Why Are Sump Pumps Installed?
Sump pumps are installed in homes as part of a system that removes excess water from the foundation of the house. Sump pumps will typically be installed during the construction of a home but in some cases are installed after a house has had flooding or water penetration issues.
During the construction of a house, a peripheral drainage system known as a ‘weeping tile’ of ‘French Drain’ is installed at the base of the foundation. This will allow excess water to be removed from the base of the foundation and then directed to the sump pump. The sump pump will then remove this water and shed it to the exterior of the house, as far as possible to prevent re-entry.
Sometimes the peripheral drainage system is installed inside the house. This is done with some older homes, where it is not possible to excavate at the exterior. This method comes with advantages and disadvantages and should only be done by professionals who use specific systems. Done wrong, an interior peripheral drainage system may create structural issues with the foundation.
Typical Sump Pump Installation
Sump pump installation should always be done by a professional plumbing contractor, but maintenance can be done by the homeowner. The typical sump pump is submerged in a plastic pit, runs on electricity and has to be plugged into a dedicated outlet near the pump. A backflow device must always be installed on the discharge pipe to prevent the backflow of water. The sump pump discharge pipe is not allowed to drain into the sanitary drains of the house. In new subdivisions, the sump pump discharge is directed to the storm sewers of the road underground. If that is not the case at your home, then direct the discharge water as far away as possible.
The sump pump pit must always remain closed to prevent debris from falling inside and also prevent evaporation of moisture to the interior of the house. The current building code requires a sealed sump pump pit.
Sump Pump Maintenance
It is very typical for sand or clay to flow with the water and this will sit on the bottom of the pit. Over time if this is not removed, it will clog the sump pump and make it inoperable. Cleaning of the sump pump pit can be done by removing debris by hand and then using a hose to dissolve the sand or clay and let the pump shed it out with normal operation.
The sump pump should be tested regularly to ensure that it is operational. This is done by raising the floating switch and simulating the filling of the pit. Sump pump types have an internal floating switch, so in this case, the pit has to be filled with water and let to run as it would under normal operating conditions.
There are many different types of pumps that also vary in size and capacity. We tend to see a lot of pedestal-type pumps fail and I always recommend using a submerged pump with a vertical floater.
The more maintenance is done, the longest the life of the sump pump. A typical good quality sump pump costs between $150 and $200 plus installation by a plumbing contractor.
It is important to know what condition your drainage system and sump pump is in, which is why choosing the right home inspector is crucial.
- Is the absence of a sump pump a bad thing? No, it is not. In new construction, a sump pump will only be installed if the peripheral drainage system is higher than the storm sewers of the road.
- Should the sump pump be running non-stop? No, it should not. If it is that means that there is a malfunction. The sump pump will typically function when there is heavy rainfall or during the spring when the soil is thawing.
- Does the weeping tile need cleaning? It is not possible to clean the weeping tile.
- What is the life expectancy of a sump pump? Like any other equipment that uses a motor, the better the quality, the longer the life span. Maintenance also plays a big role in the life span of a sump pump.
- Does the weeping tile need replacement? The weeping tile is buried 8 to 10 ft underground and over time the pressure of the soil, expansion and contraction and tree roots, may create damage. Unfortunately, there is no way to know when this happens and it will most probably show as a failure of the system and may lead to water penetration in the basement.