars in the brickwork to the rear extension. 

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9 hours ago, Paul Cleaver said:

I think the simple question to the insurance company would be can you guarantee there will be no damage from soil heave in the future. if the answer is no - bin it

  

I don't think I can get that kind of guarantee from the insurance company. When I called, they simply said that they employed an "expert" who conducted the analysis and the action took was based on their recommendation. From an insurance point of view, if I purchased the house I will go with he same insurers who would likely cover my for any further subsidence or heave. But, I know heave can be a bigger problem and with the level of moisture in the ground no longer at an equilibrium, it could cause a lot of pain unless they did underpin the foundations. I really love the house hence why trying to find a solution 

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As a home owner in South London with subsidence for the last decade, and neighbours that refuse to remove trees, I know a little.  From what I've learnt heave is unlikely unless the house was predated by the tree and built on severely decicated soil.  The insurers will have monitored the movement, either cracks growth and/or level monitoring and determined it's stable before doing the repairs.  The cosmetic repairs seem standard for that level of damage.

 

I wouldn't be too fussed about heave.  I would be very concerned if there are any large trees remaining close by.  Rough guide, if a tree is as close or closer then it is tall, be concerned.  It does very with soil and species though.  This worry would apply to any house on clay, whether it's had previous subsidence or not.

 

Do stick with the same insurer, if the repairs fail or damage returns notify them quickly and try and get it sorted as a continuation of the previous claim. You absolutely don't want 2 different insurers arguing who is liable (old for not repairing properly Vs new for new claim, if further damage occurs)  Whichever insurer you go with it will be more costly due to the subsidence.  Quite a bit.  

 

All insurers are getting very worried, and trying to back out on claims I reckon, as climate change seems to be making hot dry summers more common and vegetation induced subsidence much more common.  I think this may become a real issue in years to come.  This will be a concern for anyone with a house built on clay with large trees nearby.

 

Finally one of my neighbours had agreed to remove his 2 trees next month.... The other with the biggest tree.... Well I'm talking to a solicitor.

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Certainly will see more clay shrinkage problems if weather of this type continues into next decade.  The BIG problem is mortgage lenders punt house insurance including subsidence cover which means people bang in way more claims than on the Continent. It's a UK problem with big implications. K

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I agree I think we are heading for a big issue, but why are we different to anywhere else?  I don't understand that bit.  Do other countries not normally insure for subsidence?  Eek if that's the case.  Although my own insurers have been of little to no use for the last decade!

I feel like I would have been no worse off if uninsured!

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@neiln  basically its down to us stupid Brits thinking a house is an investment as against where our family will grow up in and stay fr decades.  It rarely occurs in Germany, France, Greece, etc they just use polyfilla.  It was a failure by the Banks and Insurers to realise the consequences of insuring rubbish built overpriced boxes. K

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