FOUNDATIONS SPECIALISTS this week warned that householders in flood affected areas of southern England face new misery from foundation damage if an expected warm summer follows last winter's record rainfalls.
Foundations experts are warning that drying of abnormally wet ground could spark a wave of subsidence problems as the ground shrinks Heavy rains have already caused foundations problems, providing a surge of repair work for contractors.
'In the past, wet weather followed by dry weather has lead to clay shrinkage, ' said Keller Ground Engineering contracts manager Bernard Reed.
The bad weather has doubled Keller's subsidence repair workload, particularly in Kent, since the beginning of the year. Old chalk mine shafts or 'dene holes' have caused particular difficulties.
'The ground is still relatively wet, but if it dries over the summer and rain follows, then there will be more problems, ' said Reed.
Specialist foundation contractor Van Elle agreed that if the forecast hot summer materialises, then subsidence incidents will rise.
'Because of heavy sustained rain in some areas the ground is very wet. In hot weather the top few metres will dry first, leading to problems particularly with shallow foundations, ' said managing director Vic Handley.
His firm has held discussions with the Meteorological Office climate prediction unit, who said that a statistical 'seven year cycle' pointed to a warm summer following a wet winter this year. This type of weather was last seen in the mid-1990s.
A Met Office spokesman said the weather was expected to be drier and warmer than normal this summer in Wales and southern, central and eastern England. The north of England and southern Scotland will have a normal summer with the rest of Scotland not so lucky.
With Kent and Sussex experiencing double the annual rainfall to March and expected to bask in warmer summer weather, foundations problems are expected to be most prevalent there.
'When you get sands, gravels and chalk combined with this weather pattern, that is where the worst problems are likely to be, ' said Reed.