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Worried that your new home has been built with sub-standard cement? Here we take a look at the steps you should take.

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  • Homeowners living in new-build properties are being warned that homes built with ‘weak mortar’ may be at risk of crumbling.

    A report by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme alleged hundreds of properties have been built with mortar which does not meet recommended industry standards. 

    If you’re worried you could be affected, what steps can and should you take? Here we provide some guidance. 

    What are the rules on mortar?

    Under guidelines from NHBC (National House Building Council), the main warranty provider for new-build houses, mortar in most areas of the UK should be made of one part cement to 5.5 parts sand. In severe weather areas, there should be a stronger mix to make it more durable. 

    Why are problems occurring?

    If could be because house builders have switched to using a new type of factory-mixed, lower-strength mortar or errors have been made mixing and laying the material on site.

    The building industry says mortar performance is a complex issue, as it can be affected by a number of factors. 

    What signs do you need to look out for that could indicate ‘weak mortar?’

    The most obvious signs are sandy deposits found next to exterior walls, cracks in the mortar, and gaps in the brick-work where the mortar has worn away. You may also hear the mortar cracking from time to time. 

    How can you ensure your new-build property doesn’t have weak mortar before you buy it?

    Many buyers mistakenly believe they don’t need a survey when buying a new-build property.

    However, experts say it’s essential to get a ‘snagging’ survey done before moving in.

    Either pay a company to carry out an independent snagging survey, or, at the very least, do one yourself between exchange and completion. 

    Rob Dix, co-founder of The Property Hub, says: “This will check for any problems with your new-build home – from small, cosmetic problems, to bigger, structural issues.” 

    If you do have a problem with ‘weak mortar’ what might the damage be? 

    If you are unlucky enough to encounter an issue with sub-standard mortar, you could find yourself faced with an expensive repair bill. 

    Dix says: “You’ll need to get the property re-pointed. It could cost around £3,500 to repoint an average three-bedroom house.” With this in mind, it’s important to take action. 

    Check your warranty

    The good news is, if the mortar is found to be weaker than required under NHBC guidelines, you should be able to turn to your housebuilder – and the NHBC – for help. 

    A spokesperson for the NHBC, says: “NHBC’s 10-year Buildmark warranty and insurance cover is split into two parts. 

    “The first two years is the builder warranty period, and for the remaining eight years, we provide insurance cover for damage to the home caused by the builder’s failure of construct-specific parts of the property to NHBC Technical Requirements.” 

    All new homes that have an NHBC Buildmark and insurance policy will also have been inspected by NHBC at key stages during construction. 

    Mark Harris, chief executive of mortgage broker, SPF Private Clients, says: “Should any issues, such as weak mortar, be missed or not evident upon the initial valuation, and are subsequently discovered by the homeowner, they should be raised with the house-builder or warranty holder.

     “New homes typically have the protection of a two-year builder guarantee and then a structural warranty which, between them, should remedy any issues.”

    How to take action

    If you are the owner of a home covered by a Buildmark policy and think there may be a problem with mortar, this is what you should do:

    • If your home is less than two years old, you should contact your builder in the first instance

    • If your property is more than two years old, you should contact NHBC’s Claims team.

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