Ask The Experts

  • What does a Structural Engineer do?
    A Chartered Structural Engineer typically has an engineering degree and a minimum of 3-4 years’ post-graduate experience, prior to sitting their professional examination. A structural engineer is experienced in the design of all kinds of buildings and the diagnosis of defects within buildings. Our engineers are all experienced, Chartered Structural Engineers.
  • How can a Structural Engineer help me?
    If you are buying a property, or selling a property, a structural engineer can provide you with a clear, concise report on the structural condition of the property. This may be simply to give you peace of mind on what may be the most important transaction of your life, or it may be in response to a mortgage surveyor’s report, where a potential structural defect has been highlighted. Our engineers are passionate about their work and will provide you with all the support that you require.
  • What is a Structural Engineer’s Report?
    A structural engineer’s report will focus primarily on the roof, walls, floors and foundations of a building. The purpose is to assess the overall structural condition, identify any defects, establish the cause of these defects and then provide recommendations on any remedial works considered necessary to restore the integrity of the building. Our engineers use their many years of experience to give you clear, concise and practical guidance.
  • Which locations do we cover?
    Structural Surveys cover all areas in the North of England, North Wales, the East Midlands and occasionally, further afield.
  • What is the difference between subsidence and settlement?
    Often mixed up, subsidence is movement of the ground that supports your property brought about by numerous actions, such as coal mining, clay shrinkage, collapse of underground caverns, and underground watercourses. Settlement is simply the ground below your building adjusting to the weight of the building sitting on it. Our engineers recognise the difference, and can establish if this movement is progressive subsidence or simply initial settlement.
  • How do I know if my property is affected by subsidence?
    Our structural engineers will investigate the movement, cracking and distortions to your property. Where subsidence is suspected, further investigations may be recommended, including excavation of trial pits to expose the affected foundations, laboratory testing of the soils, mining reports, drainage surveys and review of geological data. This detailed analysis will enable accurate, informed conclusions to be made.
  • When do I need to notify my insurance company?
    The cost of repairs to your property, required as a consequence of subsidence, are generally covered by most domestic property insurance policies. When you notice cracking to your property, it is always advisable to appoint a Chartered Structural Engineer to assess the situation. Once you have received a structural engineer’s report concluding that subsidence has affected your property, we would recommend you notify your insurance company. They will then appoint a Loss Adjuster to review your claim, and engage with your structural engineer. We can support you from start to finish of your claim.
  • What causes cracking in walls?
    Cracking occurs as a result of many things. It can simply be as a result of expansion or contraction of the building materials, in which case, it would usually be viewed as cosmetic in nature and of no structural significance. However, it can also develop due to subsidence, poor design, wall tie failure, alterations to the building, over stressing to name a few. In these cases, repair works are usually required. We can provide schedules and specifications for these repairs, to ensure future stability.
  • Does my property have wall tie failure?
    Wall ties, are small steel links between the inner and outer leaves in a cavity wall. They provide strength to the wall. In certain conditions, wall ties within the outer leaf brickwork, can corrode and expand. This expansion will generate regular horizontal cracking to the outer face of the wall. We are experienced in investigating wall tie failure, and can recommend appropriate structural repairs.
  • How does radon affect my property?
    Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas formed by the radioactive decay of small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils. Every building contains radon, but the levels are usually very low. The chances of a higher level depend on the type of the ground and locality. Our structural engineers can review the national radon maps published by Public Health England, to assess the radon levels to your property. We can also advise on appropriate monitoring of radon levels and advise on suitable works to reduce the health risks associated with high radon levels.
  • What is a Damp and Timber Survey?
    Damp is commonly found in properties of all ages, styles and stature. Damp can be identified visually by staining and disruption to plaster finishes, salt deposits and mould growth. There are many forms of damp and associated causes, including rising damp, penetrative damp, salt contamination, plumbing leaks and condensation related damp, all of which can be attributable to one or more of the aforementioned visual identifications. Where prolonged damp is found, there becomes an increased risk to any timbers in contact with the damp substrate. Ultimately this often leads wood destroying fungal attack of the timber, otherwise known as rot or timber decay. This timber can be non-structural such as skirting boards or door frames etc. but can also be structural timbers such as floor joists, elements of the roof structure or lintels amongst many others. Another risk to timber is wood destroying beetle attack, commonly known as Woodworm. Extensive infestations can lead to significant loss in strength of the timber elements and can be identified by flight holes left in the surface as the beetles emerge from the timber. There are a number of types of wood destroying beetle most of which can be identified by the characteristic damage they leave behind. A specialist damp and timber survey would typically involve an inspection of the property to visually identify any areas of damp or water related damage. The inspection would also include a check of surface finishes with a damp meter to identify any elevated levels of moisture content within the construction materials. If specifically requested or instructed, the inspection may include lifting of floor boards to inspect sub floor areas for signs of damp related damage or wood destroying beetle attack. As part of the report the cause of the damp will be assessed and recommendations given for repairs and treatment works, whether these be damp proofing, wall finish treatments or improvements to ventilation etc. It should be ensured that the survey is completed by a Property Care Association (PCA) approved contractor or surveyor.
