The Signs of Subsidence

Detached House in North West, UK

When it comes to spotting subsidence, understanding the signs is key, and LV= General Insurance (LV= GI) has found that 51 per cent of homeowners don’t know what the signs are.

Subsidence is when the ground beneath your property sinks because the soil is unstable. With summers becoming hotter as we experience more heatwaves , homes across the nation are at their most susceptible to the risk of subsidence. Claims soared last year1 and back in 2018 because of exceptionally hot years, and LV= GI is urging homeowners to understand the signs to ensure any issues can be identified as early as possible and dealt with quickly.

Data from LV= GI highlights the percentage of the population who managed to spot true and false signs of subsidence, revealing that homeowners and prospective buyers need real guidance on what to look out for.

Large cracks in walls (indoor and exterior) – 71 per cent Tilting large trees outside the home – 30 per cent
Sinking foundations or sloping floors – 68 per cent Bulging floorboards – 28 per cent
Sinking or dips in pathway or driveway – 53 per cent Damp patches appearing – 13 per cent
Doors and windows difficult to open or stick – 48 per cent Signs of mould – 9 per cent
 Wallpaper tearing (with no signs of damp) – 25 per cent Musty odour – 8 per cent


Amongst those who have spotted signs of subsidence in their homes, the most common response was to call their insurer (51 per cent), while just over a fifth (22 per cent) had professional checks undertaken by building surveyors. Worryingly, over a quarter (26 per cent) didn’t do anything at all.

On top of this, 53 per cent of homeowners don’t know if subsidence damage is even covered by their current buildings insurance policy.

Spotting the signs:

  • Distinctive diagonal cracksappear at the edges of windows and doors – usually wider at the top than the bottom and around 3mm thick or thicker than a 10p coin.
  • Doors or windows stickfor no reason, or close easily in winter but not summer.
  • Tearing wallpapernot caused by damp.

Top tips to help prevent subsidence:

  • Prune trees and large shrubsto prevent soil from drying out. Seek professional advice from a tree specialist if you need to.
  • Check water pipes and gutteringfor leaks which can wash away or soften soil.
  • Lay porous materials around the home, like gravel or grass, to allow water to drain naturally.

Martin Milliner, claims director at LV= General Insurance, said: “During the summer months, intense heat can affect our foundations and lead to subsidence, especially if your home is built on clay soil. Our research has found that many homeowners don’t fully understand the significant signs of subsidence, and we want to help consumers be confident enough to spot them at an early stage.

He added:  “It’s also a good idea to carry out any precautions on your home, as making small changes early on can help make a difference. From our research, we can also see that a high proportion of homeowners don’t know if their buildings insurance covers subsidence, and I’d encourage them to check so it’s not a potential costly problem in the future.”