Do I Have a Sinkhole?

Miami & Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Sinkholes are a common occurrence in Central Florida. Limestone in Florida is porous which allows rain water to make its way through the ground.  Over time this fresh water will dissolve the limestone. Dissolving limestone has slowly created underground cavities that now exist throughout much of Florida.  When the surface ground collapses on top of the underground cavities the result is a sinkhole.  Due to activity such as withdrawal of groundwater, diversion of surface water, or construction of ponds, the sudden appearance of sinkholes have become more common over the past 25 years.  Sinkholes are not just huge pits swollowing up roads and bridges but are often found to be no more than 3 – 4 feet across and only a few feet deep.  Even a small hole case cause substantial structural damage to any building that happens to be sitting on top of it.
How do you know if your home has been damaged by the presence of a sinkhole?  Here are some signs to look for:

  • Previously hidden tree roots are exposed.
  • Doors and windows fail to close properly.
  • Areas of your property become depressed.
  • Well water becomes muddy or turbid.
  • Structural failure, including cracks in walls, floors, or pavement, becomes evident.
  • Small ponds of rainfall appear where water has not collected before.
  • Fence posts start sagging, or trees begin to slant.
  • Exterior footers are exposed, or soil separates from floor slabs.
  • The ground begins to crack, and vegetation becomes dry and wilted.

In the most recent legislative session, the Florida legislature passed a bill, SB 408, which allows insurance companies to deny sink hole coverage or to assess an additional premium for the coverage.  If you believe you have sinkhole damage to your home it is important that you contact your homeowner’s insurance to make a claim.  Don’t delay.  Once you have received the report or a letter from the insurance company with the results of their investigation, it is important to know your rights in relation to the insurance policy and the law.