Florida experiences more sinkholes than any other state due to the composition of the ground, which is primarily made up of a limestone substance called karst. This ground type is full of fissures and cracks. As slightly acidic rainwater eats away at the limestone karst, it forms gaps and holes. Once these gaps become big enough, the ceiling of the hole caves in, creating a sinkhole.
Sinkholes can be terrifying, destructive, and deadly. They are also difficult to spot because the early signs of a sinkhole look like the signs of common foundation issues. The risk of sinkholes is something Florida homeowners should be aware of because the earlier you spot a sinkhole, the better. You may be able to prevent thousands of dollars in damage to your home.
If you live in an area prone to sinkholes, make sure you know what causes them and the warning signs to look for around your home.
Are Sinkholes Happening More Often in Florida?
If it seems like sinkholes are happening more often, that’s not just your imagination. The rate of sinkholes has increased, especially in the middle part of the state, known as Sinkhole Alley. The increasing number of sinkholes is primarily due to:
- Increased construction. Developed areas are more prone to sinkholes for a reason. As construction crews clear off land to build on, they scrape away the top layer of earth. This, along with the heavy equipment and new structures, can make the ground underneath more vulnerable to collapse.
- Decreasing groundwater levels. As groundwater levels drop due to increasing irrigation and drinking water needs, supportive underground water reservoirs are drying up. That gives less support to the ground above, which could then collapse. Floridians are using more groundwater than ever, making this an all-too-common cause for sinkholes.
The weather can have a big impact on the rate of sinkholes as well. In the first nine months after Hurricane Irma, for example, Florida homeowners reported more than 400 new sinkholes. As Florida weather becomes more extreme, we will likely continue to see more and more sinkholes in the state.
How To Spot a Potential Sinkhole Problem
If you live in an area susceptible to sinkholes, you may consider taking out a sinkhole insurance policy. However, these policies are often very expensive with a high deductible. The best defense against sinkholes is to be vigilant in watching for initial signs that you might have an issue. This can help you take steps to prevent a potential sinkhole from becoming a big problem.
To spot a sinkhole early, you’ll need to watch for signs both inside and outside your home.
Inside Your Home
- Cracks in your walls or ceiling, including stair-step cracks in the brick. Make note of any cracks that appear to widen over time.
- Doors and windows are suddenly difficult to open or close. Look for cabinets or drawer fronts in your home that are suddenly crooked.
- Warping or sagging of your floor, particularly in basements or crawl spaces.
- Dampness in a crawl space or increased dampness in your home after a storm.
- Muddy or cloudy well water.
Around Your Property
- Rain collecting in new areas, forming circular lakes or puddles. This is a sign that the ground underneath is subsiding.
- New circular bare patches of earth or dead grass in your yard. This happens when the groundwater under the area is no longer sufficient to sustain plant life.
- Foundations or fence posts becoming more exposed as the earth subsides. Also, make note of any tree roots that are suddenly more exposed.
- Tilting, leaning, or toppled trees or fence posts.
- Circular patterns of cracks in the earth, especially in sidewalks or driveways.
How Do You Know if It’s a Sinkhole or a Foundation Issue?
Unless you are an expert, it’s tough to know if these are signs of a sinkhole forming or standard foundation issues. Some settling of the ground around your home is normal, especially if it’s a new property. It can be hard not to be paranoid, especially if other homes near yours have experienced the devastating effects of a sinkhole.
Because sinkholes are so common in Florida, you shouldn’t take any risks. It’s best to contact an expert in sinkhole repair if you have any concerns. Let them perform a thorough inspection of your property to determine your sinkhole risk and the best ways to handle it. Whether it’s a sinkhole or a foundation issue, it’s something you’ll want to repair before it starts impacting your home.
What To Do if You Suspect You Have a Sinkhole Problem
If you think you have a sinkhole problem, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
- If the sinkhole has already formed and is impacting your home, you should calmly get your family out of the house. You should then contact emergency services to report the sinkhole and get in touch with your insurance company.
- If the hole is still small, rope it off and keep curious onlookers away from it. Sinkholes can form very quickly and are unpredictable. Without a professional evaluation, it can be difficult to know if the sinkhole will get bigger or if a person’s weight on the area could make it worse.
Don’t try to fill the hole yourself. Sinkholes often connect to groundwater, which may be a source of drinking water for nearby residents. If you try to fill the hole yourself, you may end up contaminating the water supply.
The signs for foundation problems and sinkholes are very similar. It may be hard to determine the difference yourself. That’s why you’ll want our expert team to do a thorough inspection of your property for you. Using our years of knowledge, experience, and specialized equipment and training, we can determine the cause of any foundation issues on your property. Whether it’s a sinkhole or a bad foundation, we’ll find the reason and get it fixed.
If you are experiencing any foundation issues, contact Alpha Foundations right away. It’s important to protect your home and your investment with a comprehensive foundation and sinkhole inspection. We provide this service free of charge, and our foundation repair experts can identify whether your issues are due to a faulty foundation or a sinkhole.
Schedule a free sinkhole inspection with our Florida foundation repair team today.