Most homeowners think about common risks to their homes, such as fire or floods. In Florida, they may think about sinkholes also. Damage from sinkholes is not officially tracked, but the U.S. government estimates approximately $300 million in damage per year. That is the conservative estimate. Here is what you should know.

How it Happens

Risk areas are anywhere soluble bedrock is located. Are there are high levels of gypsum or limestone in the ground? If so, the stone is dissolved over time by the water that runs through the ground. The soil becomes soft and unstable. The gaps in the earth will fill with water. The surface can collapse into these softened areas. The result is a sinkhole.

Where Sinkholes Occur

Sinkholes can occur anywhere with the right conditions. The states in the U.S. with the most common sinkhole issues are:

  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Alabama

Other highly affected states are:

  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Pennsylvania

Florida is the most vulnerable because it sits on so much limestone.

The area that encompasses Hernando, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties is known as “sinkhole alley.” Most insurance claims in Florida for sinkholes come from this region. This doesn’t mean all homes in these counties are at risk. It also doesn’t mean that living outside the counties will prevent a problem.

What to Watch For

The best way to stay safe is to identify possible problems early. It could be a sign of sinkholes if:

  • Items in the yard have exposed areas around their base
  • Items in the yard begin to tilt or sag
  • The yard has new depressions in the ground where water collects
  • The yard has circular areas where the grass or other vegetation mysteriously dies

There are signs for Inside the home also.  The change in the ground could shift the house which keeps doors and windows from opening properly. There might be new cracks in the walls or the foundation of the home. Gaps could suddenly appear between concrete blocks. The damage would be more than the occasional hairline cracks that are expected as houses settle.

How to Respond

A small depression in the yard, away from structures and roads, can be managed by the homeowner. You should monitor the hole and fill in the depression if it remains the same size. Pour some concrete into the bottom to create a solid base. Then you can add sand with a high level of clay.  You finish it with one last layer of pure sand and topsoil.  It’s normal for the hole to sink a small amount after filling. Just add more topsoil as needed.

Contact emergency personnel if sinkholes:

  • Continue to grow
  • Are more than three feet in diameter
  • Are close to a structure or road

It’s important to contact the insurance company that handles your homeowner’s policy, as well.

Do not think that the easiest way out of the situation is to sell the home. The law requires you to inform people that there is a sinkhole when the home is listed for sale. Make sure to keep any documents about sinkhole repairs to the yard or the home.

Sinkholes are frightening and potentially dangerous. All Florida homeowners should make sure they are insured for this type of natural disaster. Aftermath Adjusters & Consulting can make certain that every homeowner gets the settlement they need to repair their property securely. Contact us for more information or for help with a claim.