Sinkholes are a collapsing of land surface from a sudden settlement beneath. The chance of a massive sinkhole occurring anywhere in the US is only one percent in any given year. Although, if you get one, small or large, they can certainly do significant damage.
What is a Sinkhole Inspection?
A sinkhole inspection is a formal review of your property to determine whether it is experiencing sinkhole activity. Sinkholes are a completely natural occurrence. Most happen when slightly acidic rainwater or groundwater gnaws away at limestone or other rock between ground surface dirt and flowing water. They can also be the result of a prolonged drop in the water table.
How is a Sinkhole Inspection Done?
A sinkhole inspector needs to look closely at any settling in around your property. S/he should determine if it is everyday settling or other riskier sinkhole activity. S/he tests for sinkholes with ground-penetrating radars such as electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) or tomography (RESTOM) electrical imaging.
If your inspector finds nothing, it might be fine as all home foundations settle and shift. That is because the earth is not as permanently positioned as it may seem.
How to Inspect Your Foundation for Sinkhole Signs
Developed areas are 11 times more likely to have sinkholes. Therefore, the more developed an at-risk area is, the higher the risk may be. You and your inspector may look for these signs of sinkholes:
- Structural damage
- Fresh foundations cracks
- Wall cracks
- Cracks in your driveway
- Ground depressions or holes
- Doors and windows harder to open or close
- Tilting trees or fence posts
- A sudden increase in water bill (cracked pipes)
You may also hire a geologist to do geological tests before a new development begins.
Sinkhole Inspection Before Buying Home
Getting an inspection does not eliminate the possibility that a sinkhole can occur. According to the US Geological Survey, we still don't have an efficient or full-proof system to detect sinkhole risk. As a result, annually, sinkholes cost around $300 million for things like foundation repair.
Who Do I Call for a Sinkhole Inspection?
Certified home inspectors, foundation specialists, or soils-engineers perform sinkhole inspections. You or your real estate sales agent may contact them directly. Please do not assume your real estate rep did a sinkhole inspection.
To have assurances, request and pay for it yourself with a licensed inspector with years of experience. It might be as simple as paying an additional fee to the home inspector. You can call your local water management district or find them online for a list of local licensed inspectors.
Does Home Insurance Cover Sinkhole Inspections?
In most cases, home inspections are the homebuyer's or homeowner's responsibility. But in some cases, an insurance company may cover a portion or all the sinkhole inspection. Insurance companies can require a sinkhole inspection before issuing a sinkhole policy.
Insurance companies must offer catastrophic ground collapse in some states like Florida and Tennessee. Although this is generally more limited than sinkhole coverage and only covers sudden, catastrophic sinkhole damage.
How Much Does a Sinkhole Inspection Cost?
Depending on the extent of sinkhole testing they complete, an inspection may cost between $6,000-15,000.
Free Sinkhole Inspection
Whether or not the sinkhole testing is free will depend on the insurance company and your policy. You can review this information before making a homeowners insurance selection.
If you are buying a new home or worried about your home slipping into the abyss, get a sinkhole inspection. If you fear you have a sinkhole forming or a sinkhole exists already, we recommend calling an inspector immediately. You can also get a free home risk assessment, which sometimes includes sinkholes. Try our free online home risk assessment tool by clicking here.
Hope that helps!
At your service,