Buildings Insurance – What Is Land Heave?

As winter approaches and the chance of heavy rainfall increases, it’s not just flooding homeowners should be concerned about. A good soaking can also cause what’s known as ‘land heave’, or simply ‘heave’.

Heave is often confused with subsidence.

Subsidence generally occurs when the ground under a house contracts due to a lack of water, which dries out the soil and the house drops.

Heave, on the other hand, takes place when an excess of water causes the earth in the ground to expand and ‘heave’ the property upwards and outwards.

Autumn heave danger

Homes are especially vulnerable in the autumn. Certain soil types, in particular clay, will have dried out somewhat during the summer, perhaps more so than usual. As greater rainfall arrives, the soil can then expand rapidly due to its dry condition, creating enough force to shift buildings.

What are the main effects of land heave?

The most common problems associated with land heave include destruction of drain runs and other piping and major cracks in the structure of buildings, causing serious damage. The cycle of soil drying out and then rapidly swelling can happen over a number of years, leading to an increase in the number of claims a homeowner makes for heave and potentially having serious ramifications for insurance cover.

How to spot heave

It’s not unusual for most homes to develop superficial cracks in walls due to slight movement and temperature or humidity changes over the years.

However, if a number of cracks suddenly appear around door and window frames, in interior plasterwork and/or exterior brickwork, or doors and windows stick in their frames, then you could have cause for concern.

What to do if you think you’ve been hit by heave

You should notify your insurer immediately; fixing the results of heave can take considerable time, possibly years, and cracks and changes in your home’s structure may need to be monitored. Your insurer will then send out a specialist to assess what’s happening and if your home needs remedial work.

If they decide that it does, they will arrange for the work to be done, after discussing the issues with you, and costs involved (remember, you will have to pay the first part of any claim, known as the excess, and in cases of heave this can be considerably greater than for ‘normal’ claims – see below).

Remedial work needed to correct heave might include the insertion of strengthening steel rods or concrete poles into the ground or main building, the dismantling and re-building of brickwork, and underpinning work involving large concrete supports

How heave can hit your insurance premiums

Claiming for something as serious as heave can drive up your Buildings Insurance premiums, as not only do you lose any no-claims bonus you might have built up, but your home might be viewed as an increasingly risky proposition to insure.

The excess you pay might increase as well. Heave is generally covered by most home insurance policies, but the excess, as with subsidence, is usually set higher than for more ordinary claims as the work that’s needed to correct it is usually much more costly.

Excess for heave in most policies is set at around £1,000. However, if your home is seen as at greater risk due to a number of claims having been made (or even just one in fact), this excess can climb steeply.
You should check with your insurer, and in the policy terms and conditions, that you’re covered for heave. In most cases you will be, but it’s always worth checking.


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