We can offer a full range of surveys; from residential building surveys when buying a home to live in, to commercial building surveys or schedules of condition if leasing a workplace business, to specific defects reports if you have a problem with your property, for example dampness, cracking, etc, to valuation reports to check you are paying the correct amount for the property you are buying (Note these are not for bank lending but are to advise you how much we feel the property is really worth), to dilapidations work when leaving a work place.

Please Freephone us on 0800 298 5424 and a surveyor will call you back for a friendly chat.

Free phone 0800 298 5424

There are a number of different types of foundations

The history of foundations

We will first look at the different types of foundations and then will look at the problems with foundations settling, subsidence and structural cracking to the foundations.


Old foundations

It could be argued that foundations started with no foundations at all, with properties were literally built off the ground, although, equally, it could be said that the first foundations were wood piled.

We have actually seen some very old timber pile foundations, when we carried out a renovation project on a Tudor property, which was located near the Broads in Norfolk . The timber foundations were perfectly preserved where they stood below the water table level for many years, only rotting at high level where they went through the wetting and drying process, depending upon the season and also, in this particular case, depending upon whether the nearby road flooded! It certainly proved that timber foundations can last a long time.


Stepped brick foundations, also known as brick flat foundations


Stepped brick foundationsThis is where bricks are laid wide of the bottom of the trench, typically 18 inches. They are generally laid loose with no mortar in between the bricks, although they can be laid on a lime cement bed and then stepped in until they become the actual wall, which, we assume, is why they are called stepped brick foundations.


Traditional strip foundations

It always interests us when the word traditional is used. It should probably, more correctly, be called common strip foundations. These are not very wide and not very deep (compared with modern foundations). These are typically two foot wide by one foot deep and were used around the War years.


Trench filled foundations

These were much deeper, but were still typically two feet to 18 inches (600mm to 450mm) by a metre deep.


Little changed until the summer of 1976

The effects of the summer of 1976 on foundationsThis was the dry, hot summer of 1976, where many properties were affected by settlement, particularly those close to trees, that were hunting out water, and particularly those in clay soil. This resulted in a revision of the depth of foundations to 1.2 metres and this is why if the building control officer sees roots in a foundation when it is dug (the foundations are one of the phases when the building control officer should inspect), they generally tend to ask for the foundations to be made deeper.


Pile foundations

We were discussing when concrete pile foundations were first invented. We feel it must be around the war years.


We would divide the present methods of pile foundation into two areas:

board and driven hammered.



The board pipes are cut with an auger. They add to a bedrock and reinforced concrete is added in situe, with sometimes (although we have never seen it) this end being hammered.


Driven hammered

The second type of piling divides into driven, hammered and vibrated. This is literally where the pre-cast concrete is driven into the ground and can cause vibration damage to surrounding properties. A steel casing is used that is driven into the ground, displacing the soil. On to this is added a reinforced concrete ground beam in situe, which is tied into the pile foundation. Traditionally, a timber shuttering is used to form the ground beam, which, although expensive, can be re-used. More recently polyplus plastic has been used to form the shuttering (think estate agents For Sale boards or To Let boards) and although these are not cheaper (about one-tenth of the price) they can't generally be re-used. Of course, the cheapest way of forming the sides to the reinforced concrete ground beam is to use the ground as it is free, apart from the labour involved.


Raft foundations

This is a reinforced rectangular slab, which is used to spread load, where the load bearing capacities of the ground are not that good. It is also used in basements, but this is more on an economical basis.

Pad foundations

Pad foundations

These are used to distribute point loads, where the building has been built on a structural frame, such as a structural steel portal frame, or reinforced concrete columns. They are also used in areas where the ground is relatively poor to spread the load.


Settlement and subsidence to foundations

This occurs where the ground isn't strong enough to hold the weight of the property, or the ground changes in some way. It could be in a clay area where it gets saturated, which means its consistency changes, or it could be an area where there is perhaps a tree(s), which affect the foundations. Equally, it could be leaking drains, or it could be from new properties being built nearby. Please see our articles on clay.


Cracking to foundations

As the foundations are underground the cracking simply can't be seen. However, it can be, with a good building survey, identified from other signs. These can range from the relatively obvious sign of cracking in the walls (although it is difficult an art to then establish where the cracks come from), to signs of movement, such as the windows or door frames being out of alignment, or the roof frame having been dislodged, or tiles and slates lifting. There really are too many examples to mention, but a good surveyor would be able to identify these.


Frequently asked questions

We can't see our foundations how can we tell what the problems are

with it?

Building surveyors will know and understand what sort of foundation will typically be used in a given type of property construction and in a particular area. Although, it is only when you dig up the foundations that you truly know, as we have found in the past that changes often get made to what is drawn. See our comments in cracking to foundations above. We would add, although it is only when you dig up the foundations that you truly know, as we have found in the past, foundation failure can be because there literally is no foundation there. One example we can give is a boundary wall; substantial brick wall that was literally built off mortar boards; these are the boards that the mortar is mixed up on. So, almost anything could happen on a building site!


Foundations and Underpinning

Structural Cracking

Cracks in my Wall

How, in our experience, Insurance Companies deal with Cracks in Properties

Settlement, Subsidence and Heave and the part clay soils play in this


Please see our section on: Specific Defects Reports


If you truly do want an independent expert opinion from a surveyor with regard to structural surveys, building surveys, structural reports, engineers reports, defects report, including things such as cracks, dampness, condensation, foundation problems, etc, dilapidations, home buyers reports or any other property matters please contact 0800 298 5424 for a surveyor to give you a call back.

If you have a commercial property, be it leasehold or freehold, then you may wish to look at our Dilapidations Website at and for Disputes go to our Disputes Help site .

