We’re headed into a really busy time of year for everyone – preparing for holidays, wrapping up the year on our jobs, traveling or welcoming guests. But, before all that gets into full swing, there are a few things we should take care of around the house.
Many of them you can probably guess – make sure the gutters are clean to prevent complications from winter storms, put in the storm windows and have the furnace serviced – but there’s one more: check on your sump pump!
As we have often said in this blog, the sump pump is the heart of any basement waterproofing system. Your home can have the best interior or exterior drain tile installed but, if it’s delivering all that water to a faulty sump pump, it might as well not be there. You’re still headed for a wet basement.
What can go wrong with even the best sump pump? A number of things: The motor can burn out. The switch can fail. The float that activates the switch can be set too high or too low. The impeller can get clogged with debris. The check valve can fail or jam.
So, how can you inspect for these problems? Pretty simple, actually. All you need to do is grab a bucket and head for the basement. Fill the bucket with water and remove the cover from the sump basin. Pour the water slowly into the sump basin until the sump pump kicks on and then observe:
Did the Sump Pump Start Right Away? If the pump kicked on with very little water in the basin, your float switch is set too low. This will still eject the water from the basement but it will force the pump to cycle on and off much too frequently, ultimately resulting in a much shorter life for the sump pump than normal.
Did Water Approach the Top of the Basin (or Overflow) Before the Pump Started? Then your float switch is set too high.
Here's a little more on float switches:
Did the Sump Pump Not Start at All? Oops. You’ve got a problem here. Check to make sure the pump’s plugged in and that the electrical outlet is live. If so, your switch may be bad or the motor in the pump may have failed.
Does the Sump Pump Sound Like it’s Straining? If the pump motor is humming loudly and it doesn’t seem to be moving water, the impeller (the fan-like rotor at the bottom that moves the water) may be clogged with debris. If the motor runs freely but no water is exiting, the impeller may have been broken by stones or other hard debris.
Does the Sump Pump Work Fine but Water Flows Back in Through the Pump? Sounds like a bad check valve. The check valve is located above the sump pump in line with the discharge pipe. It has a one-way “flapper” that allows water to exit but not return.
If any of these things is happening to your sump pump, it should be addressed before the rains and snowmelt of winter arrive on the scene. Some problems, like an improperly adjusted float switch or a bad check valve are easy, inexpensive fixes; motor problems and broken or jammed impellers usually mean a new sump pump.
At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve installed thousands of high quality sump pumps (and battery backup sump pumps, another great idea) for many of the 300,000 homeowners we’ve helped since our founding in 1957. If your sump pump needs help, why not ask for our free advice?
Have a problem with your sump pump that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know about it in the Comments box below.