Tag Archives: Grouting Sinkholes

Grout Cracks and Sinkhole Damage

What causes grout cracks, and how do I know if they’re the result of sinkhole damage?

Sinkholes and sinkhole activity are associated with the movement of soils, into areas created after the underlying rock is dissolved. When the rock beneath the home deteriorates, it weakens and fails to provide the support needed from the initial construction of the home, causing grout cracking, among other problems.

In so doing, the house no longer sits on a level, competent base but instead is prone to shifting, settling, cracking, and even heaving, as the weight distribution in the foundation occurs. This is why sinkholes may actually cause some portions of the home to appear to rise, as the foundation is pushed upwards toward the sky. This is because another, less prominent area is shifting down and causing the other area to rise.

Grout Cracks in Some Counties Are More Suggestive of Sinkhole Activity

For most homeowners, the damage can be very subtle. In counties where sinkhole damage is common – such as Marion, Hernando, Pinellas, and Pasco – homes are most likely to present cracking in unusual places, such as at wall joints in the interior, or in stucco on the exterior of the structure. The significance of this is that the home is losing the support provided by the soil beneath the home, causing the perimeter to shift and crack.

Observing grout cracks in a “stair step” formation on the exterior of the home along the grout lines of block is a significant sign of sinkhole activity. While counties or cities like Marion or Ocala often have other, plausible explanations for such damage (e.g. expansive clay, organic soils, loose surface soils), these alternative explanations do not rule out sinkhole activity as a cause. Most often, these kinds of other causes are working side by side, to create the appearance of sinkhole damage.

What is a sinkhole, according to Florida law?

Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Sinkhole Repairs for Other Structures on Property

Other than the property coverage provided for under my insurance policy, does my insurance policy cover sinkhole repairs for other things, such as my driveway and other parts of my home?

Quite frequently sinkhole damage can occur to areas of an insured property that are separate and apart from the dwelling residence. Depending on your policy, there may be coverage for additional structures on the property. Typically, this would potentially include a guesthouse, driveway or other permanent improvement to the land.

In our experience, insurance companies will sometimes attempt to include the sinkhole repairs to damages for additional insured structures under the coverage for the main dwelling residence. This unfairly deprives the insured of other available coverage, which is separate from the insurance for the dwelling on the insured property.

For instance, an engineer hired by the insurance company confirmed sinkhole activity affecting the property and prepared a  sinkhole repair plan calling for grout to be injected under several points under the driveway. This grouting, by necessity, involved the separately insured other structure (the driveway), yet the insurance company failed to apply the other available coverage to this portion of the sinkhole repair. Instead, the insurer unfairly attempted to “lump” this segment of the sinkhole repair under the coverage for the main dwelling.

We provide analysis and answers to our insured clients about this and many other types of insurance policy questions.

Read our tips on filling out a sinkhole claim.

Have a burning question you”‘d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Partial Underpinning Dangerous Approach to Fixing a Sinkhole

Is partial underpinning an adequate approach to fixing sinkhole damage?

Other than denied claims for sinkhole damage (or “sink hole” depending on whom you ask), the most common question relates to how one fixes a sinkhole, whether it be in the yard or beneath the home.

When a sinkhole is fixed by partial underpinning

We spent the better part of a day this week on a case I believe worth writing about. A homeowner we represent in Ocala had a sinkhole “fixed” previously, by the use of grouting and underpinning. However, only part of the perimeter of the home was actually stabilized with underpinning.

Instead of underpinning the entire home, the insurance company’s engineer firm had instructed the insurance company to only authorize the use of six pins, to stabilize one-fourth of the home, where the damage was the worst.

Why partial underpinning doesn’t work

The easiest way to describe this cheaper approach to fixing a sinkhole would be to consider the structure of a dining room table. A table has four legs and a tabletop. The tabletop rests on the four legs, with the weight distributed evenly down the legs. If one of the legs is too short, the table will wobble. If one of the legs is missing then the table will likely fall.

The same principle applies to how to fix a sinkhole. The reason you use underpinning is that you are taking the weight of the home and removing the weight from the surface to a deeper area where the soil is stable. If you only pin portions of the home, you are now altering the weight of the home, with portions of it on the surface and the other weight being moved to the deeper soil material.

The problem is that now you have a two- or three-legged table, with areas moving, and others not. This tends to torque the house and cause other damage.

What engineers believe

We consulted multiple engineering firms – even some who work for insurance companies – and they all agreed that partial pinning was not the best approach to fixing this sinkhole. We presented these opinions to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation representatives and hoped they listen.

Sinkhole Repairs and Policy Limits

When your insurance policy doesn’t cover your repairs

Question: My insurance company confirmed sinkhole activity but is telling me I have to sign the contract for repairs. But my contractor is telling me the costs of the sinkhole repair may exceed the limits of my insurance policy. Help!

Once your insurance company has determined that the damage to your home was caused by sinkhole activity, the insurance company must pay for stabilization of the ground and repair of the foundation of your house, as well as repair of the actual damage to your house (for example, cracks in your walls and ceiling).

However, the insurance company may withhold payment for building stabilization or foundation repairs until you sign a contract to have that work performed.

