A sump pump has been described as the heart of any basement waterproofing system. Whether connected to interior or exterior drain tile, or both, a sump pump in Milwaukee is crucial to keeping basements dry and foundations healthy.
Like any mechanical device, a sump pump can stop working or develop problems that cause it to not work as well as it should. Some of these problems can be repaired; others are signs that it’s time for a new sump pump.
A sump pump is a relatively simple gadget that is made up of several components: a pump, a motor and a switch. Not part of the sump pump itself but a crucial part of the system is a check valve.
Most sump pumps these days are submersibles, where the pump and motor are combined in a single, waterproof unit that sits underwater at the bottom of the sump basin. Older sump pumps were made in the pedestal style, where the motor was not waterproof and sat above the water on a tall pedestal over the pump. Submersibles tend to run more quietly and also last longer because the motors are cooled by being submerged in water and the waterproof casings that surround them are beefier.
The switch on a sump pump is typically a float switch -- some type of buoyant chamber that floats on the surface of water in the sump basin and triggers the motor when it reaches a certain height. These switches may be tethered -- floating on the end of a waterproof electric cord -- or on a vertical rod or in a cage, floating straight up and down.
The biggest problem with tethered float switches is that they hang up on basin walls or other parts of the pump -- easily fixed by moving the entire pump toward the center or shortening the tether. Shortening the tether will, however, cause the pump to run more frequently. Vertical float switches may just wear out from frequent use.
Vertical float switches are relatively easy to replace by a handy homeowner; finding the replacement may require a direct purchase from the manufacturer. Replacing a tethered switch typically requires an after-market version that switches power on and off at the outlet.
The check valve is located on the discharge pipe above the sump pump and it prevents water or sewage from flowing back into the sump basin. These are particularly important when the sump pump discharges directly to a storm or sanitary sewer because flooding or sewer line backups can cause a real mess in the basement.
A check valve is also fairly easy to replace by simply unscrewing the clamps that hold it to the discharge pipe and substituting a new one of the appropriate size. Check valves are available in home centers and hardware stores.
Honestly, when something other than the float switch or check valve is the problem, the sump pump is a goner. True, pump impellers can be replaced and motors can be rebuilt but these are jobs beyond most homeowners and to pay a professional would be prohibitively expensive. It’s better to replace the pump and know that it can be depended on for the next 10 years or more.
Of course, older homes in Milwaukee, especially those built between 1920 and 1950, may have that museum piece of basement waterproofing, the Palmer valve, instead of a sump pump. The Palmer valve sits under the basement floor and allows seepage collected by drain tile to flow into the floor drain and out to a sanitary sewer. Palmer valves can be closed off permanently and replaced by sump pumps.
An ailing sump pump is nothing to mess with. If you can make minor repairs, make them before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, consult an expert to avoid a wet basement and damaged belongings. At U.S. Waterproofing, we have installed thousands of sump pumps since our founding in 1957 and we can recommend the best primary and backup system for your home and keep it in good working order to ensure that your Milwaukee basement stays dry. Why not ask for our free advice?
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