Do I Have Signs of a Sinkhole or Foundation Issues?

an abandoned house in the middle of a field

A sinkhole developing under a foundation is just one of the factors that can contribute to foundation failure in Houston. Sinkholes typically occur in areas with soluble bedrock, such as limestone, salt rock, and/or carbonate rock. Because the groundwater moves through the bedrock, it can slowly dissolve and wash away these rocks. As a result, underground caves and tunnels form in these areas, causing the soil above to collapse or sink into the newly developed cavities.

When a sinkhole affects a piece of property, the best specialist to approach first is a geotechnical engineer qualified to evaluate subsurface conditions, perform specific geophysical tests, and come up with an appropriate solution that addresses the root cause of the problem. For example, when a sinkhole affects the foundation of a home, the best course of action is to have the entire property inspected by both a geotechnical engineer and a foundation repair contractor. On the other hand, when foundation issues are the result of other problems, such as repeated shrinkage and expansion of the soil due to seasonal changes, improper drainage, trees or shrubs planted too close to the house, and/or poor construction or repair techniques, calling in a foundation repair specialist is the best way to go about it.

As pointed out above, foundation damage can be caused by different things. However, some distinct changes in the look and feel of your landscape could be indicative of sinkhole problems. Although the most evident sign of a sinkhole is the sudden appearance of a hole in the ground, there are some less obvious warning signs of sinkholes you should keep an eye out for if you live in Houston or surrounding areas. These are:

  • Soft and spongy spots Any areas around your home or in your yard or garden that have become soft and spongy could indicate sinkhole activity.
  • Newly formed depressions in the ground If depression develops on your property, it might be the sign of a sinkhole. However, there are a few other possible causes for a dip in the ground, such as old tree roots left to rot in the ground or buried debris from past construction that settles over time. If you observe a newly formed depression in an area where the land used to be flat, make sure you have it checked immediately by a professional. As well, cracks developing in your sidewalk and driveway may indicate a sinkhole forming underneath.
  • Tilting outdoor elements Specific outdoor elements, such as fence posts, stairs, porches, or trees, which were straight before but are now tilting or leaning, could signal sinkhole problems as well. Sinking ground caused by a sinkhole could also expose tree roots that were previously buried. In some cases, trees could start to sink into the ground.   
  • A part of the structure dropping down and cracking – Another sign of a sinkhole forming under your foundation is when one side of your home is lower than the other. New cracks could also form in your foundation or exterior walls. While foundation shifting and/or cracking could also result from the expansion and contraction of clay soil, a sinkhole could undermine slab-on-grade as well as pier and beam foundations and cause major structural issues.

Other signs of a sinkhole forming under your house include:

  • water pooling around your home;
  • cracks forming where walls and ceilings or floors meet;
  • new cracks around doors and windows;
  • trim and molding pulling away;
  • warping, sagging, or bulging floors;
  • the abnormally strong earthy smell in the crawlspace; 
  • Leaky pipes, higher than average water bills, cloudy water, debris in the water, or other unusual plumbing issues that indicate your plumbing system might have been damaged by a developing sinkhole.

Because sinkholes could cause a series of foundation problems that are identical to the problems resulting from other underlying issues, it’s very important to have your home checked out by an experienced professional as soon as you observe any of the aforementioned issues.  

Sinkhole Repair Solutions

Contrary to popular belief, a sinkhole doesn’t have to be very large to cause major property damage. If your foundation was somehow affected by a sinkhole, underpinning and void filling are two of the expert methods commonly used to fix this type of damage. At Allied Foundation, we install concrete piers underneath the foundation areas affected by sinkholes in order to lift, level, and stabilize your home.

If you live in Houston, it’s important to have your property inspected for sinkholes regularly. Our experts are ready to perform a thorough inspection on your home or other structures on your property and provide the appropriate services to correct different foundation issues, irrespective of their underlying causes. To learn more about the services that we provide or to schedule a free consultation, call 281-584-6943 today!

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