With rising living costs, I want to spend as little as possible maintaining the exterior of my home especially if this entails paying somebody else to do it. I’m only going to worry when I need to. I’ve chucked a tub of filler at a few niggling cracks so I’ll just check on the internet to see if there’s anything else I need to think about. Read on to see what I unearth.
WEAR, TEAR, OR SOMETHING TO FEAR?
It might seem deluded, but I always assumed the cracks around my kitchen window were somehow caused by the tribes of ants that take residence under my patio. I also tended to dismiss the uneven surface of my patio as shoddy workmanship. The paving stones appear to be more depressed in certain areas but that could be due to the former owner leaving heavy engine parts dotted about. I thought about levelling out the slabs by laying some sand and grit underneath. It hadn’t occurred to me, until a fateful internet search, that what I thought was wear and tear might be the stuff of insurance nightmares: subsidence.
You know how you turn to the internet to diagnose your symptoms when you’re unwell, well that’s pretty much what has led me to where I am now. I’m not one for searching the web for structural engineering experts, but my cracks and uneven patio led me finally to Laytoe’s website. Why, I asked my web browser, is my patio sinking? I also typed in ‘ants under my patio’, ‘cherry trees and patios’, ‘ants causing cracks in walls’, ‘cracks in exterior walls but not inside’ and finally, the dreaded one: subsidence.
HELP WITH SUBSIDENCE
After filling in an online form I got a response from Laytoe immediately. I spoke to a very knowledgeable structural engineer and took up a great deal of his time to get the information that I’m relating here. I also told him that I’d be sharing my experiences with friends. He surprised me by asking if I wouldn’t mind writing something for Laytoe’s website. Perhaps all of that internetting made it seem like I knew what I was talking about, or perhaps he wanted me off the phone… So here’s what happened.
CRACKING DOWN ON CRACKS
Siavash, one of Laytoe’s structural engineers, went through a checklist with me. He asked about the shape and width of the cracks around my kitchen window. He was able to put my mind at rest because they’re less than 2mm wide, they aren’t going across the wall diagonally, they’re not wider at one end and I can’t see any cracks inside. So far, so good.
He explained that good old London clay cracks and shifts when it dries which leads to movement in the earth beneath thousands of properties every year. Alarm bells weren’t ringing at that point because for all the houses that are affected by subsidence there are millions in the south east of England that aren’t.
Then he asked about my dear old cherry tree. And while I suspect it might provide feeding or breeding ground for blackfly, I’m happy that it shades part of my patio. But oh dear; its proximity to my house might be a very real problem.
I’m writing this with one eye on my lovely cherry tree and an ear out for the bell as I’m expecting a site visit from one of Laytoe’s structural engineers. Hopefully, he’ll give my patio the once over and tell me that the roots of my beloved Morello are not sucking up water too close to the house and that this hasn’t led to shrinkage affecting my home’s foundations. I’m mainly hoping that Laytoe’s structural report confirms that I don’t have subsidence. Just a case of really pesky ants.