A sinkhole is an underground hole formed in the bedrock by water erosion. It occurs in areas with limestone bedrock. Sinkholes take hundreds or thousands of years to form and seemingly appear overnight.
A cave forms in the bedrock when water runs into the ground over time. The soil slowly erodes the rock beneath the sand or clay topsoil. Sinkholes only happen when the cave’s ceiling collapses due to water pressure, the soil’s weight, and vibrations emanating from cars and machines.
Here are some warning signs that there is a sinkhole in your yard: cracks everywhere, watery signs, changes in your yard, and large cracks in your driveway and sidewalks.
If you believe that there’s a sinkhole in your yard, call your local government office and insurance company. Keep your distance from the hole, including your children and pets. It is best to block it and put a fence and rope that is visible in the daytime and nighttime. You may also want to leave your house if it has a huge damage impact.
In this article, we will tackle the warning signs of a sinkhole in your yard and things to do if you believe there’s one in your property. We will also discuss how to prevent sinkholes on your property.
Warning Signs of a Sinkhole in Your Yard
A sinkhole on your property can sometimes be dangerous, and other times, easy to fix. If there’s a depression in your yard, far from the structures such as buildings or roads, you can manage it like a pro.
But before jumping to the conclusion that there’s a sinkhole in your yard, make sure you know how to spot the signs. Below are the warning signs of a sinkhole in your yard.
1. Door, Windows, and Cabinet Problems
A little unevenness in a settled home isn’t a strange thing. If a sinkhole forms near or under your house, you’ll notice these low-key warning signs:
- Doors will stop latching and start to jam.
- Windows will be hard to open, won’t open and close completely, and start sticking.
- Cabinet doors and drawers will sit unevenly and won’t open or close properly.
2. Cracks Everywhere
You’ll start seeing cracks forming in your walls, especially around the windows, doors, ceilings, and foundation walls. You will also notice cracks in tile grout, tile flooring, and linoleum laid over concrete. It is best to check new and growing cracks for safety purposes.
3. Separating Walls and Slanted Floors
One of the sinkhole indicators is wall and ceiling gaps. Trim and molding drifting away is another sign of a sinkhole. Call a professional if your house has become slanted or if you see warping, bulging, and sagging floors.
4. Changes in Your Yard
If a sinkhole is forming underneath your home, your yard will show changes. Inspect the ground around trees and check whether your fence posts are sagging or slanting for fresh exposures where the ground has sunk.
Walk and inspect your yard, looking for slopes, dips, and depressions. For instance, are your plants and grass dying? Vegetation dies in a circular manner when rainwater seeps through the hole instead of nourishing your plants.
Small and new ponds of water are other signs of a sinkhole, mainly if water has never been collected there before. Check around and look for pools of water around your foundation. If you notice an existing pond suddenly drains, you must call a professional.
5. Watery Signs
Another sign you could have a sinkhole underneath your house is that after a rain shower, you’ll smell an abnormally strong and earthy odor. Flooding during rain, leakage, and wet crawl spaces are signs of having foundation problems. If you have a backyard well, the water will suddenly become cloudy, indicating a problem, and debris coming out of the water could be a reason for sinkholes.
6. Cracks in Pavement or Concrete
When you notice that your street is sinking or buckling, it could mean a sinkhole is forming. This is especially true if you see new or widening cracks in your driveway or sidewalks. A leaning or cracked chimney and sinking porches are signs of foundation problems.
7. Ask around About Sinkholes
If you’re anxious because you’ve seen several signs indicating that there is a sinkhole in your yard, ask your neighbors about a potential sinkhole activity. Call and check into the nearest management and weather offices to inform them of sinkhole activity in your location.
8. Next Steps
The first thing to do if you suspect a sinkhole in your yard is not to panic. Call the emergency services right away when you suspect the presence of a sinkhole. If the hole is already opened up, immediately evacuate your home.
Call your insurance company. They’ll be sending an adjuster to check the problem. The adjuster decides to have an engineer inspect the property. Repairs may vary depending on the damages caused and the severity of the sinkhole.
Rocks are everywhere. You can find them in the streets, on sidewalks, and in your yard. There rocks that you want to keep in your yard, such as the ones used to build walkways and firepits, while there are some that you will want to remove. Read our article to know how much it will cost to remove rocks from your yard.
Things to Do if You Believe There’s a Sinkhole in Your Yard
Sinkhole activity requires immediate response to ensure the safety of your family and everyone surrounding your area. Here are eights specific actions you should take if you believe there is a sinkhole on your property.
If you believe there is a sinkhole on your property, the first thing you should do is stay away from it and not panic. Make sure your children and pets are away from the possible sinkhole area.
Leave Your Impacted House Immediately
As soon as the sinkhole opens up and impacts your house, leave it and stay out of it. Some of the obvious signs that a sinkhole is impacting include:
- Cracking, sinking, and sagging walls.
- Doors and windows that are difficult to close.
- Large cracks in driveways, floors, patios, and the ground surface in and outside the house.
Fence or Rope Off the Area
Put a blockage in the area of the sinkhole with a rope or fence and make sure it is visible in daytime and nighttime. Tell everyone that the area is off-limits and block it off to avoid problems.
Call Your Insurance Company
If your insurance policy covers both the assessment of the situation and repair, contact them right away to make them aware of the situation. The company will be sending an adjuster to your home to be the one on top of the situation after you secure and mark off the area.
