When completing a survey of a ground floor flat in August 2019 I noticed a quite significant sloping defect of the floor towards the middle walls of the property. The slopes formed a v shape which my first assumption was that some movement has occurred to the wall causing the slope. The leaking drainage and plumbing are very common defects for a property of its type and age that cause this distortion.
The fact that there was no access to see beneath the floor during the inspection led to that assumption of drainage or plumbing maybe the cause. However, there was a cellar, and the access was concealed and was not noticed during the survey. The client had later been made aware of this and notified us which led us to revisit the property. The cellar was untouched and in its original state from when it was constructed.
The inspection reveals that the movement was not directly a result of leaking drains only. It was partly due to overload over time where additional weight was probably added, and the floor was initially not designed to take that weight. The support known as slipper walls was not adequate, and hence the timber supports deflecting and causing the slope. There was also a leaking drain from a gully, which was very close to the walls. We could see that part of the water was discharging straight to the walls and then into the grounds instead of draining away from the property. This could cause other defects by washing the ground away and creating voids resulting in affecting the foundations. We could also observe a pipe passing through the bay window wall with loose bricks around it. This could potentially be causing some movement to the bay window resulting in cracks appearing to the walls, eventually affecting the window by dropping downwards.
Therefore, we recommended the client to instruct a structural engineer with the aim of obtaining the correct specification to support the timber floor structure and to ascertain that it would stop further movement. Otherwise, it would continue to cause distortion to the floor, and cracks would also appear on the walls. In a worst-case scenario, the floor could collapse and cause significant damage to the structure and serious or even fatal injury to the occupants of the property. We also recommend checking the drainage system by a drainage contractor, where we outlined that a pressure test followed by a CCTV should be carried out to determine if there are any defects present that require immediate attention. Any ongoing movement would potentially cause subsidence issues that could affect the value of the property and cause difficulty obtaining a mortgage. The loose bricks to be removed and filled back with lime mortar to keep the stability of the wall structure.
The conclusion was that some movement could be localised, that caused the defects. But other structural defects could also be associated and contributed to that movement. A further investigation would reveal all the defects that are present and need to be addressed to repair those particular defects to stop any movement to keep the structure stable and protect those occupants living in the property.
By Kiran Goobdassur – AssocRICS