Sump pump pit with cardboard cover (C) Daniel FriedmanInspection & Repair Guide for Sump Pumps
Inspect, troubleshoot, fix sump pump defects to avoid sump pump failure
     

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Sump pump inspection, care & maintenance:

This article explains how sump pumps inspected, and maintained. To help in diagnosing or preventing problems with your sump pump we include a sump pump inspection and diagnostic checklist. The sump pump installation shown above used cardboard box material as its pit cover - an unsafe installation.

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Guide to Inspecting Sump Pumps

Duplex sump system in an older home (C) Daniel FriedmanSump pumps remove unwanted water, such as surface or ground water that leak into a building.

A sump pump is normally installed in a pit at the low end of a basement or crawl space floor or in another location where water needs to be removed such as in a boiler pit or an outdoor well pit.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Sump pumps on newly constructed buildings are often connected to the building foundation drain. We consider this a bad practice. It is a rare home more than 20 years old whose footing drains are intact.

If a footing drain discharge itself becomes clogged or damaged, sending the sump pump discharge into that system will not work: you'll simply flood another section of the building foundation, basement, or crawl space, or you may overload the existing foundation drain causing building water entry.

Connecting a sump pump to a municipal sewer drain is bad practice and illegal in some communities. You're adding to the municipal sewer plant's water overload during wet weather and you may thus be contributing to the discharge of raw sewage from the overloaded municipal treatment facility right into the environment.

Where permitted, we prefer to route a sump pump to a storm drain, or where soil conditions permit it might be discharged to a drywell.

Sump Pump Inspection System Checklist

Duplex sump pump installation (C) Daniel Friedman

Sump pit with drywall can cover (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: this sump pump pit appears to have been made out of a 5-gallon drywall joint compound bucket, neatly drilled with holes to allow water to enter the sump pit. The green cover is certainly from a drywall joint compound container. If this sump pump is cycling on and off too frequently (and has a check valve installed) we might improve the sump pump's duty cycle by lowering the pumping chamber in the ground, allowing the pump to handle larger doses of water during wet weather.

Below: a sump pit with no cover.

Sump pump pit with no cover and no visible check valve (C) Daniel Friedman

Sump pit with secure cover (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: our photo above illustrates a secure sump pit cover.

Sump alarm system (C) Daniel Friedman

Wet switch water alarm by Wagner (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: the Wet Switch, produced by Wagner Manufacturing or Diversitech (under $40. U.S.) is not a sump pump control but rather an alarm system that can detect water on a surface such as your basement or crawl space floor. Wet floor alarms can serve as a backup notification system to let you know that a sump system is not keeping water out of your building.

Below: components in a Sears battery-operated sump pump system.

Sears sump pump battery backup system - InspectApedia.com

Battery operated sump pump (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: a battery-operated sump pump over the sump pit, with battery charger on the floor. I'm not too confident about putting the battery charger and wiring right on what may be a wet basement floor. This installation could be unsafe as well as unreliable.

Sump pump with flexible plastic discharge tubing (C) Daniel Friedman< Sump pump float switch inspection (C) Daniel Friedman

Check valve on sump pump discharge piping (C) Daniel Friedman

sump pump into storm drain

Plywood sump pump pit walls (C) Daniel Friedman

Sump pump pit with cover (C) Daniel Friedman

Sump pump discharge line outside (C) Daniel Friedman

Sump pump outside discharge line to below grade (C) Daniel Friedman

Above, installed in a Duluth Minnesota home, this is the outside discharge line for the sump pump serving an interior basement de-watering system. I'd ask where the buried discharge line goes as we want to be sure that water will continue to leave the building and not freeze or back-up during times of heavy runoff or snow-melt. In cold climates such as northern Minnesota there is often considerable surface runoff (and basement water entry) while the ground is still frozen. The sump discharge destination has to be able to accept the incoming water or the basement will flood.

Sump Pump Articles

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