How to Control a Sinkhole

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Sinkholes can be any size and must be acted upon quickly.
Sinkholes can be any size and must be acted upon quickly. (Image: volcano crater hole image by Georgios Alexandris from Fotolia.com)

Sinkholes on your property only get worse over time. It's imperative that you seek help and begin repairs once you detect a sinkhole. A sinkhole is part of a gradual process of erosion under the ground that occurs over thousands of years. Sinkholes happen when the rock below the land surface -- limestone, carbonate rock or salt beds -- is surrounded by ground water and, in turn, is allowed to circulate through the rocks. Whether big or small, a sinkhole can be controlled with a quick response and the right method.

Things You'll Need

  • Warning or caution tape
  • Shovel
  • Sand or dirt
  • Insurance information

Warning signs

Locate any cracks on the exterior of the property. The "stairstep" crack is common when the foundation's capacity to hold the structure is failing. Pavement cracks are also an indicator, as are roof cracks and roof line sags and dips.

A zig-zag wall crack is a sign a sinkhole could be happening.
A zig-zag wall crack is a sign a sinkhole could be happening. (Image: red brick wall with large crack image by Jorge Moro from Fotolia.com)

Examine interior walls. Sinkhole cracks usually show up in the walls where windows or doors are present. Look for ceiling and wall separations.

Find any physical holes in your yard. These depressions can come in any shape and size and should not be confused with a gopher hole, for example. Sometimes these sinkholes are obvious and other times only a professional eye can tell what is happening.

Notice small ponds or rainfall developing where water has never been collected before.

New puddles are warning signs.
New puddles are warning signs. (Image: legs in a puddle image by Anita P Peppers from Fotolia.com)

Controlling the sinkhole

Mark the sinkhole. Secure the sinkhole by using warning tape to block off the area. Rope or a fence work; however, bright-colored warning tape from your local home store alerts people to danger.

Make sure to keep people away from a developing sinkhole.
Make sure to keep people away from a developing sinkhole. (Image: caution tape image by david brown from Fotolia.com)

Fill a small hole with sand or dirt using your shovel. Pack tightly. Monitor the hole regularly to see if it grows.

Fill the sinkhole so it doesn't expand.
Fill the sinkhole so it doesn't expand. (Image: bêche image by Claudio Calcagno from Fotolia.com)

Contact your homeowner's insurance company if the hole is large. A claims adjuster will come to the property to assess the hole. If she determines it is a sinkhole, you'll meet with a geo-technical engineer who will perform a test boring, which is a drilling process to determine the nature of the yard's soil. Repair arrangements will be made if the test is positive for a sinkhole.

A soil test will identify a sinkhole.
A soil test will identify a sinkhole. (Image: test image by multimartinator from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • The sinkhole collapse process can occur anywhere from a few minutes to hours. Always assess your situation and vacate the property if danger is approaching.
  • Beware that a rapid sinkhole can happen by well drilling or sudden alterations to your land.
  • Property owners are liable should an accident happen. Make sure to keep people away from sinkholes.
  • Don't throw waste in a sinkhole. Pesticides and other harmful waste can sink into your drinking water this way.

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