One concern that Tampa, Florida, homeowners have to contend with is sinkholes. While sinkholes rarely happen, they occur at a higher rate in Florida than in other states. Since your home is one of the largest investments you’ll ever make, it’s important to know signs of a sinkhole and what to do if you suspect one.
What Is a Sinkhole?
A sinkhole is an underground hole formed in the bedrock by water erosion. Sinkholes are more likely to occur in areas with limestone bedrock. Most sinkholes seemingly appear overnight, but they take hundreds or thousands of years to form. When water runs into the ground over time, it slowly erodes the rock beneath the sand or clay topsoil. Eventually, a cave forms in the bedrock. Sinkholes occur when the cave’s ceiling collapses due to water pressure, the weight of the soil, and vibrations from machines and cars.
Door, Windows, and Cabinet Problems
Houses settle over the years, and a little unevenness isn’t abnormal. When a sinkhole forms near or under your house, you’ll see subtle warning signs. Doors will jam and stop latching. Windows that used to open easily become hard to open, start sticking, or won’t open or close completely. You might notice that your cabinet doors and drawers sit unevenly or won’t open or close properly.
You could see cracks forming in your walls, especially where walls and ceilings meet and around doors and windows. You may notice cracks in tile grout, laminate, linoleum, or tile flooring that’s laid over concrete. New or growing cracks are definitely worth checking into.
Separating Walls and Slanted Floors
Walls and ceilings with gaps or separation could indicate a sinkhole. Trim and molding that’s pulling away is another sign. If you feel like your house has become slanted or see warping, sagging, or bulging floors, call a professional.
If you notice an earthy smell after it rains that’s abnormally strong, you could have a sinkhole. A wet crawl space, leaks, or flooding during rain are signs of foundation problems. If you have a well, suddenly cloudy water or debris in the water indicates a problem.
Changes in Your Yard
Your yard will show signs of change if a sinkhole is forming underneath it. Check your fence posts and trees for sagging or slanting. Inspect the ground around trees and posts for fresh exposure where the ground has sunk. Small, new ponds of water are a sign of a sinkhole, especially if water has never collected there before. Look for pools of water around your foundation. Similarly, if an existing pond suddenly drains, you should call a professional.
Walk through your yard looking for new depressions, slopes, or dips. Are there areas of dead grass and plants? Vegetation dies in a circular area when rainwater drains into the hole instead of nourishing the plants.
Cracks in Pavement or Concrete
Look down your street for sinking areas or buckling. New or widening cracks in your driveway or sidewalks could mean sinkhole activity is occurring. Sinking porches and a cracked or leaning chimney are signs of foundation trouble.
Ask Around About Sinkholes
If you see several of these signs, ask your neighbors if they’ve had sinkhole activity or know if anyone nearby has. Check with your emergency management office and weather offices about sinkhole activity in the area. In Florida, the Geological Survey office records and tracks sinkhole events.
Your Next Steps
If you suspect a sinkhole around your home, don’t panic. Call emergency services and tell them you suspect a sinkhole. If a hole has opened up, leave your home. Call your insurance company, and they will send an adjuster to check out the problem. The adjuster may decide to have an engineer inspect your property. Depending on the severity of the sinkhole and damage caused, you might be facing extensive repairs.
You can rely on ServiceMaster Restore to provide the help you need. We’ll pack and move your belongings and dry out any water-damaged items. We offer a full range of construction services from demolition to finishing. Give ServiceMaster a call at 813-603-2001 to get your house back to normal.Image provided by Shutterstock