Sump Pump Maintenance
Water damage can be an incredibly devastating occurrence for a homeowner. Unfortunately, many homeowners don't realize that flooding can be caused by a variety of events, some of which are rarely discussed. Sure, most people know that a leak can be caused by a faulty pipe, a broken sink or a malfunctioning washing machine. But unless you're living in an area prone to heavy rains, it's very likely you've been neglecting a crucial piece of equipment in your home; the sump pump.
What is a Sump Pump?
A sump pump is an under-appreciated pump that brings tremendous value to your home during heavy rains. This pump is typically situated in the basement or crawlspace of your home, and draws water away from your home as the basement or crawlspace starts to flood.
Typically, the sump pump works automatically - it's activated by rising water levels. If everything functions properly, the water never makes it inside your home, and you avoid heavy damage. To ensure the proper function, be sure to maintain your sump pump.
Why is maintenance so important?
It is absolutely vital to keep your sump pump in perfect working condition. In many ways, it's like an insurance policy; you don't really think about it until you really, really need it. And if it isn't properly maintained the sump pump may fail, and the effects can be devastating.
If you have a leaky faucet or water pipe, you can stop the problem by using the water shut-off valve to your house. But when it rains heavily, and there's water accumulating in your basement, there's no shut-off valve for the rain -a properly functioning sump pump is your only way to prevent serious damage.
Maintaining the Sump Pump
There are several steps a shrewd homeowner should take to ensure proper sump pump operation:
- Check that it actually works: The pump is usually situated within a small pit in the basement floor (or lowest point of a home's foundation). This allows the pump to start working with minimal water accumulation. To see if the pump is operational, pour a bucket of water into this pit. If the pump doesn't automatically turn on or pumps only small amounts of water, you need to have it inspected ASAP.
- Create backup power source: Most sump pumps work by using electricity. However, during a storm, it is not uncommon to lose power to your home or the entire neighborhood. By having a battery setup ready, you can keep your sump pump working even if the power goes out.
- Make sure the sump pump is sitting in an upright position: The pump turns on automatically when water levels begin to rise, by using a special switch. If the pump has fallen on its side, the switch will simply not work.
- Check the inlet: The intake of the pump can sometimes become clogged with dirt and small pebbles/stones. This will cause the pump to work inefficiently (moving less water out) and can even place excess strain on the motor, causing it to break.
- Ensure water is diverted properly: The pipe that leads away from the sump pump should take the water out at least 20 feet away from your home. This ensures the water won't roll back into your basement and won't flood your neighbors' properties (imagine the costs of being responsible for their water damage as well).
- Check the alarm: Sump pumps typically have an alarm that alerts you to rising water levels. Ensuring proper operation of the alarm is a must; it's the only way you'll know water levels are rising in the basement, without having to physically check every 30 minutes during a storm.
The Bottom Line
Your sump pump isn't just a vital piece of equipment; it's an entire system that is designed for the specific purpose of keeping your home free from water flood damage. To ensure it operates properly, inspect the sump pump system every 2-3 months, and definitely before a storm.
More info? Check out this post for Landscape designs that prevent flood damage.