Heatwave damages houses, warn surveyors

29 August 2003
Houses across the country have been damaged by the recent heatwave, the professional body for surveyors warned yesterday.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors has warned that the hot weather of the past few weeks has caused huge amounts of damage to plasterwork and brickwork and has increased the threat of subsidence.

Houses built before 1970 are particularly at risk, due to their shallower foundations, RICS spokesman John Sparkes told the Evening Standard newspaper.

“The sustained hot weather causes loss of water from the subsoil and it shrinks, which can lead to subsidence. It can also arise when the hot spell breaks and rain makes the soil expand, which makes buildings move and crack”, Mr Sparkes explained.

The RICS warns that cracks of more than 3mm in width are dangerous and demand urgent attention.

However, Richard Driscoll, technical director of the Building Research Establishment, told the newspaper that people should not worry excessively.

“'There are lots of reasons why small cracks appear in buildings. Most cracks are minor and will probably go away when the ground wets up again. If you have a serious subsidence problem it will slowly get worse, and you should wait for the cracks to get worse before deciding to get a good surveyor in”, Mr Driscoll argued.