Frequently Asked Questions

Florida Sinkhole Facts, Structural Repair Methods & Geotechnical Solutions

 

What are sinkholes?

627.706, Florida Statutes, 'sinkhole' means a landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater." Sinkholes are common and a natural occurrence in Florida due to the process of water dissolving the porous limestone. This process will slowly create underground cavities that can cause the top ground to collapse or sink.

What is "sinkhole activity" or subsidence?

Movement, raveling of soil, settlement or weakening of the ground which may result in structural damage.

What are the most obvious signs of sinkhole activity?

1) Cracks on exterior walls and stucco.

2) Cracks on interior walls and ceilings.

3) Tile floors cracking and/or uneven.

4) Doors and windows that stick.

5) Concrete slabs and sidewalks cracking, separating or sinking.

6) Baseboards separating from the floor.

7) Nails popping out.

8) Depressions on the property.

These are only some of the most obvious signs of sinkhole activity or subsidence.

Can a "visual" only inspection determine if I have sinkhole activity or subsidence?

No. Geotechnical testing by professional geologists and geotechnical engineers is needed. These professionals will perform tests such as electrical resistivity test (ERT), ground penetrating radar test (GPR) and standard penetration test (SPT), necessary to determine the possibility of sinkhole activity or subsidence.

Who pays for the geotechnical testing?

The cost of these tests is expensive and many times beyond what the homeowner can afford. Check your property insurance policy. If you have sinkhole insurance coverage, your insurance company may pay for these tests.

What are the most common Sinkhole Remediation and Foundation Stabilization methods?

Compaction Grouting:

Compaction Grouting is one of the sinkhole repair methods used to stabilize cover subsidence sinkholes, preventing soil from moving downward. This method increases the density of soft soils. Injection points are positioned according to the engineering plan and steel casings are drilled into the ground until the bedrock or limestone is reached. Controlled displacement of a thick grout-like material is injected at high pressure thru the steel casings, creating from the bottom up large grout columns that compact the soft or loose soil, thus filling the voids and increasing the density of the affected sinkhole area.

Chemical Grouting:

Another one of the sinkhole repair methods utilized is Chemical Grouting, a polymer expandable grout that hardens quickly into an impermeable mass. It is excellent for shallow sinkholes, such as voids immediately beneath foundations, narrow crevices or other sensitive areas where compaction grouts cannot be used. This type of grout is injected into the sinkhole area under low pressure, thus filling the sinkhole slowly, for the critical first ten feet. We strictly follow the engineering recommendations to stabilize the sinkhole condition. The entire stabilization process is monitored and documented by the retained engineering firm.

Underpinning:

Is the method of stabilizing a foundation by means of structural steel piles to transfer the weight of the structure to competent load bearing strata. These steel piles with steel brackets are permanently attached to the structure’s foundation. An area around the structure’s foundation is excavated in order to place the brackets onto the foundation. The brackets and piers are placed in the pattern prescribed according to the engineering recommendations. The piers are then advanced to firm bearing strata, also according to engineering prescribed depts. Underpinning is also an excellent and economical method of stabilizing structures with underground material such as organic matter, expansive or shrinking soil. We strictly follow the engineering recommendations for the entire stabilization process. The entire stabilization process is monitored and documented by the retained engineering firm.

My property shows some of the sinkhole signs above, should I contact my insurance agent or company directly to report my concerns or should I speak to an attorney?

Dosmark does not provide legal advice, however, you may choose either option above. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • There are many homeowners who feel they understand their insurance policy and are comfortable navigating through the property and casualty insurance contracts. Oftentimes, if proper Florida subsidence or sinkhole coverage has been obtained, the insurance company sends an inspector to perform an initial inspection for visible signs of sinkhole or subsidence activity and a subsequent geotechnical study is ordered if they feel that sinkhole damage has occured. If the geotechnical study concludes that sinkhole or subsidence activity is the cause of distress to the property, the sinkhole repair process begins - which depending on the contractor chosen, could take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks.

The method most commonly used for sinkhole repair when directly reporting a claim to the insurance company is Compaction Grouting, which may at times be combined with Chemical Grouting, depending on the severity or type of sinkhole.

 

  • Just as there is a large number of homeowners who feel comfortable working with their insurance carrier when they find signs of potential sinkhole activity,there is another large number of property owners who prefer to go directly to an attorney who specializes in Florida sinkhole claims.

Usually attorneys charge a percentage of the total claim if they win or settle the case. Assuming proper sinkhole or subsidence coverage is being provided by the insurance carrier, the process with an attorney usually begins by signing a legal contract of representation. This is followed by inspections performed by the insurance carrier and engineering firm retained by the insurance company and/or attorney.

 

If the engineering firm concludes that the distress evidenced by the property has been caused by sinkhole or subsidence activity, the homeowner usually reserves the right to choose the repair method to be performed.


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