What will happen

This means that generally after a sinkhole loss is confirmed, the insurance company will issue a check to cover the cost of the cosmetic damage to the home. The company will typically send a letter with this check advising you to obtain at least two bids for the subsurface stabilization work from contractors who perform such projects.

When you provide a signed contract for the subsurface stabilization work, the insurance company will pay for that work as the work is performed and the expenses are incurred.

What your insurance company must do

The insurance company may not require you to pay in advance for subsurface stabilization. And, most significantly, if repairs have begun and the engineer selected or approved by the insurance company determines that the repairs cannot be completed within the policy limits, the insurance company must do one of two things:

  1. either pay to complete the engineer’s recommended sinkhole repair or;
  2.  pay you the policy limits without a reduction for the repair expenses incurred.

Therefore, you can rest assured that even if your insurance policy does not cover the number that the engineer has come to, you will not be left with a house you are unable to live in.

Sinkhole Remediation Failed – What Now?

Failed sinkhole remediation

If you’ve gone through the process of sinkhole remediation, or you’re still in the middle of it, and symptoms of a sinkhole begin to appear again, you may be concerned, and rightfully so. Your sinkhole coverage policy is only up to a certain amount, and if the repairs haven’t even been completed yet, your insurance company needs to start again from square one. This means a lot of money. So what does this mean for you?

Your insurance policy

The amount of money your insurance company is required to spend on you is limited to the amount that your home is covered for. There is an exception to this rule, however: if you are in the process of sinkhole remediation (meaning an engineer has not yet confirmed that the sinkhole is completely repaired) and it’s determined that more repairs are necessary, your insurance company is likely on the hook for paying for these repairs.

Essentially, once your insurance company chooses an engineering firm to assess the damage and report the repairs needed, they have taken responsibility for the situation. Their ability to close the claim and minimize the flow of money relies on their engineer. Therefore, if the engineer advises that more repairs are needed or else they are not able to sign off on this sinkhole, your insurance company has to step up or else they can’t complete the claim.

Who determines the state of the sinkhole?

The engineer. More often than not, unless you have specifically taken it upon yourself to find your own engineer and come to an agreement that your insurance company will accept them, your insurance company is responsible for employing an engineer to asses the problem.

Therefore, if you come across more damage to your home while the sinkhole is being repaired or before the engineer signs off on it, you need to address this directly with the engineering firm. If you can provide photographic evidence that the damage occurred after the last assessment of your home, you may be able to help your case. However, the engineer’s opinion is the “end all, be all” of your sinkhole claim.

Is my insurance company responsible for failed repairs?

Since 2005, the Florida Legislature has been pushing for homeowners to take money received in sinkhole insurance settlements and use them to repair their homes, as opposed to just taking the cash. Due to this shift in responsibility towards insurance companies to get the job done, rather than have homeowners pay for it themselves, insurance companies are now potentially responsible for failed attempts to stop sinkhole damage.

The amount of responsibility for your insurance company can vary on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions regarding what you can do about your failed sinkhole remediation, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.

Which is the Best Sinkhole Repair Method?

Sinkhole repair methods

Like anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to repair a sinkhole and the damage that it causes the property on it. Not only are you repairing the soil below you, but you’re also dealing with any damage to your home or business – if it’s even in the same place!

Sinkholes can cause severe damage, so it makes sense that one would want the repairs to be done well. That being said, what are some examples of sinkhole repair methods, and which sinkhole repair method should be used to repair your sinkhole?

Compaction grouting

This sinkhole repair method is used to help solidify soil that has become loosened over time by the water that causes sinkholes to open up. Grout is a mixture of sand, cement, and water that harden over time after insertion to create a more stable base.

The grout is injected into the soil until it reaches a maximum level of pressure, a certain volume of grout, or the home is lifted to the desired level.  This is achieved by filling holes created by loose particles of soil to create a more stable base. When the soil is stabilized, the home above the soil is also stabilized, therefore fixing the effects of the sinkhole.

It is important to be aware that grouting is not a reliable method of sinkhole repair. There is no way to know where the grout needs to be involved or where it is going. If you get multiple quotes and this method is the cheapest option, it’s for a reason.

If you do choose this route of sinkhole repair, it is important to realize that grouting does not fix the home. Therefore, if your insurance company informs you it will be using this method, be sure to ask how they will be repairing your home. This is important because your insurance company is responsible for bringing your home back to its pre-loss condition, which means repairing the home itself, not just the soil underneath. At most, this sinkhole repair method is useful as a way to potentially fix loosened soil.


While underpinning is a more expensive option than grouting, it’s for a reason. This sinkhole repair method is safer and more dependable. This is because, while grouting cannot be an exact science, underpinning creates a more stable base to attach to your home.

Metal piers are driven into the solid limestone of the earth and secured to the bottom of your home. This way, your home is not depending on the soil for stability but solid rock. In order to accomplish this task, you will likely need to move out of your home for the process of repairing your sinkhole.

In some cases, grout will be inserted to provide your home with more lateral support, but it should not be used as the primary sinkhole repair method on your home.