The sinkhole experts
WHAT ARE SINKHOLES?
Most sinkholes in Georgia occur where debris such as trash, stumps, tree branches and other building materials were buried during a construction project. Over time, the debris decays, leaving an empty space under the ground. Hidden under a layer of soil, this space goes unnoticed until it finally caves in, leaving in a sunken area, crack or hole in the landscape. Less commonly, sinkholes in Georgia may be caused by broken water pipes such as storm drain pipes, cisterns or disturbance of the soil (by digging, drilling, soil removal), vibrations caused by traffic or mine blasting. Underground water can form one as well.
SEE BELOW FOR MORE INFO
What damage can a sinkhole really do?
Sinkholes can cause death or injury! If someone is injured while on your property as a result of your sinkhole, you are responsible no matter who or what caused your sinkhole! Sinkholes have also been reported to cause entire homes to collapse on people like the man in Florida, and in Canada, killing the entire family. SEE ARTICLE
Sinkholes can cause damage to driving surfaces like parking lots and driveways! If a sinkhole starts to form near or under your driveway for instance, you may start to notice cracks or uneven surfaces. These are signs of a void present underground. You may already be able to see under your driveway. Your driveway must be repaired at this point or you may lose your car or even you!
Sinkholes can cause foundation damage! Your whole house could collapse if your sinkhole is not excavated and your foundation repaired. Sinkhole remediation is not an option at this point, it's a must!
Sinkholes can also cause structural damage. Sometimes when sinkholes form under structures like retaining walls, they cause them to collapse. If a sinkhole has formed in certain areas, you may also notice sagging fence, sinking decks, and sunken patios.
Sinkholes can destroy pools! If a sinkhole is anywhere near a pool, it can cause the pool to crack, leak, and sometimes even causing the pool to collapse.
Sinkholes can kill the sod & vegetation in your yard. Sinkholes can expose sod, tree, and other plant roots, resulting in a lack of water to these roots. Sinkhole remediation can't save the roots already lost or exposed, but it can save the other plants from the same fate. In the case with trees, damage from sinkholes to the root system can take up to 7 years to manifest!
Sinkholes can delay the buying or selling of a home! Sinkholes have to be repaired before you can sell your home. We get so many calls from homeowners who are purchasing a home that need an estimate for sinkhole remediation of a home they are purchasing. In these cases, the seller almost always is responsible for the sinkhole repair unless noted in their contract with the buyer. If you cover up a sinkhole and sell your home without proper sinkhole remediation, the buyer can come back and sue you.
How not to repair a sinkhole
Sinkhole remediation is not a choice in most cases, it's a must! Many companies will try to just put dirt in your sinkhole or pour concrete into the hole (called GROUTING) to solve the problem. BIG NO NO! If you pump concrete into your sinkhole, you are still leaving the decaying debris / material there to continue its decaying process, and the problem is still there. You are also adding weight to the decaying material and that will just compress the decaying material in your trash pit, causing the sinkhole to sink even faster the next time. Larger Companies out there are now pumping foam into sinkholes. This is also a huge NO NO! The root cause of the sinkhole is not being repaired doing this. In Florida, a foam type substance is pumped into the pourice limestone that causes their sinkhole and that does help stabilize the sinkhole. In Georgia, sinkholes are mostly caused by decaying material and foam WILL NOT stop the material from decaying! Nothing can stop anything form decaying.
There are VERY few exceptions to this rule as there are certain situations. This method is used only if you are installing piers under your home sometimes, but if you were to do this under other structures such as a patio, driveway, retaining wall, or middle of your yard , your sinkhole will continue to spread and eventually take that structure it is under with it when it collapses, causing serious structural damage or even death! The sinkhole repair bill will become even higher as you will then have to remove that concrete to even get to the root of the problem (in this case its decaying vegetation material), the next time the sinkhole collapses. Remember, concrete cannot stop the decaying process of a trash pit.
SINKHOLE EXCAVATION IS THE ONLY COMPLETE SINKHOLE REPAIR METHOD! YOU CAN'T FULLY REPAIR A SINKHOLE WITHOUT REMOVING THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE SINKHOLE!
Putting dirt in the sinkhole isn't going to stop anything from decaying either. Putting dirt in a sinkhole also puts more weight on top of the decaying material. This tends to speed the decaying process up as you compact those decaying materials. Putting dirt in your sinkhole might be a quick cheap fix but for how long? It's then not of a question of if, but when will the sinkhole sink again.
