Serious Fissures

Hi , My wife and I bought a house in the Lot (46)in March where we moved on a permanent basis. We are now dealing with an alarming number of wide fissures which most likely are due to the hot weather which we have all been enjoying recently . The cracks seem to run centrally through the house from front to back and although we have obviously approached the Mairie about a declaration of a " catastrophe " it seems unlikely that this will happen soon if at all. Our concern is the rate at which the cracks are developing both on the floor and the walls . Whilst we looked to get a structural engineer to come and look we were told by our insurance company "Pacifica" that any report by an external surveyor would not be admissible when making a possible claim .We have been advised by a builder that we need to underpin the house and my question is simply has anyone used or can recommend one of these companies who would service Lot (46) . We know there is Soltechnic but can anyone recommend any others. We really feel that we need to deal with these cracks quickly as a damage limitation to the rest of the house. The house was built in the seventies .So if there are any builders or anyone who has experience of this sort of issue who can advise or recommend we'd love to hear from you .


Please do! Looks like you're getting some good advice. I didn't think about Protection Juridique, but that is definitely worth pursuing. Speak soon!!

Have you contacted your insurance company ? If not get the agent around for a look, you never know ?

Hi Claudia, yes we do have that so we'll check it out . Keep you posted in due course

Thank you David for your very full replies , yes we know about "tell tales " as my brother in law was in the insurance business for over fifty years in the UK so lots of useful pointers there.

We'll keep you posted

Well that is one option but of course again its the length of time and money that these things take to get sorted and we want to do remedial repairs sooner rather than later to do a damage limitation to the rest of the house.

Hi Robin, fancy bumping into you ?? We'll keep you posted as to our progress with this one


Hi , thanks to everyone for the advice and information that you have given us here. We think we will go back to the insurance company and talk to them again. I know that it will be a long , slow and protracted journey and I'll keep this discussion open and update it just as soon as I have some news.

Thanks again everyone all the info was gratefully received

Vertical cracking at a corner could be due to settlement but could also be due to lack of effective tie at the corners. That can sometimes be sorted by building in concrete elbows on the internal corners, about three for normal floor to ceiling heights per corners. An alternative may be drilling and inserting stainless steel ties which are then grouted in- specialist work.

You may be able to order their kit via Screwfix

Here in Brittany the foundations of old houses are often really negligible. In the UK very old houses could be similar but newer houses tend to be founded at about 900mm deep depending on local conditions. Clay can mean you need special conditions. "Temoins defissures" means telltales in English.

In the Uk it is up to the surveyor or engineer to interpret the results of the monitoring which can easily be seasonal as I mentioned already.

There is a Brit expat structural engineer in the South of France on Anglo Info- I don't know him but he claims to be experienced in settlement matters

Hi, The barn next to us was bought a couple of years ago, and started to develop a vertical crack on its end wall after a year - i would say due to settlement( there is another crack on the corner nearest, so the corner is basically moving out.)The buyer is blaming the seller for vice cachée, supported by her insurance company. Do you think your cracks (photo would be useful) could be seasonal?

Another thought - as Claudia says maybe there was previous history on the building which could lead to a claim if covered up in some way. Did you have a survey done? It's not obligatory but in the UK practically every purchase is preceded by a survey by a qualified person - usually a building surveyor or maybe an architects. If a survey was done but not properly then maybe you may have a claim. Do you have comprehensive photos taken prior to purchase? We've all seen photos of houses affected by catastrophic arrival of sinkholes as well. It occurs to be that you are possibly in an area of limestone which is notorious as the cause of sinkholes and in the Lot there are many well known caves and one would imagine plenty of unknown ones. Your mairie may be able to shed some light on local knowledge.

Hi there,

Have a similar issue. Moved to our place in 2013 and there were some small vertical cracks in the second old house. Didn't look serious though.

After funny weather for a couple of years, long periods without rain (often 3 months) then sudden, violent local storms that flood the garden, the cracks have been widening.

The Mairie however does not class any of this as catastrophe so no joy there. The insurance company are demanding 'proof' that the cracks are getting worse and sent out a surveyor of their choice. He advised us to get "témoins de fissures" and take photos every 2 weeks. We had to put these up ourselves and the installation sent chunks of plaster raining down!

If there is some sort of noticeable difference, the insurance company might be persuaded to pay out the cost of putting in metal reinforcement bars. If not, it's down to us. Typically at the moment, we're having one of the long, dry spells and the cracks don't seem to be moving. Hey ho, just got to wait and see...

Unfortuantely the process here in France is not that straight forward.

First of all what is the cause of the cracks? Could it be the heat, the drought, the rain, flooding? Since you only had the house since March - it is probably difficult to determine. Cracks usually do not appear overnight, so maybe the previous owner already knew? Then you potentially have a vice caché, that they purposefully hid the fact that the house had problems from you. Then you would need a lawyer.

Should weather conditions be the cause - it could fall under catastrophe naturelle. This needs to be declared by the government, which takes ages (in some dreadful cases like recent events, it was declared pretty quick) and then you have 10 days (!) to make a claim with your insurance. This is also a lengthy process as they first will want to tell you that they do not cover for it. Which maybe true, as you only had the house a short while.

Best would be to check with an assurance protection juridique, an insurance that you sometimes subscribe to with your bank for a small amount a month - who could tell you which route to take.

I went thru this process and it took me 10 years to get somewhere.. :-(

I used to own a structural engineering comapny in London, although I am not personally a structural engineer. However we dealt with many hundreds of cases of insurance claims relating to structural movement of houses in the UK. In fact we undertook a large programme on behalf of Direct Line Insurance subsequent to a very dry summer and the majority of problems related to properties located close to trees or on clay subsoil. Just cutting a tree down may not resolve a problem and you can get substatial residual movement. Do you know if you are o clay or not? Current practice is to protect foundations with compressible boards designed to allow movement of the soil without impacting foundations. It has to be said that more recently built houses using bricks or blocks using cement based joints are more likely to be affected by houses using lime based joints. Rigid internal finishes such as plaster are also very vulnerable. Underpinning is often an answer but it needs to be carefully designed and carried out carefully in a strict programme. In overall terms for every nine metres of wall you dig a one metre pit and underpin. Then you allow that to set and dig out another metre pit and underpin and so on. There are other systems involving things like ground anchors and stabilisation systems. Was the house built on virgin ground or on the site of previous buildings or fill? These are all points that need to be carefully considered before the correct solution is found and priced but you are talking about many hundreds of euros per metre run. Another cause could be leaking drains or mineworkings in the area. In my opinion you should make a formal claim, but you may have to employ an engineer first at your cost to do so. Any insurer would then appoint the equivalent of a loss adjuster whose existence is there to minimise the cost to insurers. Normally movemnt is measured by using gauges called "tell tales"; sometimes movement is seasonal. Rememeber that all buildings move in some way, it's just a question of to what degree. If you want to chat with me you can find me in White Pages but I am no longer practising.

my thoughts exactly.....just try to find reasons to present to the company why they need to pull their finger out... bon courage!!

Hi Andrew, It's good to see you on SFN. Sorry we can't help you with your issue but hope you get some good advice.

Best of luck!


You may have a case for vice cachée…

I’m a bit lost,can’t you simply make a claim through your insurance company? My neighbour has recently had similar work done although she did say it took about 2-3 years for the insurance company to process it.