As you climb the property ladder you may end up moving from home to home until you finally settle in your dream property. Based on averages of how often homeowners move, nine years in the same home is considered normal in the current property market. That is the reality for most new homeowners – unless, of course, your house wasn’t built to last the distance in the first place!
If you find your place is riddled with defects – you have our commiserations! You’re stuck with an investment that is likely disintegrating around you. You can’t live in it or rent it out, and there is no way you can sell it in its current state.
The design, materials, and quality of workmanship all factor into whether a house will stand the test of time. A house that is not built to last is a financial burden for the homeowner.
There are a number of factors which can affect the structural lifespan of a building. Obviously, proven building design and structural integrity needs good foundations and strong, stable, load-bearing walls. The foundations support the entire structure, with load-bearing structures supporting the roof and any additional storeys on the building. If any of these key elements don’t continue to provide adequate support, eventually the building will move and walls will crack under the stress of the weight, causing windows and doors to warp, floors to sag and bounce – potentially the structure could fail and collapse – which is why it is so important to have a building inspection done prior to purchase, or as a staged inspection during construction.
If you purchase a house and the seller has compromised load-bearing structures or foundations, you are left with a property that is essentially a ticking time bomb. Disintegration can occur slowly over a number of years, or a load-bearing wall may suddenly slump under the weight of the tiers above, if foundations give way. In any case, the dangers of compromised load-bearing structure should not be ignored.
A house without strong foundations will not stand. In the construction industry, soil type and location are vitally important to the structural integrity of the build. The builder needs to consider whether the house is supported by its foundations – stumps may sink, or a concrete slab may subside and crack. Failure to conduct appropriate soil tests to assess the suitability of the ground can – and often does – result in catastrophic structural failure.
There are various materials on which foundations can be built, including soil, stone, clay, chalk, gravel and sand. Each must be assessed to ensure it is strong enough to support foundations, and that there is sufficient drainage. A house will not last long if the design and construction of its foundations are flawed or the surrounding ground is eroded away due to poor drainage.
Land fall and ground level heights are key considerations in both existing houses and those under construction. Ensuring that all site water drains downhill away from the building is vital to retain the integrity of the foundations. You may need to consider any pooling water or run-off and the likelihood of this water seeping or penetrating into the walls or under the house to its foundations. Without adequate waterproofing, a house is susceptible to structural damage and flooding. Drainage around your house and waterproofing measures for walls are two ways to ensure your lower walls, foundations and underground structures, such as garages or storage cellars, aren’t submerged in water, or damaged by moisture penetration.
Even with the best laid plans, a house may not be built to last. The materials used and the standard of workmanship during the construction of a house are an important aspect of its lifespan. Substandard materials will significantly influence how long a house will last. If the workmanship is shoddy and the house is not properly inspected, don’t expect this to necessarily live up to your high expectations.
Defects are not easy to detect with an untrained eye, especially once construction of a house is complete. The best way to eliminate the possibility of defects in a house is to have staged inspections done during construction, or order a Pre-Purchase Inspection before you sign on the dotted line when buying a property.
Houspect has a range of Building Inspection options – suitable for your every need – to help you assess whether your chosen house is built to last and will be your ‘forever’ home!