There are VERY few exceptions to this rule as there are certain situations. For example, a customer has a sinkhole they share with a neighbor and they are willing to repair the sinkhole, but the neighbor is not. In this situation, you cannot excavate one side of a sinkhole and not the other. You can blow out the other side of the hole, not to mention the sinkhole will never truly be fixed, which waste your money! Proper sinkhole remediation is very important. You risk not only the lives of yourself, but the lives of others. People have also been suggested to plant a tree in the sinkhole or other plants. Again, the problem has not been removed, otherwise you are basically feeding an underground compost pile. Since you can't see how large the problem is, there is no way to tell if the plants planted, concrete poured, dirt thrown in, or other materials used to fill your sinkhole, even cover it.
Sinkhole in FrontyardSinkholes can be deceiving like this sinkhole in Duluth Ga. Sinkholes can seem just like settling ground or they are mistaken for just a hilly landscape.
Sinkhole Under DrivewaySinkholes under driveways cause major damage like this driveway in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Sinkhole Going Under FenceSinkholes under fences can indicate can stretch from one property to another like this sinkhole in Snellville, Ga.
Sinkhole Next To Drainage StructureThis is a sinkhole caused by erosion next to a drainage structure in Lawrenceville, Ga 30045.
Sinkhole Under PatioSinkhole under patios can cause your patios to collapse and cause major voids like this patio in Atlanta, Ga.
Sinkhole Under SidewalkSinkholes under walkways can do major damage like this sidewalk in Peachtree City, Ga.
Sinkhole Under WallSinkholes cause retaining walls to collapse like this sinkhole in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Sinkhole via Culvert Pipe CollapseThis sinkhole was caused by a culvert pipe that collapsed under this driveway in Sandy Springs, Ga.
Sinkhole Due To IrrigationThis irrigation started leaking, causing a huge void underground in Lawrenceville, Ga.
Sinkhole Caused By WellThis sinkhole is an old well in Smyrna, Ga. No matter the cause of sinkholes, the repair is just about the same.
HOW TO PROPERLY REPAIR A SINKHOLE
The problem with sinkholes is that you just don't know how large the sinkholes are underground. You could possibly have a tiny sinkhole or a massive sinkhole. Most sinkhole openings look very small from the surface or all you can see is a depression in the ground. The only way to know for sure what the root cause may be for a sinkhole is to dig. If the root cause of your sinkhole is from rotting vegetation and debris (known as a builder debris pit), then all debris and rotting vegetation such as trees or stumps must be excavated. You can dig it by hand, but most of the time a small or large machine must be brought in. Once the sinkhole is fully excavated, dirt can then be put back in to fill the sinkhole. Depending on the location of the sinkhole, aggregate in smaller amounts can be put in the hole to help as well. A sinkhole should NEVER be repaired solely by gravel, rock, cement or any other material. The dirt must always be compacted correctly too. If the dirt is not compacted, it becomes loose, erodes away, and re-sinks. Your sinkhole should be compacted every 12-18 inches and sometimes more depending on the area. The right kind of dirt must be put back into the sinkhole too. If you put for instance, just a sand based dirt back into your sinkhole, then the sand will settle and seep through any cracks in the earth and once again, you'll have re-sinking. Once the dirt is fully compacted down, ground cover can be placed after grading. Seems like a long expensive process, but if you are going to repair your sinkhole, do it right the first time to avoid even more costly sinkhole repair bills or damage from your sinkhole re-sinking.
GEORGIA SINKHOLE LAWS
A common sinkhole misconception is that burying debris during or after construction by a contractor is illegal. As of 1991, Georgia Real Estate laws changed to try to protect the homeowner. Buried debris must be disclosed when buying/selling a home. It should be identified on the home's plat as a part of this disclosure. Homeowners that know they have a sinkhole can also be held at fault if they sale a home and do not disclose it to the new buyers.
There is no enforcement agency that enforces this!!! We called and spoke directly to the head of Agriculture in Georgia and the Environmental Protection Agency for the state of Georgia and was just stunned to hear this when we first started repairing sinkholes. Such an incredibly large burden is laid to rest upon the shoulders of you, the homeowner, to solve your sinkhole problems with no help from local or state officials.
In order to hold the builder responsible for a sinkhole, one must basically have pictures of them dumping the debris or have witnesses that can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the builder did this. Unfortunately, even if this is proven, builders are given fines up to $1,000.00 and once that is paid, they can continue with business as usually. They are also given up to 3 strikes on being turned in too. The only options homeowners have is to sue either the builder or previous homeowner for the sinkhole repairs. Since there are no sinkhole laws really except the Real Estate Laws for disclosure, most cases fall short and insurance companies will not cover homeowners in the state of Georgia. Homeowners, such as yourself, find that the only option they now have is to repair the sinkhole themselves or call an expert sinkhole repair company such as Bailey Construction & Landscape Group, Inc.
WHAT IF I HAVE A SINKHOLE UNDER MY HOME OR NEAR A STRUCTURE?
