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Pump Problems? Here's How to Know if You Should Replace Your Sump Pump

Canada has one of the top homeowner rates in the entire world, and over 66% of Toronto's homes are owned by its occupants. With homeownership comes a great deal of responsibility and it's important to recognize structural warning signs.

One of the more hidden features in our homes that still needs a great deal of attention is the sump pump. It's always important that you replace your sump pump before you have a plumbing emergency on your hands.

Fortunately, as long as you know what you're looking for, you should be able to tell when it's time for a new sump pump well before you wind up with a flooded basement.

Read on to learn more about the key signs that you need to replace your sump pump.

Know Your Sump Pump

The purpose of a sump pump is to move water that accumulates in your basement out of your home and away from your foundation. According to foundation experts, overly damp and saturated soil poses the biggest threat to a home's foundation.

Sump pits or basins are holes carved beneath the main surface of your basement floor, collecting water directed to the pit by a number of drains. When this pit reaches a certain water level, your sump pump is designed to remove water from the pit and redirect it to a safe location.

Understanding your sump pump is a great way to make sure that you know when and how it's working. If you need further assistance, you can always call a residential plumbing expert.

What Kind Is It?

There are two main kinds of sump pumps you'll typically find in a residential building.

The first and most common is the submersible sump pump. Submersible sump pumps contain the motor in the same unit as the pump, which is located inside the basin or pit. When functional, they are quiet and not prone to clogging, although the constant moisture may lead to a need for more frequent replacement.

The second is a pedestal pump, which has a motor perched atop a pedestal and a hose running down into the pit. They are easier to service because they are not submerged in water, but they tend to have less power than submersible pumps. For that reason, they are only advisable in an area with low flood risk.

Is It Installed Properly?

If you live in a new or recently remodelled home, you may want to double-check that the sump pump is installed properly in the first place. Sometimes, contractors with no plumbing expertise install a home's sump pump and do not connect everything the right way. A plumbing expert can verify that it was done correctly.

In addition, you may want to ensure that your sump pump is directing water to the right location. Some cities, including Toronto, have specific municipal codes regarding where this water can go. If you live in the metropolitan area, it is not lawful to direct your sump water to public drainage areas.

Signs That You Need to Replace Your Sump Pump

Now that you know a bit more about your sump pump, let's take a look at the signs that your sump pump needs to be replaced.

Note that a flooded basement is a sign that your sump pump isn't working, but you do not want to find out this way. Instead, review our checklist to spot any signs of damage or malfunction before you have an emergency on your hands.

1. Weird Sounds

Sump pumps, especially submersible sump pumps, should not make a ton of noise even when they are operating.

If you hear a noise that sounds something like a car engine, that could indicate that the motor has a failed bearing. If you hear a grinding, whirring, or rattling noise, you may have an issue with the impeller. The impeller is a fan on the bottom of the pump that sucks water upwards, and that sound tends to mean that the impeller is either jammed or broken.

It may be tempting to replace or repair a single component of your sump pump in cases like these. However, this is not the most cost-efficient method and you will likely have to replace the entire thing in a few years.

2. Excessive Vibrating

Is your sump pump shaking or overly vibrating when it's operating? This tends to indicate extreme damage to the impeller that may cause further damage to the shaft that it is spinning on.

If your sump pit accumulates hard debris like compacted mud or rocks, it will bend or snap the blades of your impeller. Once a blade is bent, it is going to hit the shaft as it spins, causing the entire pump to vibrate. Not only is this bad for the shaft but it lessens the amount of power your impeller has.

3. Constant Running

Does it sound as though your sump pump is running all the time, even when the sump pit is low? This is likely due to an issue with the on/off switch.

Most sump pumps have a float that tells the switch when to turn on and run the pump. If your pump shifts inside your sump pit, it may make the float ineffective. If your pump has a tendency to vibrate, it may cause the float to shift to the side of the pit, sending incorrect signals to your switch.

In addition, power shortages or a vibrating pump can cause the switch to lose connection with its power source. The pump will no longer receive the signal to turn off (or, in some circumstances, to turn on).

Note that your sump pump is most likely to run on a regular basis in the summer months when Toronto receives the majority of its rainfall.

