Signs of Sinkholes- And When to Call An Inspector

Sinkholes were a hot topic even before a man was swallowed up into a giant sinkhole under his house last week.

As sinkhole claims rise all over the state of Florida, and insurance companies continue to change the way they handle them, homeowners have more and more questions about them.

Read on to learn how to tell if you might have a sinkhole and what to do about it.

How do I tell if I might have a sinkhole?

Below are some signs of possible sinkhole activity. The more that you have, the more important it is to have your home inspected and evaluated immediately.

  •  Do any of your doors (including screen doors) have trouble closing or opening?
  •  Do any of your windows “stick” and “jam” or can be tough to open?
  •  Does your electric or water bill seem too high?
  •  Have you experienced any odd plumbing problems in your home?
  •  Does your home make strange creaking and popping sounds and noises at night?
  •  Are the cabinets and drawers in your kitchen and bathroom normal and level?
  •  Has a gap formed between your kitchen/bathroom counter backsplash and the wall?
  •  Have any shower tiles loosened, cracked or popped off?
  •  Is there any separation, or gaps, between any of your walls and the ceiling?
  •  Is there any separation, or gaps, between any of your walls and the floor?
  •  Are there any cracks in your interior walls? Inside your garage?
  •  Is there cracking or cracks around the corners of door and window frames?
  •  Do you have any cracked or “hollow” sounding floor tiles?
  •  Are there any cracks in your floor, including your garage?
  •  Does your floor feel level?  (Tip – put a golf ball or marble on different spots on a hard floor and see if it rolls anywhere)
  •  Are there any odd water spots or discoloration in any walls or ceilings?
  •  Have there been any water leaks or flooding when it rains?
  •  Do you have any cracks in your driveway? How wide are they?
  •  Do you have any cracks in your exterior walls? How wide?
  •  Do you have any cracks around windows?
  •  Do any cracks look like “stair steps” going up or down?
  •  Do you have any cracks in your garage walls, floor or ceiling?
  •  Are there any “normal settlement” cracks that seem to be growing?
  •  Have any of the cracks grown longer or wider?
  •  Do you have any loose or odd roof tiles?
  •  Has your pool leaked or lost water?
  •  Do you have any “dead patches” of grass or shrubs in your yard?
  •  Does your yard slope in any direction?
  •  Are there any slight dips or depressions in your yard?
  •  Are there any holes in your yard?
  •  Has your fence or retaining wall moved, shifted, or cracked?
  •  Is there a lake, canal or drainage pond nearby?
  •  Have any homes in your neighborhood had sinkholes?

I might have a sinkhole. Now what?

If you inspect your property and find signs of sinkhole damage, the next step is to call your insurance company. Before you do so, have a copy of your insurance declarations page handy.

Keep the initial call short and sweet. They will ask you a series of questions. Probabaly just name, policy number, what type of damage you are seeing and when you first noticed it.

Important note: You will also need to determine a “date of loss” or a date that the damage occurred. If the damage occured before you bought your home or purchased that policy, your cliam might be denied. (Read between the lines.)

After you file your claim, the real fun begins. Read What to Expect from your Insuarnce Company for more information about the sinkhole claim process.

Even if my home has some of these signs, is it possible that I do not have a sinkhole?

Thankfully yes. Many of these damages can be caused by settling of the home or a loose joist on your foundation. Your insurance company will do an inspection, but keep in mind that sometimes insurance companies will blame other causes incorrectly.