How to Troubleshoot a Sink Hole

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Sinkholes can form for different reasons.
Sinkholes can form for different reasons. (Image: fox hole image by marilyn barbone from Fotolia.com)

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground formed, as the name implies, by the sinking of soil. The causes for a sinkhole, however, can vary. Knowing how to troubleshoot your sinkhole problem can help determine its severity. You may need to call a contractor to inspect and repair the sinkhole if it's deep and requires a large amount of dirt. In some instances, your city or county water department may need to be contacted.

Inspect the sinkhole. This involves using a shovel or stick to dig through the surface layer. Do not go into the sinkhole to do this, as the ground may be unstable and can collapse further. Instead, stand on a solid edge of the sinkhole and probe the surface. If you discover branches, logs or stumps, the sinkhole may have formed from decaying matter. The appearance of construction materials can indicate they were buried during the erection of your home and have started to break down physically in the soil.

Look at nearby areas. Some sinkholes can form from the shifting or movement of surrounding earth. This can result from heavy rains that erode soil, washing areas out and causing depressions. Sinkholes also can form from vibrations and heavy loads related to traffic or construction activity. Properties with a sinkhole near a seawall may have soil escaping through the wall.

Contact your city or county water department. If the sinkhole has signs of water or if there is a pipe visible, then you may have a broken utility line. This will require your city or county water department to fix the problem.

Contact a contractor. If the sinkhole's sides and bottom appear soft or collapsible, you may need to call a contractor. He will be able to determine safely the depth of the sinkhole and how invasive the problem is. This avoids injury to yourself and possibly further damage to your property. He will also be able to arrange for fill dirt or soil for the sinkhole.

Tips & Warnings

  • If the sinkhole is relatively shallow and looks to be the result of decaying matter, you can add dirt to fill it in. Re-inspect the area afterward for signs of further sinking.

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