What Do Building Surveys Look at in the Garden?

By James Brook FRICS on and updated on

When arranging a survey, your focus will probably be on the internal condition of the property, but it’s worth remembering that building surveys will also inspect the outside of a property, including gardens and outbuildings. You may think that trees, plants and the general state of the garden wouldn’t impact a sale, but potentially problematic findings could be unearthed here too.


While beautiful mature trees may help to make a garden more appealing, there are various things a surveyor will look out for that you need to know about before committing to a purchase.

Top of the list will be trees planted close to the property. As large trees will have sizable root systems, they can penetrate foundations, causing cracks in your home and damaging drainage systems. Worst case, they could even drain moisture from the ground during dry periods leading to movement and subsidence. Oaks, willows and poplars are known to have particularly long roots, so expect these to be flagged in the survey along with options for next steps. Any tree preservation orders will also be highlighted.

It’s worth noting that damage from roots is unlikely to be covered by insurance so if there are any concerns, make sure they’re thoroughly assessed.

Japanese knotweed

A particular problem in London, the highly invasive Japanese knotweed, will also be picked up by a building survey. While it may look innocuous to the untrained eye, this persistent weed can cause serious problems with its ability to spread up to 7m in all directions quickly. It’s even capable of forcing its way through concrete and can damage foundations, walls and drains. If identified, removing it is costly and time-consuming and could require specialist intervention.

However, the good news is that the discovery of Japanese knotweed no longer has to signal an end to the sale. RICS has recently updated its guidance in this area, which means surveyors can use their discretion when assessing the impact of infestations, making it easier for people to sell their homes. Keeping infestations under control, rather than eradicating them, can now be deemed sufficient.


building survey will also note any climbing plants such as ivy or wisteria. Common ivy, for example, is a sturdy climber that can lift roof tiles, pull away guttering, intrude into mortar joints and even cause masonry to crack. The presence of climbers can also cause problems with damp walls.

Around the garden

The surveyor will also conduct a visual inspection of the garden as a whole, assessing retaining and boundary walls, patios, gates, fences and pathways. Outbuildings such as summerhouses and substantial greenhouses will also be looked at where access is possible with any maintenance and repair requirements highlighted.

The Novello Approach

The garden is an extra room in the house and a keyspace for relaxation and socialising for many people. With this in mind, our Novello+ Building Survey will not only offer a detailed analysis of the internal aspects of a property, but it’ll also ensure you are fully aware of any potential issues within the garden, including any ongoing maintenance that may be required and any problems that will need to be rectified. While we’ll deliver a clear, impartial report complete with photos of any defects, explain the likely cause and, crucially, offer cost estimates for major issues, we also go way beyond this. We take a partnership approach and work with you to ensure you get the detail you need to pay the right price for your home. We’ll speak to you ahead of the survey so you can highlight any specific concerns about the property, and we’ll reach out to your solicitor to see if they have any questions too. Once the inspection is finished, we will thoroughly explain our findings. If we find issues, whether inside or in the garden, that we believe will impact the property’s value, we will advise on a negotiation strategy to ensure you only pay a fair price. Armed with this information, you’ll soon be enjoying your beautiful, safe and secure garden.

To find out more, contact us today.

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