Do you think this is subsidence?

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Calling all people far cleverer than me. Is this subsidence? It’s in a house being sold at auction which I am seriously considering trying to buy. But would I be mad doing so? There’s a huge crack in the upstairs hallway ceiling. Multiple other cracks around the building. The house is around 80 years old and no signs that it had been redecorated within the last 50.

There are no cracks visible to the exterior, and no cracks in the exposed brick walls of the integral garage.
 

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The fact that there aren't any cracks on the outside of the walls is a good sign.

Subsidence cracks usually run diagonally and through corners of windows. One of the photos shows a crack from the corner of the window, but this type of crack is also not uncommon where there are failed lintels.

The ceiling cracks look like more than just shrinkage or thermal movement and could possibly indicate structural movement.

Is the local geology a shrinkable soil? You can check on the Geology of Britain Viewer by entering the postcode and looking at the mapping and nearby boreholes. Are there any trees nearby, particularly oaks, poplars, cypress, or other mature trees within 10m or so?

The property looks to be potentially early 1900s or older, which would indicate typically it would have shallow foundations which are more susceptible to seasonal movement and tree influence.

You need a structural engineer to visit the property and assess based on the above, but even they may not be able to give a definitive answer without a period of monitoring (usually at least a year of monthly readings).
The structural engineer would ideally like to have a couple of trial pits dug and soil and root samples taken for analysis. This will determine the volume change potential of the soil and which trees are affecting the foundations, if any. The soil can also be analysed for moisture content to determine if it's desiccated. None of this may be possible at this stage if you don't own the property.

However, even if it is determined that tree influence has caused structural movement, this doesn't necessarily mean that underpinning would be required - that is usually a last resort these days. It's much more common to cut back or remove trees that are thought to be affecting the foundations, and monitoring until equilibrium is reached, then stitching the cracks with Helibar and making good.

You probably aren't going to be able to get all of the information above prior to the auction, but you might be able to get a basic structural engineer's report. It's always going to be a risk if you do decide to buy - just factor in the potential cost of repairs if you do
 
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I'll put a bottle of spring water and 2 units of electricity on it not being subsidence. That's confidence for you. (y)
 
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Is the local geology a shrinkable soil? You can check on the Geology of Britain Viewer by entering the postcode and looking at the mapping and nearby boreholes. Are there any trees nearby, particularly oaks, poplars, cypress, or other mature trees within 10m or so?

That site offers a very wide brush, it says for my location...

Bedrock geology​

Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation - Mudstone, siltstone and sandstone. Sedimentary bedrock formed between 319 and 318 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.

In actual fact we are on an heavy clay, but yes, deep below the is coal.
 
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That site offers a very wide brush, it says for my location...

Bedrock geology​

Pennine Lower Coal Measures Formation - Mudstone, siltstone and sandstone. Sedimentary bedrock formed between 319 and 318 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.

In actual fact we are on an heavy clay, but yes, deep below the is coal.
Did you also look at the superficial deposits layer on the maps? They can be of considerable depth and if so the bedrock may not be relevant, depending on the particular circumstances.

However, that's why nearby boreholes may offer a better idea of nearby conditions if available.

Without trial pits that's the information a structural engineer would have to rely on. It's not perfect though so any report would be caveated as such.
 
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Did you also look at the superficial deposits layer on the maps? They can be of considerable depth and if so the bedrock may not be relevant, depending on the particular circumstances.

It is not an easy site to use..
 
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IMHO as a non-expert, it's definitely moved a bit over the years, but over what period? If there are no obvious cracks outside, it hopefully isn't too bad. It depends on your attitude to risk. If the house is cheap at auction because of this, and cheaper than a comparable house by at least as much as the cost to remedy if you do have to do a substantial structural repair, then it may well be worth the risk - you may deal with it cosmetically and that's it.

As I have posted before, a friend bought a big house (on clay) a few years ago cheaply, with bad "subsidence", and just chopping down the poplars that surrounded the sloping garden saw the house come back up, and no underpinning work was ever needed.
 
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Many thanks for all your responses, much appreciated. The geology website says:

Mercia Mudstone Group - Mudstone and halite-stone. Sedimentary bedrock formed between 252.2 and 201.3 million years ago during the Triassic period.

Is that a shrinkable soil?
The auction guide price is considerably below market value, which is guess isn’t a good sign. Although would still be a good investment even with the cost of works to repair subsidence, if that is what it turns out to be. But whether a bank would give me a mortgage on it is another matter…
 
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Many thanks for all your responses, much appreciated. The geology website says:

Mercia Mudstone Group - Mudstone and halite-stone. Sedimentary bedrock formed between 252.2 and 201.3 million years ago during the Triassic period.

Is that a shrinkable soil?
The auction guide price is considerably below market value, which is guess isn’t a good sign. Although would still be a good investment even with the cost of works to repair subsidence, if that is what it turns out to be. But whether a bank would give me a mortgage on it is another matter…

Mudstone can be shrinkable yes - are there trees nearby? What does it say about superficial deposits? Any nearby borehole info?

If the bank just does a drive-by valuation you might be OK - just has to be worth more than the money they're lending you...
 
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But whether a bank would give me a mortgage on it is another matter…

If it is in a town that has a local building society you can actually talk to, then they may be able to give you a development mortgage with retentions and phased funds release. We got one approved a good few years ago on a house which was condemned structurally (although in the end didn't proceed)
 
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The outside is rendered, and no visible defects in the render.
I’m hoping they’ll just do a drive by valuation. I have to stick with Halifax as I will be porting my current mortgage. Annoyingly that means I can’t shop around and am restricted to what they can offer me.
There are lots of trees around, it’s quite a ‘green’ area.
That’s all it says on the Geology website, unless the borehole and superficial deposits information is hidden a little deeper in the website…!
 
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