4. Infrequent Running

In the drier seasons, you may anticipate that your sump pump will hardly run, if at all. However, if your sump pump stays off for an extended period of time, it will lose some of its shelf life (not unlike a car battery). You should test your sump pump at least once every year to make sure that it is still operating.

Document your testing and take notice when certain components start to falter. If you don't know how to test your sump pump or you need a bit of maintenance help, call your plumber.

5. Irregular Running

You may notice that your sump pump is turning on at strange times and failing to turn on during heavy rainfalls. This irregular cycling indicates one of two issues.

The first is that the float needs readjustment. If it is not installed the correct way, it may send signals for the pump to turn on after a few inches of water has accumulated in the sump pit.

The second is that you have an electrical short. The short may originate from the power source your sump pump is connected to or it may be in the pump's wiring, itself. Either way, an electrical short will trip the on/off switch at random.

If your sump pump is siphoning small amounts of water out of your sump pit, it won't necessarily cause damage, although it is a waste of electricity. On the other hand, if your sump pump is failing to stay on when the water level is high, you're going to end up with a flooded basement.

6. Rust

Other than flooding, rust is the easiest identifying sign that you should replace your sump pump.

The most common type of rust you'll find on your sump pump is referred to as iron bacteria. This bacteria feeds off of the iron from the water, causing discolouration on the sides of the sump pit and the sump pump itself. It becomes more of a hazard when it turns into a gel-like substance that can clog up your sump pump.

While this rust isn't a hazard to your health, it is a hazard to your sump pump. Left to fester, it can start to eat away at some of the materials on your sump pump unit.

7. Motor Failure

Before determining that your sump pump's motor has failed, make sure that the power source is still working. Check to see that the breaker wasn't thrown and consider plugging in something else and testing it to make sure it isn't the outlet.

If the outlet is working but the motor is not, you will have to replace your sump pump.

This tends to occur after the winter months with temperatures dropping below freezing. Water in your extension hose can freeze, which causes any water your sump pump is pushing through to backflow. The motor then starts to run at a higher output, which will lead to burnout over time.

In some cases, motor failure could be a sign that your sump pump isn't equipped to deal with that level of water. If it doesn't have the strength, you'll end up with the same effect of burnout as it tries to move more water than it can handle.

8. Power Outages

Is your house prone to power outages? Older electrical wiring may not withstand modern-day technological needs and may surge when one too many gadgets are plugged in. These surges may affect some components of your sump pump, causing the pump to blowout over time.

If you experience power outages during severe storms, consider connecting your sump pump to a backup generator or purchase a battery backup pump. Storms are when you need a functional sump pump most.

9. Clogging

If your sump pump has an ill-fitting lid or no lid at all, it is more at risk of clogging. This is because dirt and other contaminants can enter into your sump pit and get sucked into the sump pump through the impeller. If your hose becomes clogged, you will likely experience motor failure.

Sump pits filled with muck and debris can also cause other problems. These include clogging up with dirt, a jammed or damaged float switch, and a jammed or tangled on/off switch.

If the clogging has not caused irreversible damage, you may be able to clean out the sump pump and pit. To avoid further problems, you will want to install an air-tight lid. Even if the sump pump appears to work after cleaning, you should still have it inspected.

10. Age

Truth be told, sump pumps are not built to last forever. Even a pedestal sump pump that isn't bogged down with water will only last a certain amount of time.

You should never use the same sump pump for longer than ten years. In fact, it is recommended that you replace your sump pump every six or seven years.

Reading through this list, you may notice that a lot of these issues could easily arise at any time. It's less of a matter of "if" and more a matter of "when."

Replacing your sump pump before it hits year ten is a proactive way to protect your basement and foundation. Even if it seems to be operating the way it's designed to, you don't want to push it for too long only to discover it isn't working when you need it most.

Allow Us to Replace Your Sump Pump

Do any of these signs look familiar to you? Are you unsure of what you're looking at and need some help? Do you live in the Greater Toronto Area?

Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Toronto is one of Canada's best plumbing services, with years of residential plumbing experience. Call (416) 699-8623 now for prompt service!