  • What is underpinning?
    Occasionally, investigations will conclude that part or all of the foundation is inadequate to support the weight of the building. This might be due to the foundation depth, width or the poor strength of the sub-soils. Underpinning extends the depth of the affected foundation down to a suitable level, to ensure future stability. Traditionally, this can be achieved by excavating below the foundation and placing new concrete below. Occasionally, the underpinning may need to go deeper, and a mini-pile solution may be adopted.
  • What is meant by monitoring of cracks?
    It is important to know if movement to a property has ceased, or is still active. Monitoring will provide you with that reassurance, or indeed confirm that stabilising works will be required to arrest the movement. A monitoring programme will be managed by a structural engineer, and will usually involve accurate measurement of crack widths at various locations around the property over a period of time. This often will be over a 12 month period, to assess movement throughout each season in the year.
  • What causes distortion to walls?
    Wall distortions are sometimes observed to external walls of a property. A wall will occasionally appear to bulge outward. There are many causes of such distortion, including wall tie failure, foundation movement, inadequate tying of the wall back to the internal floors and walls and poor workmanship. Our experience will pin point the cause and provide you with recommendations on appropriate repair works to ensure future stability.
  • What is roof spread?
    A house roof is usually an internal timber structure, clad with tiles. The structure is supported off the external walls. In certain circumstances, the timber structure will shift outwards at the top of these walls, albeit slowly. This, in turn will cause sagging of the roof slopes and the ridge of the roof. Causes of such distortion include inadequacy of the supporting timber roof structure and replacement of the original tiles with heavier, concrete tiles. Our engineers can inspect the internal roof structure and assess its suitability to support the weight of the tiles and solar panels, if fitted.
  • Can drain defects cause foundation movement?
    Yes. If drains running close to a foundation are defective and water is escaping from the drain, then the strength of the ground supporting the foundation can be impaired. In these situations, we can arrange CCTV surveys of the drainage system to identify the location of any damage, and advise on appropriate repairs, to prevent future movement.
  • Can trees cause foundation movement?
    Yes. In clay soils, trees can be a significant problem to a property, especially if growing in close proximity. Trees will extract water from the clay, which in turn will cause the clay to shrink. Any foundation built on this clay would then move downward. Sudden removal of trees can have the opposite effect, causing the clay to rehydrate and expand, which in turn may result in the foundation lifting. In granular soils, the physical presence of tree roots can also disturb the foundations. Our engineers can carry out a detailed analysis of the effect of trees and vegetation on the stability of your property.
  • How does hot weather cause foundation movement?
    Periods of prolonged dry weather often lead to increased incidents of subsidence claims with insurance companies. Older properties tend to have much shallower foundations than modern properties. Those that are built on clay soils are susceptible to the effects of clay shrinkage, brought about by prolonged dry weather. The foundations can fluctuate in level on a seasonal basis, dropping in summer and lifting in winter as the moisture content of the clay varies. Our engineers can arrange examination of the foundations and laboratory testing of the soils, to establish susceptibility to movement.
  • How does coal mining cause subsidence?
    Coal mining leaves voids in the ground, which will eventually collapse, causing distortion to the ground surface. It is often found that as this collapse occurs, a ripple of surface movement will move across a region, resulting in foundation movement to properties in the area. When the ground movement ceases, it is common to find that houses will be left tilting, but not necessarily unstable. We can tell you if your property is stable, or will require strengthening works.
  • Has my house been affected by bomb damage?
    In the north of England, many of our industrial towns and cities were targeted during World War II, in an attempt to destroy our manufacturing capability. As a consequence, residential areas were also affected by the bombing and houses were damaged. The resulting distortions are still evident today but are not necessarily of structural concern. Our engineers can review bomb data and advise you on the likely impact of such damage.
  • What is sulphate attack on floors?
    Concrete floor slabs sit on a hardcore sub-base. In the past, some hardcore has contained industrial waste products including sulphates. When moisture is present, these sulphates can migrate into the body of the concrete slab, causing an expansive reaction. Common signs of this are uneven floors that have lifted in places, and randomly cracked. This problem can be serious, especially if internal walls have been built off the affected floor slab. Repair works can be disruptive and costly. Our structural engineers can investigate whether a floor has been affected by sulphate attack, carry out intrusive testing and then provide a specification for these works.
  • What is a system built house?
    Traditionally, houses are built with brick, stone and concrete block work walls, supporting timber suspended floors and a timber roof structure. Mortgage companies tend to prefer traditional forms of construction, as they are well documented and their performance is understood. System built houses were introduced after World War II, to speed construction and produce houses in large numbers. These systems included steel framed houses and pre-cast concrete panel houses. Most were associated with social housing. Often, Lenders are reluctant to provide mortgages on such houses, unless a structural engineer inspects the property and provides the required reassurance of future integrity.
