Technical FAQ’s

Below are more technical questions regarding Structural Engineers’ reports and when they are needed.

Technical FAQs

Most structural concerns involve cracking and movement, so our focus of inspection will be on the building walls, both interior and exterior. Floors and roof structures can sometimes be an issue and we will inspect these when required. In the case of apartments, it may not be possible for us to make a full inspection because of the inability to gain access to other apartments in the building.

All the structural inspections we carry out are visual only. We do not carry out intrusive explorations as part of the initial site visit. We are experienced at having to report decisively and quickly without the need for any invasive work or ongoing monitoring.


Cracking which corresponds inside AND out is normally a structural defect and not cosmetic plaster cracking.

Cracks which are tapered and wider at the top than the bottom often results from foundation movement.

Old or dormant cracks can be repaired easily and inexpensively.

Cracks which widen over a long period of time are severe and are of most concern to surveyors, lenders and insurers, as they could lead to further damage in the future and make the property hard to re-sell.

Cracking in walls does not necessarily mean that there is a serious issue like subsidence. However, cracks that widen over a long period of time are severe and will require professional expertise to rectify the visible damage to the walls and the root cause of the problem.

Settlement is when the soil is squashed under a building as the ground adjusts to support the weight of the house. Settlement cracks are cosmetic and not structurally significant and can be easily repaired.

Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground underneath a house. The supporting soil shrinks and makes the building unstable. This commonly occurs when tree roots take a lot of moisture from clay soil in hot, dry summers.

Subsidence is difficult to control which makes it an insurable risk.

Settlement is normally a latent defect, found in period properties or poorly designed modern houses, extensions or conservatories with inadequate foundations, so is not an insurable risk.


Insurers will usually only consider a subsidence claim if:

  1. The damage has occurred while you are insuring or owning the property. An insurer will not be interested in structural movement damage which occurred when the property had previous owners or insurers.
  2. The structural movement is clearly the result of subsidence, which is something you cannot reasonably expect to control such as drought or a leaking drain. The insurer will not cover poor design or shoddy workmanship, such as a recent extension with unsuitable foundations.

Yes. We can provide an order of magnitude based on our general experience.

The costs will only be an estimate not a quotation. A detailed specification of repair works will be required for an accurate quotation. However, our approximate costs will help to inform a buying or selling decision and how to proceed.

Yes, we will be pleased to recommend a firm for general building work. We can also suggest reputable specialist companies to undertake structural repair work as these should not be undertaken by general tradespeople. We can also recommend architects and designers, from our experience in working on a vast range of property renovations, alterations and new build projects. See Structural Design.

In most cases a Pole report will be all that an experienced builder or specialist requires to carry out the repair work. When the job is complex or extensive, we will be willing to undertake any subsequent specifications required in the repair process

A Certificate of Structural Adequacy (CSA) is issued following the completion of remedial work, such as underpinning or significant crack repairs, following an insurance claim. A CSA is a useful way to confirm that the works have been completed, but it is not a certificate of warranty or an insurance policy.

A certificate is not normally issued with a structural engineer’s report.

Pole does not provide this service. However, we can recommend firms of Chartered Surveyors that offer three types of RICS surveys.

Level 1 - Valuation Surveys which are for the benefit of the lender mainly chiefly and usually carried out by an approved surveyor.

Level 2 - Homebuyers Reports which are suitable for most types of properties in reasonable condition but will highlight any serious concerns.

Level 3 - Building Surveys which are for large and older buildings or properties in poor condition and require a thorough investigation to identify any defects and their cause. Please note that a building survey is not a structural survey.

Unfortunately no, we don’t. We only focus on the skeletal structure of a building and its strength and stability.