A sump pump is a small machine that you depend on to keep your basement dry, your foundation sound, and you home free from groundwater that is trying to make its way in. For us in the Edmonton area sump pumps are most vital during the spring, summer and fall months when there is plenty of groundwater from thawing snow and rain. There are some homes which are located in areas with higher water tables which may keep the pump active through the winter as well.
Sumps are usually placed at the lowest point of your home and are composed of a pump and a basin that’s dug into the ground under your home’s foundation. The groundwater around your home will make its way into the weeping tile drainage that surrounds your home which then drains into your sump. The sump pump activates and pumps the water out of the basin until it returns back to acceptable levels once again.
If a sump pump is doing its job properly, you probably won’t even remember it’s there. If it’s not working, you could experience flooding in your basement. Like most other things in your home, your sump pump needs to be properly maintained and cared for in order to ensure it will last and work properly when called upon. Generally, you should give it this maintenance service once a year. The best time to do so is generally in February or March before the snow starts to thaw but anytime is better than not doing it at all. Here are some helpful tips on maintaining a sump pump.
Check the Power
Sump pumps need power to operate, and because they also deal with water, modern units come equipped with a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI circuit for maximum safety. If you have an older pump, you may want to connect it to a GFCI and then into the wall socket it operates off of in order to have that emergency shutdown in the event of an emergency. Be sure to also check the cord to the pump for any signs of wear and tear, including cracking, worn-down spots, or gaps in the insulation that could present a problem. It is not uncommon for us to find that there is nothing wrong with the pump itself but it had been unplugged for some reason so this is definitely worth a look.
Test the System
Sump pumps are generally operated by a pill switch which is bulb at the end of an electrical cord. This pill shaped switch floats on the water, and when the water level rises it directs the pump to turn on. Using this switch is the easiest way to test the pump. For the next few steps you’ll need to remove the sump cover to gain access to the sump pump and pit.
To test the pump there needs to be enough water in the basin for the pump to work. If the water level is half way up the pump that should be sufficient. Lift the pill switch to activate the pump. If the pump turns on, watch to make sure the water level is dropping in the sump. If the pump does not turn on or if it does but the water level doesn’t go down you have a problem, it’s time to call in the professionals. Thank goodness you caught the problem!
Clean the Pump
To clean the pump properly it should be removed from the sump pit but make sure before you get started on this process that you unplug the pump from the power supply to prevent an accidental electrocution!
Depending on the installation removing the pump may be fairly simple or could end up being a bit more complicated. If the pump discharge pipe has a rubber coupling simply loosen the coupler and then unscrew the pipe from the pump. The pump can then be removed. If there is no rubber coupling the pipe will have to be cut and a rubber coupling will have to be used when putting it back together.
Remove the pump itself from the basin and give it a good inspection, particularly in the grate near the bottom. The grate can become clogged with debris that has found its way into your sump basin as this is where the pump draws water in. Carefully clean this debris away and dispose of it to prevent your sump pump from malfunctioning due to a clogged pump suction port.
Inspect and Clean the Sump Pit
Inspecting the sump pit is an important part of the pump maintenance. While your pump is out of the pit take a good look inside. If there is sand and gravel in the bottom it needs to go! If your pump sucks in a small pebble it can cause pump failure as the rock will block the pump impeller from turning.
The best way to clean the pit is with a wet / dry (shop) vac if you have one. You can use it to suck out the excess water as well as any sand and gravel that has made its way into the pit. If you don’t have a shop vac, you can use a pail and small shovel to clean it out the old fashioned way.
Check the Plumbing Lines
The piping that transport water away from your sump pump system should all be in good condition, free from leaks, cracks, or other signs of damage.
Check these lines thoroughly, as even a small leak could be a problem when the pump springs into action. Make sure all joints are tight, all connections are sealed, and that all drains are directed to a location that’s well away from your home’s foundation. After all, a sump pump is supposed to pump water away from the foundation, not right back into it.
While an annual service is a wise thing to be doing for your sump pump, we also recommend that you test your pump once a month to make sure it’s working properly. Just as we described above simply lift the pill switch to activate the pump and ensure that the water level goes down in the pit. A couple of minutes a month can go a long way in providing you with some piece of mind that your pump is working properly. Many homeowners even like to check it when a storm is rolling in, just in case.
Good maintenance for your sump pump takes some dedication, but by following these simple tips you can rest assured that the crucial foundation of your home is not in jeopardy and that your basement will stay flood-free when groundwater levels rise.
Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Edmonton offers Sump Pump services in Edmonton available at any time at no additional cost!