sinkholes: the earth is eating your house

The biggest investment many of us will ever make is in our home, so it’s only natural that we would want to take the necessary steps to protect the value of that investment. From the roof to the bathroom faucet we know when something needs to fixed, but what about what’s underneath your home?

You might be surprised to know that according to expert geologists middle Tennessee and western Kentucky are rated as the second most active sinkhole region in the world. Sinkholes are such a common occurrence in Tennessee that back in 2006 the legislature put into law a mandate that all insurance companies that operate in Tennessee be required to offer all property owners specific coverage for physical damage as a result of a sinkhole. The only other state that has similar laws on the books is Florida.

What is a sinkhole?

If you aren’t overly familiar with sinkholes, you’re not alone. Many people don’t know what a sinkhole is, how it forms, or if it’s something they even need to worry about. Sinkholes have become increasingly common over the last two decades in Kentucky and Tennessee. The depth of the problem comes from a geographical feature known as “karst”. Karst topography is formed when carbonate rock slowly dissolves by its interaction with underground water. “Limestone” and “dolomite”, found in abundance in Tennessee and western Kentucky, are two examples of carbonate rocks.

As rain passes through the atmosphere it picks up an acidic quality that becomes an active agent in the dissolution of limestone or dolomite. Over time as water wears away layer by layer of the underground rock, voids are formed. Without the subterranean support the weight from the soil above these voids slowly “sinks” and eventually falls into these “holes” causing a depression in the topsoil. These depressions can be anywhere from a foot across to several hundred feet. Unfortunately, the damage that this can cause to your home as it loses its solid foundation can be catastrophic.

Do I have a sinkhole?

It is not always obvious right away what might be causing the damage you see to your home, but there are a few common indications that what you’re seeing may be the result of a sinkhole on or near your property.

  • Cracks in the foundation, brick, or driveway of your home.
  • Depressions in the ground around your home where rain water gathers contrary to normal.
  • Leaning or slumping trees, plants, or fences.
  • Dead or dying vegetation in circular depressions.
  • Cracks in the drywall or flooring of your home.
  • Doors and windows that won’t shut right or that are out of alignment.
  • Cabinets that won’t stay closed properly

Find out what to do and some solutions to the problem here.

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