If your insurance company covers neither the assessment nor the repair, you must make sure of what it covers. If it doesn’t cover anything, have a budget for the right course of action.
You can also report your situation to your local government office, which may help you find an agency to assist you in reporting a sinkhole, evacuating your home, and assessing the damages.
Consult with a Soil Testing Firm or Engineering Company
To determine whether or not you have a sinkhole in your yard, you need to take a test. The evaluation can be performed and done by a licensed engineer with a professional geologist staff or by a geological testing firm.
You must also understand what your insurance company covers, whether or not by geological assessment. If not, pricing for the said testing varies widely depending on the firms you’ve chosen. You can also obtain price quotes from at least two separate engineering/geological testing firms.
You may also check with your local Water Management District for they may perform sinkhole assessments. It can be an inexpensive option compared to the ones performed by private companies.
Monitor the Sinkhole for Signs of Growth
Continuously check and monitor the size of your sinkhole, starting from its first appearance. Sinkholes can quickly change in size. Make sure to stay at a safe distance from them at all times.
Watch for Further Structural Damages
Keep checking for any signs of structural damages if you insist on staying in your home for there are no definite signs of damage from the sinkhole. Sinkhole dangers grow rapidly and you need to stay vigilant and be ready to leave your home at the first sign of damage.
Avoid Dumping Anything into the Sinkhole
Before dumping anything into a sinkhole, wait for specific orders from the local government agency and your insurance company. Dumping materials into a sinkhole can damage and contaminate groundwater. Thus, by not dumping anything into the sinkhole, you are avoiding being liable for the damages.
How to repair a Sinkhole on Your Property?
Sinkholes are also known as “karst” terrains for they are developed when soft rock underground, such as limestone, gypsum, and other carbonated rock that have been there for a long time, wears off.
Here are some ways to fix a sinkhole.
1. Measure the Sinkhole
Monitor the sinkhole size to check if it changes or grows. Sinkholes are often caused by weather phenomena, such as heavy rainstorms. As the sinkhole appears, it continues to expand as the soft rocks fall away.
If the sinkhole stops growing and remains the same for a few days, you can fill it with soil and rocks. If it continues to grow day by day, don’t try to fill it.
You can fill a relatively small and shallow sinkhole using a pole or stick and probe around the sinkhole. Take note of the depth and diameter of the sinkhole.
The ground can be unstable, so be careful when exercising caution through walking around the edge of the sinkhole. Don’t try to fill the larger sinkholes measuring about three feet deep. Avoid stepping down the sinkhole if it’s deeper than chest height.
You can call a professional landscaping company to fix the sinkhole if you’re concerned about doing the job on your own.
2. Pouring a Concrete Plug
Dig out the outer edges of the sinkhole. The sinkhole’s size can be larger underground than it appears to be above. Thus, use a shovel to know its true extent.
Remove the sod around the sinkhole’s edges and make sure the surrounding ground is solid. Carry on the task until you’ve reached the point where the topsoil is supported by solid rocks.
Mix and dry concrete powder, and afterward, start pouring about a third of the mix to the large basin or use a wheelbarrow. Pour one quart or 946mL of water and mix it thoroughly with a shovel or paddle mixer.
Continue to add water until you reach the desired wet consistency. To strengthen the concrete, add gravel to the mixture.
Pour the concrete plug in the sinkhole. Use a wheelbarrow and shovel, then pour the wet concrete into the sinkhole. This will stop the sinkhole from deepening further and will give a solid base.
The goal is to fill the hole with at least a quarter of concrete. Move on to filling it with sand and soil, even if the concrete is still wet. A “plug” means that you’ll have to fill the bottom of the sinkhole with concrete.
3. Filling the Sinkhole
Add clay sand on top of the concrete plug. Thick, clayey sand will provide a heavy filling for the sinkhole, which stops water from collecting in the filled sinkhole.
Use a shovel, scoop the sand, and fill it into the hole. Deposit the hole with sand until it’s about ¾ full.
Fill the sinkhole with topsoil, and fill the remaining depth for the hole. Finishing the hole with topsoil allows plants to grow back on top of it and helps stabilize the soil and sand.
Add more soil until the ground is compacted and settled. Repeat the process more than once for the concrete, sand, and soil is likely to settle following heavy rain or runoff.
Avoid planting trees or shrubs on the re-filled sinkhole for they might not thrive due to lack of nutrients in the soil. They could become uprooted or fall if the hole collapses again.
Have you ever wondered why some of the areas in your yard are uneven and collecting rain or irrigation water? It may be the cause of unlevel yard or draining issues. If not treated early, you may be endangering your plants, trees, and even your house. To help you avoid this problem, read our DIY guide to regrading your backyard.
Sinkholes can be extremely dangerous, although sometimes, they may be easy to manage. If the sinkhole in your property is small, you will be able to easily repair it on your own, but if it is deep and wide, it’s better to let the professionals handle the repair.
To keep the damages to your property to a minimum, you should be able to see the signs of a sinkhole so that you can address the problem immediately. Compare the signs that we have discussed in this article to your situation and see whether they match or not. If they do, we highly suggest that you call a professional to conduct further testing. By doing these steps, you will be able to avoid spreading false alarms around the neighborhood.
Knowing what to do if a huge sinkhole occurs and how to manage it is also crucial to avoid putting yourself and your neighbors in danger. Remember to not panic. Keep a clear and calm mind and do the things that you should do when it comes to dealing with a sinkhole. Focus on the task at hand and the problem will be solved before you know it.