Between 2016/17, 184,000 homes were built in England. During this time, hundreds of homes and buildings across Britain were severely damaged, following extreme weather conditions including heatwaves, flash floods and sub-zero temperatures. According to conservation charity, WWF, the impact of such conditions is estimated to have cost the British economy tens of billions of pounds; this could increase even more by 2050, particularly if buildings continue to be constructed on flood plains.
One of the most alarming problems following severe weather conditions is the impact this has on the structural integrity of buildings. Wall cracks and sinking floors are both indications of potentially serious structural damage and, if not properly inspected for underlying foundation ground problems, might lead to costly financial and emotional implications.
Robbie Blanchfield, UK Manager from global leaders in advanced ground engineering, Mainmark, offers advice and guidance on the best ways to identify structural issues and how advanced technology is offering homeowners and property developers a far more cost-effective solution.
“Historically, ground engineering solutions haven’t been the most cost-effective option for homeowners. What’s more, traditional methods have also been time consuming, invasive and an inconvenience for residents. In fact, the thought of having to fix structural issues fills most people with dread. However, advances in technology means that expensive and invasive methods are now a thing of the past, with ‘key-hole’ injection processes becoming a far more viable solution” says Robbie.
A prime example of how these advanced methods are offering improved solutions is when Mainmark came to the assistance of a Macclesfield homeowner, whose two-story brick house had started to subside by as much as 82mm. The homeowner was hoping to renovate the property but needed to fix the structural issues first. There were a number of options considered including traditional underpinning. However, that method would have simply stabilised the property and not lifted and re-levelled it. It would also have taken a prolonged period of time to complete the work and cost a significant amount of money. Due to the tight timeframe as well as the cost and disruption associated with traditional underpinning methods, the homeowner decided to appoint Mainmark and benefit from its computer-controlled injection process. This solution allowed the homeowner to continue with his renovations in a timely manner, with Mainmark completing the job in less than five days.
Identifying and eradicating: Robbie’s advice
It’s worth noting that not all wall cracks and sinking floors automatically mean the structural integrity of your building is failing, in fact smaller hairline cracks are not usually cause for concern and are typically the result of seasonal expansion and contraction. These can often be easily patched and repainted.
It’s the larger cracks that are wider than around 5mm or those cracks that have suddenly arisen that you need to watch out for. The most effective way to identify serious wall cracks is by examining other factors within your property. For example, is one side of a wall higher than the other? Are your doors and windows no longer closing in their frames? Other external factors might provide clues as to the causes of such issues also, for example leaking pipes, adjacent construction activity or tree root ingress. If you’re also experiencing these issues, then you may have structural problems.
Fixing the problem
If you notice that a large wall crack has appeared or that your floor is uneven, and you’re worried it might be caused by structural issues, it’s best to contact engineering specialists straight away. They will be able to determine whether there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
Traditionally, addressing the structural issues associated with significant wall cracks and uneven floors would involve excavating or digging up parts of the building’s foundation, pouring in concrete, waiting for it to set and then raising the building on concrete blocks. This traditional method of underpinning is time consuming, disruptive and meant residents have to vacate the building during the process.
With modern methods, it’s now possible for home owners and property developers to use non-invasive processes to raise, re-level and re-support a building. Mainmark offers two non-invasive solutions including Teretek®, engineered resin injection and JOG Computer-Controlled Grouting, which delivers a high mobility cementitious grout mix via a multitude of injection ports under precise computer control.