A sump pump is a pump that is used to remove water that has gathered into a sump basin designed to collect water, usually found in the basement of a home. There are a few ways the water may enter the sump pump: it enters by funneling into the pump through the designated perimeter drains in a basement’s system of waterproofing, or by gravity because of groundwater or rainfall, if the basement happens to be below the water table level.
Sump pumps are most commonly used when basements regularly flood, and also to solve issues associated with dampness (again, if the basement is located below the water table level). The main purpose of a sump pump is to pump and send water away from the house, to a place where it can cause less problems — usually a city storm drain or a dry well.
Sump pumps are usually hard wired directly into the electrical system of a home; however, some sump pumps may have an additional battery back up system. Occasionally, a home’s pressurized water system will power the pump in a home, which effectively eliminates the need for electricity all together — although it is done at the expense of using potable water, which can potentially make them more expensive to operate than their electrical pump counterparts.
It is important to keep in mind that a sump basin can overflow if it is not constantly and properly pumped. For this reason, it is imperative that you have a back up system in place for your sump pump in the event that the main power to your home is out for any extended period of time, such as is often the case in a severe storm.
Don’t forget to check out our recent blogs: What to Do When Your Sump Pump Goes Out and 12 Signs it’s Time to Replace Your Sump Pump for more on maintaining this equipment.
Sump Pump Mistakes
Of course, that isn’t the only mistake that can potentially happen when dealing with a sump pump. Read on for some of the most common mistakes that happen with sump pumps — and how to avoid them.
To avoid this common mistake, make sure that your sump pump does not sit on any loose silt, small sized gravel, or any other type of debris that could easily be sucked up into the pump — because it will cause a problem. Instead, use large rocks or gravel at least the size of a dime so that your lines will not get clogged, which can ruin the motor in your pump.
A float switch simply tells the sump pump motor to stop once the water level becomes too low. Because of what it does, your sump pump will need to have plenty of space around the float and switch for the arm to both freely float and also sink. If there isn’t sufficient room or if there is some type of obstruction in the way, the float will likely cause the pump to work improperly, which can burn up your motor.
A sump pump’s check valve simply creates a barrier that prevents any water from flowing backward into the pump. There should be an arrow printed around the check value that indicates in which direction the valve should face. Make sure the arrow is pointing away from the sump pump.
Basically speaking, there are typically 3 levels of “need” for a sump pump. Level 1 is when your sump pump basically runs constantly, even when there is little to no rainfall. Level 2 is considered to be the “ideal” scenario, when your pump isn’t normally running — but does occasionally run when the need arises, such as during heavy rain or storm, and then shuts off. Level 3 is when your pump never runs.
You need to test your system regularly, or at least once a year. But how do you test your system? That’s easy — just pour water in. Take a 5-gallon bucket filled with water, and then slowly pour the water in (think about the rate which rain water may enter the pump) until the float triggers your pump to activate. Next, you should ideally see the water level slowly drop and then eventually shut off again once the float has dropped back down below the shut off level. If this isn’t what happens with your system, you will need to troubleshoot any issues that you may be having for repairs or replacements.
The worst part about a broken discharge pipe is that the break can occur underground — making it impossible to see or know about until it’s too late. And how will you know it’s too late? When you walk into your basement… and find everything floating. Chances are, something similar has happened to someone you know, at some point or another. The moral of the story? Always inspect your discharge pipes, whether they stick out from your house or you have an underground system.
This one seems like a no brainer, but it actually happens more often than you may think. Someone goes down into your basement and needs an electrical outlet for something. In order to plug up said item, they accidentally unplug your sump pump… and forget to plug it back in. Fortunately, this one is a simple fix: always check to make sure you plug the sump pump back up. Or, better yet, never unplug it.
Checking for loose of faulty wires is another simple step that should be included in your checklist of regular system maintenance. How will you know if your sump pump may have loose wires? One indication is if your sump pump suddenly stops. Unfortunately, without checking something simple as the wiring, you may very well be overlooking something that is a simple fix to get the pump back in working order.
To check the wiring, first turn off power to the pump at the source. Next, disconnect the pump. Check the pump, inspecting for any loose wires and replacing any that you may find. Install the pump again, restore power, and then see if the pump begins working again.
Believe it or not, mistakes can often be made if you don’t simply listen to the motor of your sump pump. If the motor and pump are both running, then you will need to inspect the outside pump (where the water should be escaping). If no water is coming out, then you will need to do some troubleshooting. Perhaps a water pipe may be blocked, or your check valve may be stuck. Some of these are fairly straightforward fixes that are easy to do yourself; other times, it is better to call in a team of professionals.
Which leads us to mistake #9, quite possibly the biggest mistake and also the most commonly made mistake of all…
If you have looked over your sump pump and inspected all of the minor details and you have exhausted troubleshooting any issues you may have discovered, you should always call a professional to get the repairs started. By simply checking if the water is discharging properly on a regular basis, you will easily be able to determine when your pump may need professional repairs.
At Triad Basement Waterproofing, we know leaky basements and everything that causes them. Unfortunately, sump pump issues can be pretty common and can easily cause a basement to flood — and we’ve seen how disastrous a leaky or flooded basement can be. We offer a wide range of basement flooding services, including sump pump repairs.
If you have any questions, or if you think there are issues with your existing sump pump, feel free to get in touch with us today. We would love to help.