If you do have a sinkhole near a structure such as a deck or your home, a structural engineer may become involved in the repair process. First, you need to have a free sinkhole consultation from a sinkhole expert like Bailey Construction to determine if you have a sinkhole. We will also be looking at the structure that is possibly affected by the sinkhole. If the structure is your home for instance, you may need foundation repair by adding piers or pilings to reinforce your home's foundation so we can excavate your sinkhole. See, if the home is not properly reinforced during this process, your home could collapse in or parts fall off once we start your sinkhole repair. A structural engineer would assess the structure for you and determine if these are needed or not. If piers are needed for the foundation repair, we would install those, or if your structure is okay, we will proceed with the sinkhole repair. We have one of the best structural engineers in Georgia that can assist you with these types of needs!
Many times, the first noticeable sign that you may need your driveway repaired is cracks begin to form in the driveway. Next, the driveway starts to become uneven. You may even start to see your driveway sinking or sagging. Many people experience large voids under their driveway. If you see these types of signs, please do not continue to put your vehicle on these areas. If there is a sinkhole under your driveway, you could lose your vehicle! Repair your driveway immediately! The sinkhole under your driveway will still have to be fixed like any other sinkhole. Compacting the area in and pouring more concrete over the area will not solve your driveway problem. Putting rebar in your driveway will not either. You still need to remove the root cause of the sinkhole, then you can repair your driveway and even add rebar if you wish.
WHAT DO SINKHOLES LOOK LIKE AND WHERE CAN THEY BE?
Sinkholes can look like small or large depressions in a yard. Sinkholes can be anywhere in a yard front, back, or side depending on where the debris was buried. Sinkholes can also be under crawl spaces. Many debris pits made were dug away from the homes being built along the property lines and most of the time shared by more than one property. We have had many homeowners that have had a sinkhole that their neighbors share, especially along fences (where property line usually is). Sinkholes are also commonly found right in the middle of the yard. Again, sinkholes can be anywhere in your yard. Sinkholes can also just look like holes in the yard. Sometimes you might even get pools of water collecting in small depressions. This can be caused by erosion too.
Poor compaction of utility or sewer lines can also make depressions in your yard. These are not sinkholes, but often appear as such. Regrading and correctly packing soil above those areas will take care of the problem. Sometimes erosion can cause these types of areas too, and even at times contribute to an existing sinkhole. An estimate would be needed to determine the best plan of action to eliminate your erosion control problem.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A SINKHOLE TO APPEAR?
There is really no answer. In most cases, debris rotting caused these sinkholes. Basically the rate of decay for any given material is the determining factor. Other factors like weather, climate, and land disturbance can alter the decay rate by speeding it up or slowing it down. Some sinkholes seem to appear overnight while some sinkholes seem to take years upon years to form. Think of the decaying debris as a buried artifact to better understand why sinkholes can appear literally overnight. You have your "artifact" AKA sinkhole debris that has been buried and is tucked away and nestled underground in your yard. The debris is sealed and cut off from the outside air, moisture, etc. as the dirt protects it. Now lets say an animal starts tunneling and makes a tunnel to this debris or the land is disturbed and bingo.. a hole has been made that air can now reach this debris, along with other elements like moisture. Once air and or moisture hits the sinkhole debris, it decays at a much faster rate, just like with artifacts that are unearthed. Please keep in mind that there are many other causes for decay and decay rates, this was just an example of why sometimes they can appear overnight. Another factor to consider on sinkhole decay rates too is if the sinkhole was man made or naturally forming.
OTHER SINKHOLE CAUSES
Sinkholes can be cause by other variants as well. Sinkholes are very common in Florida and Georgia. Sinkholes in Florida tend to develop as a result of eroding limestone that occurs with groundwater under the surface. This happens in Georgia too, but not as much. As the water moves underground, it carries with it the limestone one grain at a time (erosion), leaving cavities underground. Sinkholes are also referred to as builder pits or trash pits simply because most of the sinkholes in Georgia are a direct result of builders burying trash and or organic materials in a pit. Sometimes poor compaction can cause a similar affect that a sinkhole does, and soft soil eroding can also mimic a sinkhole. Sinkhole remediation is still the same however with these causes as far as sinkhole excavation is concerned.
Atlanta is notorious for sinkholes being created by old sewer pipes left underground by the city and not disclosed to homeowners. Atlanta sinkholes are still caused by all the other ways too. Most of the time however, especially in Georgia, sinkholes are cause by builders burying trash, vegetation, and construction left overs from new homes. We find trash and other things in them, but the most common thing we find in the sinkholes are trees, limbs, and stumps.
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Loganville, Ga 30052
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Greensboro, Ga 30642
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