I’ve always wanted a pool…just NOT in my basement! How did this happen? I keep the gutters clean, they drain away from the foundation walls and my yard is properly graded. We are just coming out of Winter and we haven’t had very much rain…I didn’t even think to check my sump pump yet. My sump pump malfunctioned!
Many homes use sump pumps to prevent ground water from getting into the basement or crawl space. Extra water can build up along the foundation during heavy rains and when the ground begins to thaw. A sump pump moves excess ground water away from your home. If your pump stops working, water could get into your basement and foundation walls, causing flooding, mold and mildew. In my case, I also lost a decade worth of family photos, next seasons clothes, and an antique train collection.
Ways in which your pump can fail:
- Power failure. Your primary sump pump is no different from any other electric appliance in your house – without power it is completely worthless. I highly encourage you to invest in a high quality backup sump pump.
- Switch was stuck. There are several different types of sump float switches. Plumbers prefer vertical floats because tethered floats are notorious for getting stuck on the side walls of the sump pit which can result in a flooded basement.
- Pump was overwhelmed. Not all pumps are created equal. In life, you always get what you pay for. Minimally, you need a 1/3 horsepower sump pump capable of pumping 35 gallons of water per minute. If your house sits in a higher water table like my house, I’d advise upgrading to a 1/2 horsepower pump (which can typically pump about 60 gallons per minute). And to be completely safe, buy a battery backup pump!
- Sump discharge pipe froze. This is a very common occurrence especially with the most recent Northeast winters. If the pipe isn’t pitched properly, water will collect and eventually freeze, causing a blockage. Because what goes up must come down, the water falls right back into your sump pit. When the pit continues to fill up, the water has no place to go but all over your basement floor. Ask Foundation1 about installing a freeze free.
- Old age. Sump pumps should be replaced every five to seven years to be reasonably safe. In my case my pump was five years old.
There are two ways that you can check to be sure your sump pump is working correctly.
1. Unplug the pump and then plug it in again. If you look at the outlet where you sump pump is plugged in, you should see two separate plugs. Unplug both of them, and then plug in just the one for the pump. If the pump doesn’t turn on immediately, your pump needs to be repaired or replaced, so you should call a licensed plumber. If the pump worked properly, don’t forget to reconnect the other plug.
2. Run water through it. You only need enough water to raise the float until the pump kicks on. Now, just because the pump runs, that doesn’t mean it will actually work, so watch to make sure the water actually gets pumped out of the hole.
If you’re not able to add water to the pump, you can lift the float arm up and see if the pump turns on. This method won’t confirm if water will actually be pumped out, however. If you test the pump without water, don’t let it run more than a few seconds. Otherwise, you risk damaging the pump motor.
Maintaining your sump pump is important. Please don’t wait until your basement floods to make sure it is running right.