Thanks to the composition of our soil, our close proximity to the water table, and frequent rain, Florida homeowners are wary of sinkholes and the risk they pose to our property. A sinkhole is just what it sounds like…a hole that develops under the ground and over time gets larger until the “crust” of soil and earth on top collapse in on themselves, taking anything sitting on top along with them. While not a huge ordeal when out in the woods or in a “natural” area, they are devastating when they develop under a major roadway, a large-scale building, and people’s homes. The worse part? While they are a sort of “natural disaster,” many homeowners are left holding the bill to replace their entire lives with no financial assistance, since many insurance policies don’t cover sinkhole damage and loss outright.
While you can’t 100% predict a sinkhole, there are warning signs that can hint at something unfortunately going on below the ground on your property around your home. What are they?
- Trees, fence posts, or yard decor (lamp posts or flag poles) slanting or falling over with no outside force causing the problem. Obviously, severe and/or frequent wind can lead to these issues occasionally, as can very wet weather that softens the ground, but if all other conditions are staying steady and you still notice trees tilting significantly, you might have a sinkhole issue.
- Cracks in your foundation. Almost all foundations develop small, hairline cracks over time as the ground settles and the landscape changes subtly. However, if you notice significant and sudden cracking of your walls, patios, etc. and if you notice that doors are having trouble closing in your home, this can be a sign of a major shift in your foundation and that could be a telltale sign of a sinkhole under your home.
- Dents, cracks, or holes developing in your yard. This seems obvious, but if you notice changes in the layout of your yard, like a pond draining suddenly, dips or holes showing up in your lawn, or major puddles developing in new places following storms, you could have a sinkhole problem looming on the horizon.
If you are looking to purchase a home in Florida, knowing what to look for regarding the risk of a sinkhole is paramount in making a good decision. Purchasing a home that has known sinkhole and/or foundational issues could turn into a HUGE money pit over time, and leave you with not only countless financial investments in repairs and replacements, but could leave you with no equity in a home if it is deemed no longer inhabitable because of the risk. Having a qualified, experienced inspector is a major part of purchasing a home in Florida. We are trained to look for small issues that indicate a much bugger problem. That crack in the back patio? It could indicate something big…or it could be a simple hairline crack from settling. The same goes for changes in yard landscape, discrepancies in the doors and/or windows, etc. Knowing whether these problems stem from construction mistakes or simple foundational settling, or from a sinkhole developing beneath the surface is part of our job, and we are proud to provide the greater Lakeland area with only the best in home inspection services. When you’re ready to buy a home, call on Residential Inspection Consultants so you can feel confident and secure in your purchase decision! We want to make sure your dream home doesn’t turn into a nightmare.