BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Jenny McCudden
"Cracks may be an early warning sign"
 real 56k

Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 12:58 GMT
Flood misery continues for homeowners

Thousands of UK properties suffered flooding
By the BBC's Jenny McCudden

The heavy rain and flooding which has caused so many problems over the last few months is starting to have long-term consequences for house owners.

Thousands of homes across the country are being affected by subsidence and heave, soil movements which cause the foundations of a house to shift.

In some cases, homes have had to be demolished.

Paul Smith: "We decided it would be best to knock the house down"

The Smith family home in Surrey was sinking because of subsidence.

Once the waterlogged soil below the house began to dry out, the foundations started to shrink.

The damage was so bad, it was cheaper to knock the house down than to carry out repairs.

"We got the surveyors in and on their expert advice we decided it would be best to knock the house and rebuild with deeper foundations," said homeowner Paul Smith.

"It was a difficult time for us, but the cracks in the house were so extensive. It was the only option"

I put my life savings into this project - I built the house myself and it's heartbreaking to watch this happen

Michael Windsor
Michael Windsor knows all about the dangers of subsidence.

The former engineer from Rochester in Kent kept this in mind when choosing a plot for his new home.

His lifelong ambition was to build his own home and he chose the spot carefully.

He set about constructing his dream house and completed the project in late 1997.

But within days of moving in, cracks began to appear in the walls of his seven bedroom home.

This problem progressed and now the walls are literally falling apart.

Mr Windsor discovered the problem was due to the condition known as heave.

The walls are literally falling apart

Prolonged rain fall caused the clay under the house to swell and the foundations to expand.

This condition could become more widespread. Experts believe the wettest autumn on record will bring a flood of similar cases across the country.

"I put my life savings into this project. I built the house myself and it's heartbreaking to watch this happen," Mr Windsor said.

The damage to the Windsors' home, which is only three years old, amounts to 130,000 - more than it cost to build.

It is clay-based soils which are at risk from heave and subsidence.

Surveyor William Haines, of Allied Surveyors, said the problem was widespread, but identified the south east as being the area most affected.

"Most of London is built on yellow clay-based soils. Other pockets of clay soils extend as far as Teesside in the north and as far west as Cardiff," he said.

He urged house owners who notice cracks to seek expert advice as it may be an early warning sign.

Few houses on clay soils have to be rebuilt, but for home owners who spot cracks, it may be safer to read between the lines.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories