Beware Sinkholes in Dallas
The Texas media has carried plentiful stories about the dangers of sinkholes. These stories, while often interesting, sometimes fall short of telling homeowners what they can do to spot and cope with these hazards. Below you’ll find a brief introduction to sinkholes.
Know Your Enemy
Basically, sinkholes occur when underground water sources erode the ground underneath the surface layer, leaving a shell at the top but a cavity beneath. When the top shell is then put under enough pressure and weight, it will crack, leading to a big opening in the ground. Many of them are caused by Karst processes, where some minerals which are soluble in water are eroded away. Sinkholes occur in two main varieties, the cover-subsidence and the cover-collapse; essentially, the latter are formed in heavy rain conditions, while the former are more gradual.
The Damage Done
Sinkholes can appear in an instant, especially when they are of the cover-collapse variety. When they do open up, they can bring down houses and cars with them; the largest sinkholes even swallow large tracts of land. The obvious danger is if they entirely cover and submerge property, but even a relatively small sinkhole can cause serious damage if it occurs in a place that a home needs to maintain its structural integrity. Even if the home does not immediately collapse, weakened foundations can lead to a house coming down over time under its own weight. And of course, where there is one sinkhole, others may develop.
As distressing as that damage is, the greatest stress caused by a sinkhole may occur when it is time to settle up for the repairs. Sinkholes on private property are the financial responsibility of the owner of that property, which can make them pricy to homeowners unlucky enough to face them. Some insurance policies may offer coverage in the case of these events, but not all; if you tried to cut corners when buying your insurance, this is where it will bite you. Always be sure to investigate what kinds of disasters might occur in the area you live in when buying a policy.
How to Avoid Problems
The good news is that there are signs of sinkholes developing over time, at least of the cover-subsidence variety. The number one sign of a developing sinkhole is cracks in the sidewalk or driveway. While a few cracks can be normal, rapidly developing cracks or cracks that grow and grow are signs that something bad is happening. Another good thing to look at is your water bill. Sinkholes often do damage to the plumbing under your home; if your bills have grown with no change in lifestyle, a sinkhole may be brewing.
A sinkhole under a home means you need to leave ASAP and contact the authorities, but a smaller sinkhole in the yard can be filled in with cement if it has stopped expanding.
Like any natural hazard, sinkholes can be a disaster or an inconvenience. Proper planning is often the thing that makes a difference.