  • Can I alter a Listed building?
    Any work that you plan to do on a listed building, including extending, demolition and anything that may affect the character as a building of special interest, will require Listed Building Consent, irrespective of whether normal planning permission is required or not. This will include any structural repair work that is required to restore the stability and strength of the building. The consent is either determined by the local planning authority or in some circumstances, the Secretary of State. Failure to obtain such consent is a criminal offence. We can provide the technical support that you require to obtain consent, and negotiate with the local authority heritage representatives, on your behalf.
  • Can I change the use of my building?
    If you intend to change the use of a building, then there may be structural implications. Other than planning restrictions, the building needs to be fit for purpose and be capable of supporting the loads imposed by the new use. Our engineers can survey the property and assess the current load carrying capacity of the building and establish if the structure is capable of supporting the new loads imposed upon it. If not, we will advise on any associated strengthening works considered to be necessary.
  • Why is the brickwork above my windows cracked?
    Cracking to the outer leaf brickwork above window and door openings is not unusual. Sometimes the cracking occurs simply as a consequence of thermal movement of the wall materials. In other instances, the lintel which is intended to support the wall over the opening, is either inadequate or has been omitted altogether. Our survey will establish the cause of such cracking and recommend appropriate repair work.
  • What is Japanese knotweed?
    The Environment Agency describe Japanese knotweed as the UK’s most aggressive, destructive and invasive plant. It can grow to 3-4m in just 10 weeks. Below ground, its roots can spread 7m horizontally, and can compromise the structure of a building. In a house sale transaction, its presence can be a deal breaker. Lenders can be very nervous about mortgaging a property that has Japanese knotweed on the site. Correct treatment and eradication must be completed by specialist contractors, who must dispose of it off site to a licensed tip. We can advise you if your property has Japanese knotweed, and we can use our network of specialists to help you.
  • What is carbonation of concrete?
    Carbonisation is the reaction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere with calcium hydroxide in the cement. This reaction produces calcium carbonate, which in turn impairs the protection offered by the concrete to the embedded steel reinforcement. Where the steel is too close to the concrete surface, carbonisation will cause the embedded steel to corrode and expand, causing the concrete to fracture and spall. Our structural engineers can investigate whether carbonisation is affecting the strength and durability of your building and provide specifications for appropriate repairs.
  • What shall I do if my house is flooded?
    Flood water can cause severe damage to the finishes within a building and also cause structural instability. It may also contain contaminated deposits and sediment, which can be threat to your health and safety. Generally, a domestic insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs required to restore the property. Repairs should not proceed until the property has dried out properly, and this may take several months. We can survey the damage to your property, assess if any structural damage has occurred, and then prepare a detailed schedule of works to restore your property.
Many thanks to Structural Surveys, great service from start to finish. Helped put our minds at ease and explained everything about the damage and how to go about addressing it. Great customer service, unfortunately a rare thing these days, please pass our thanks to Andrew and if we ever get the chance we will be recommending your service.
Darren Campbell - August 2018
We were really happy with the service provided. We managed to get an appointment for the structural engineer to come out within a few days of contact. We were very happy that the report was provided the same day given the visit to the property was late afternoon. Information provided was exactly what we required. In addition, the structural engineer that came out was a very nice chap. We would definitely use Structural Surveys Ltd again.
Cath McKenna - November 2016
I was very impressed with the quick booking time I got, and the short time it took for me to actually receive the report through (same day). It sped up my mortgage process greatly and I will recommend this company in the future. Thanks :)
Amy Morris - August 2018
Structural Surveys Ltd are excellent value for money. Jane is prompt to communicate to enquires and the surveyor Chris was punctual and efficient when carrying out the survey. Chris was professional and open to answer additional questions that I had about my property whilst he was working. The report arrived in a timely manner and was detailed and easy to understand. My only negative would be that payment is requested prior to the survey carried out which if you have never used them before is slightly daunting. However I would recommend and would use Structural Surveys Ltd again in the future.
Jon South - January 2019
Great customer service, drawings done within 24 hours extremely impressed.
Sian Roberts - October 2017
Good communication before, during and after the survey. Extremely quick response. Very satisfied.
Andrew Graystone - January 2019
Structural Calculations - Very professional and detailed service would recommend to friends and family.
Steve Woolley - February 2018
Very professional from start to finish, kept to timescale and quoted price, gave excellent feedback on what was required to out-sort our problem with a part removed chimney breast. Would not hesitate to recommend Structural Surveys.
Joseph Kinney - February 2018
Really friendly and efficient. The structural inspection we needed was arranged within a few days, and the report was emailed the day after the inspection. The quality of the report was excellent, with supporting photographs and clear explanation of risks. I would be very happy to use Structural Surveys again.
Rick Robson - May 2019
Absolutely outstanding service. Contact was frequent, happy to answer my questions. Report was with me electronically within a day of the inspection. Totally put my concerns to rest, would highly recommend this company.
Beck Bailey - October 2016