We hope you found the article of use and if you have any experiences that you feel should be added to this article that would benefit others, or you feel that some of the information that we have put is wrong then please do not hesitate to contact us (we are only human).

The contents of the web site are for general information only and is not intended to be relied upon for specific or general decisions. Appropriate independent professional advice should be paid for before making such a decision.

All rights are reserved the contents of the web site is not to be reproduced or transmitted in any form in whole or part without the express written permission of


building engineers

Home Buyers Reports Property Surveys - why we're the best. Engineers Reports
© Copyright

1stassociated-logo-for-footer IVSA-badge IVSA-putting-client-first call-us-for-footer

We have thousands of free property articles to help you - or call us freephone on 0800 298 5424

We have been working in the property industry for many years and have been
providing free property articles for over ten years. All for free and to help you with buying your next property.

House and Home Surveys and Useful Information

All you need to know about Building Surveys

Building Control, what do they do?

Designers and Architects will they save me money or will they cost me money

Enviroment, Your Building and Garden Gnomes

Estate Agents help sell houses and work for the vendors

Have a Structural Survey to protect you against structural problems

Home improvements, builder problems and ideas for you on how to solve them

How a Surveyor values a property, Chartered Surveyors and Regulated Valuers

How Chartered Engineers and Building Engineers can help you

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

NHBC National House Building Council

Structural Surveys and How We Can Help You

Traditional and Non-Traditional Houses and Mortgage Problems

Valuations and how much is the building worth?

Whats the difference between a Chartered Building Surveyor, Chartered Surveyor and an Independent Surveyor

Useful property problem articles by Chartered Surveyors explaining building issues to avoid

External - Helpful information on building problems on the outside of the property

Chimney issues and problems

Cracking and Movement Problems and Surveying Solutions

Flat Roof Problems, how we can solve them

Foundations and Structures and Settlement and Subsidence and Underpinning

Pitched Roofs Problems and Solutions

Roof Problems

Wall Problems

Windows and Doors and Fascias and Soffits and Wet Rot and Dry Rot and other problems

Internal - House problems we have investigated inside

All you ever need to know about floors

Asbestos in your home, what you need to know

Ceiling Cracks and Structural Problems

Condensation, Damp and Black Mould Problems

Cracking and Movement Problems and Surveying Solutions

Windows and Doors and Fascias and Soffits and Wet Rot and Dry Rot and other problems

Woodworm is it a problem or not? Is it active or not?

Services - Building help and advice on costly services

Drainage, what's underground can affect what's above ground

Heating; I just can't get my house warm enough or alternatively I just can't get my house cool enough

You can't mess around with the electric, you need an expert


Commercial Property Services

Building Terms Explained and Directories

Commercial Property Surveys

Commercial Structural Surveys

Leisure Facilites

Offices Large and Small

Shops and Retail

Warehouse and Industrial Buildings

Dilapidations Help and Advice What is a Dilapidations Notice?

A Beginner's Guide to Dilaps

Damp Mould and Condensation

Dampness Rising Damp Mould Black Mould Condensation

Dilapidations and Negotiations

Dilapidations Claim by a Landlord

Energy Saving what can I do?

Finance what is a Financial Adviser (We are not Financial Advisors)

Fire Risk and Help

Health and Safety Risks

Insurance how do I get the correct property insurance?

Landlords Surveying Advice

Property Investment how can I invest in property?

Property TV Reviews by an Independent Surveyor

Schedules of Condition Leasing a Commercial Property

Scotts Schedule and Section 18 Valuation

Tenants Surveying Advice

Weather how does weather affect my property?



Snow and Ice

Strong Winds

Reviews from clients on Commercial Building Surveys

Churches and Charities, helpful reviews from our clients

Industrial Buildings and Warehouses and what our clients say about us

Offices Large and Small, reviews and feedback from our clients

Pubs, Restaurants, Hotels and other Leisure facilities we have surveyed over the years

Shops and Retail, helpful reviews from our clients


First Time Buyers

Buying a Leasehold or Shared Freehold Home

Buying and Selling Houses for the experienced house and home purchaser

First Time Buyers how do I go about buying my first house and home?

Improve your property knowledge with our presentations on house, homes and commercial property

Building Surveys

Building Surveying Useful Information


Dilapidations Presentations in Detail

Final Year Building Surveying Exams for University Students or those that would like to know more

How old is your Building? Which era was it built in?

Party Walls

Surveyors and Design Tools

Disputes and Party Walls

Boundary Disputes

Building and Property Disputes

Party Wall Book Reviews

Party Walls Your Rights and Responsibilities

1stAssociated Surveyors Review for Structural Surveys and Building Surveys

Building Surveys, reviews and feedback from satisfied customers

Buy to let property clients, what they say about our structural surveys

Buying at auction, review of the survey

Buying bungalows and retirement properties and how our surveyors can help

Both at work / busy couples, how we can help and some 1stAssociated client reviews

Families with a young person flying the nest, reviews and feedback

First Time Buyers, what they say about us

Listed buildings, structural surveys

Older buildings, a review of buying an older house

Families with children looking for a new home, feedback and reviews

Buying a Non-Traditional Property

Residential Surveys

House and Home Surveys

Commercial Building Surveys

Commercial Surveys

1st Associated Surveyors Are Also Available in the Following Areas:

East Anglia and East

South and South East

West Country and South West


North and North East



London Markets

London Parks



Areas of Britain

1stAssociated Independent Expert Property Surveyors

Specialists in Home Buyers Reports, Building Surveys and Structural Surveys and Schedules of Condition

All Surveyors are Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors qualified and RICS regulated

and are Members of the Independent Surveyors and Valuers Association

Putting the Client First

We do not accept service of documents by email or fax