June 24, 2010 by Morgan Barfield

Signs of a sinkhole

We buy insurance to protect us against sinkhole damage because it is hard to necessarily predict where it will show up. As much as there are neighborhoods where sinkholes were found, there can be a house in the area that is unaffected. Conversely, you can buy a house in a neighborhood where there has never been sinkhole activity and no signs of a sinkhole, only to find out later you are the first one to find it.

Having said that, the first issue is to learn more about the area in which you are buying the home, regionally. Specifically, there are areas in Florida where sinkholes are especially prevalent. Areas such as Spring Hill, Safety Harbor, and Port Richey are prone to sinkholes. Lately, we are seeing more and more of them in Ocala and other areas in Marion County. This does not mean that they have “spread” to these areas. Instead, they are in areas where there has been an increased awareness, by looking for the signs of a sinkhole.

What are the signs of a sinkhole?

The second step to avoid buying a sinkhole house is to conduct a thorough investigation of the interior and exterior of the home.  Examples of signs of a sinkhole include:

  • Cracking in stucco
  • Cracked flooring
  • Cracked walls
  • Cracking near windows
  • Recent repairs or patching
  • Tilting trees or fence posts
  • Uneven foundation
  • Small ponds¬†appearing after rain
  • Cracks in the ground
  • A suddenly draining pond
  • Depressions, dips, or slopes appearing in the yard
  • Dead patches of vegetation
  • Sinkholes appearing in surrounding areas
  • Patches of wilted vegetation
  • Discolored or contaminated well water
  • A cracked or buckled concrete slab
  • Odd bugs like centipedes or slugs appearing in the home
  • Earthy smell in the home after rain
  • Separations appearing between ceilings, walls, and floors
  • Cracked grout
  • Cracked staircases in blocks or bricks
  • Uneven floors: warped hardwood, sagging or bulging sections
  • Windows or doors that don’t open/close easily
  • Cracks in sheetrock

Lastly, under Florida law, all sinkhole reports where an insurance company has found sinkhole activity must be filed with the local Circuit Court or the Recorder of Deeds for your property address. Therefore, one of the most important signs of a sinkhole is a property officially registered as a sinkhole property.

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