A sump pump is used as a last defense against flooding. A sump pump is installed in the lowest area of a basement before water gets to the basement floor level. When the water gets to this level, the sump pump turns on and pumps out the water away from your foundation through a discharge pipe.
There are three types of sump pumps:
Pedestal sump pump—This has a nonsubmergible motor that sits on the column of the pump casing above the basement floor and is not in the sump pit (see Figure 3.7).
Submersible sump pump—This sits below the slab and the motor is submergible (see Figure 3.8). I like this the best since it is not seen.
Water-powered sump pump—This uses the city’s water pressure rather than electricity (see Figure 3.9). The pump sits below the foundation and is fed by a water supply line. This type of pump cannot be installed if your house is fed by a well.
Figure 3.7 A pedestal sump pump.
Figure 3.8 A submersible sump pump.
Figure 3.9 A water-powered sump pump.
If the sump pump fails, it can mean lots of damage to a home, not to mention the possibility of mold. For this reason, backup pumps can be installed and are usually battery-operated or water-powered with an emergency backup alarm for when the pump goes on or if the battery is low. These are good in areas that have extreme flooding.
When a sump pump doesn’t work properly, it is usually because it is not sized properly, not installed properly, or old and worn out; a lack of maintenance; or it’s damaged from lightning or a power outage. It is important when buying a new sump pump to have the right size for your space. Know the square footage of your basement and have an idea of the depth of water that gets into your home; the professional who sells you your pump will need this information to make the best recommendation for your needs. Buy a pump that is SSPMA Certified (Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association).
Check Your Sump Pump Frequently
Do the following before the rainy season(s) to maintain your sump pump in prime working order:
Pour water into the sump pit and make sure the pump turns on.
Go outside to see if the water is discharging properly.
Check to see that the float moves properly and is not restricted.
Clean the air hole that is in the discharge line.
Replace the battery on a backup pump every 2–3 years.
How Long Should My Sump Pump Last?
Most sump pumps have a 1- or 2-year guarantee and will last around 10 years. Of course, the life expectency depends on how much the pump is used. Lift the lid of the tank and pour in water. Watch for the float to rise and the pump to turn on. Usually when the pump isn’t working properly, the float is snagging on something. Try to reposition the float before you call in an expert.
Sump pumps are, for the most part, inexpensive and when they do break down they usually do so on a weekend or evening when the stores are closed. You therefore might want to keep a replacement pump on hand.