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Peter Rogozik Property Consulting

Understanding under the floor

Defects related to the sub-floor structure of a home are widely misunderstood by property buyers.

Repairing or replacing the sub-floor of a timber home is known as restumping or reblocking.

The term underpinning refers to the process of stabilising a dwelling’s foundations to avoid further subsidence. Underpinning is carried out on brick homes built on a concrete slab or strip footing.

The need to reblock or underpin is generally caused by foundation failure or rotting of sub-floor timber.

Tell-tale signs that a dwelling has sub-floor problems are sloping or springy floors, doors not closing properly, door heads out of alignment, and substantial internal cracking of walls or external brickwork.

The advancement of building technology has seen most modern homes in Melbourne built on concrete slabs. Most period-style timber homes were built on timber stumps and brick homes on concrete strip footings.

Property investors tend to overstate the seriousness of sub-floor defects and therefore may disregard a property that is otherwise a great opportunity. Also, amateur property investors tend to wrongly elevate sub-floor defects as a high-priority negative when assessing capital growth potential.

Residential properties in the most sought-after locations in inner Melbourne were built more than 100 years ago and are generally

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period-style. If they haven’t been reblocked or underpinned then technically they need to be.

From a practical perspective, however, in many cases there is no urgency to reblock or underpin. A sloping floor or cracking walls may not be aesthetically pleasing but will usually not impede the liveability of the dwelling.

For example, as an interim measure springy floors can be rectified by “wedging” between the stump and bearer and unsightly cracking can be filled and painted.

The process of reblocking or underpinning results in substantial movement to a dwelling and will damage existing structures. Therefore reblocking or underpinning work should be carried out prior to any major improvements such as renovations to kitchens and bathrooms, or replastering.

Property investors should always assess a dwelling’s capital growth potential based on high-priority real estate fundamentals.

Of course, building defects should also be taken into account, but a realistic assessment needs to be made of the cost and timing of repairs.

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