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Cracked floor tiles unnerve Hernando County homeowner in sinkhole area

Veronica Pereria, 58, saw cracked and raised floor tiles Friday when she went into her Spring Hill home during a garage sale. “I could still it hear it cracking,” Pereria said. Fire officials told her to leave, so she packed up her pets and went to a friend’s.

MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times

Veronica Pereria, 58, saw cracked and raised floor tiles Friday when she went into her Spring Hill home during a garage sale. “I could still it hear it cracking,” Pereria said. Fire officials told her to leave, so she packed up her pets and went to a friend’s.

SPRING HILL — Veronica Pereria's Black Friday yard sale was going well.

Under a brilliant blue sky, business was steady through the morning. At one point, though, Pereria needed to grab something from inside her modest ranch home on Canfield Drive. "I opened up my door and was like, 'Oh my God,' " the 58-year-old school bus driver recalled.

The gray tile in the foyer, living room and dining area had cracked and raised up as much as half a foot from the concrete slab. The once-flawless tile job, already in place when Pereria bought the house in 2005, had pitched to an angle fit for a fun house.

"I could still it hear it cracking," she said.

The first thought: sinkhole.

Pereria has reason to be jumpy. Several homeowners in the neighborhood along Mariner Boulevard have had to pump underground voids full of concrete to shore up foundations over the years. One of those homes is next door, another is behind, and two more sit across the street, Pereria said.

In 2001, about 30 sinkholes opened up in the area, the largest of them just a stone's throw from the house Pereria would buy four years later.

The Fire Department came Friday, took a look at the floor and told Pereria she couldn't stay. She packed up some belongings, grabbed her parrot, Snuggles, and cockatiels Gem and Sunny and headed to a friend's house. An insurance adjustor is expected today, and crews with drills and ground-penetrating radar will likely follow.

There are signs that, at worst, the slab is simply settling a bit. There is no visible cracking in the green paint Pereria put on the exterior walls last April. No cracks on the inside walls, either, and no apparent depressions around the house. A neighbor who dealt with his own sinkhole in recent years speculated Monday that the damage could be the result of a faulty tile job.

Even if the ground is a little unstable, it's unlikely the house will be swallowed up, said Tony Gilboy, a geologist with the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Large sinkholes like the ones that opened in 2001 tend to come suddenly, after lots of rain, Gilboy said. But sand sits on clay, which sits on limestone, and that clay can shrink and expand, causing slabs to shift, he said.

Pereria, a Florida native, said she knew when she bought the house for just $99,900 that the neighborhood sat on shaky ground, but she took the chance.

"Home prices were really, up and I couldn't afford more than this," she said, "so I grabbed what I could get."

Tony Marrero can be reached at tmarrero@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Cracked floor tiles unnerve Hernando County homeowner in sinkhole area 11/30/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 30, 2009 10:53pm]
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