Maybe you live in an area with known underground water circulation. Perhaps you’ve observed some perplexing changes to your home or property. Even if you’ve noticed some changes to your neighbor’s property, this still applies to you. You may be living over a sinkhole. Sinkholes are caused by water eroding the bedrock under your home or yard, creating underground caves that may collapse when humans disturb the ground for any reason. The result can be a dangerous and expensive nightmare for homeowners.
Observe your home and yard. Look for new cracks in your home or surrounding paved areas (driveway or sidewalks, doors or windows that no longer hang straight, or tilting, wilting trees and plants.
See if you can detect the shape of the sinkhole (typically round) on your property or your neighbors’ properties. The sinkhole may be just a foot or two wide, or it could be several yards across. If possible, try to discern the edges.
Standing on the firm edge of the sinkhole, dig carefully into the sunken area. If the ground collapses, back off. Get down on your knees, and look into the hole with a flashlight. You may be able to see tree roots or buried trash. You may also be able to determine the depth of the sinkhole near the edge. Sinkholes can be just a few feet deep, or so deep you can’t see the bottom. Take pictures of the hole, both outside and as far in as your camera can photograph with its flash.
If the sides and bottom are solid, fill the hole by adding soil in layers, a foot at a time, tamping each layer firmly. If the sides or bottom of the hole you produce are soft or continue to collapse, call a general home contractor. You could get hurt or make the damage worse if you try to repair a deep sinkhole yourself. You may also need a contractor to repair any damage to your home or paved areas.
Call your homeowners insurance company if you do find a deep sinkhole. They should be able to cover some, if not all, of the repair costs. Keep the pictures and documentation on all tests and repairs to share with your insurance agent.