If you have never gone down your basement steps and walked into water that covers your shoe tops, you can probably thank a sump pump for that. But, unfortunately, sump pumps are often hidden in the corner of your basement, mainly below the floor, so they are out of sight and out of mind as they work diligently to keep things dry.
About the only time you even know you have a sump pump is when it fails to work during a heavy downpour or a pipe burst. Then you become painfully aware of the service that it performs.
This relatively small piece of equipment with a funny-sounding name does not always get the notoriety or respect it deserves. Here is what you should know to change that:
What is a sump pump?
Homeowners place a sump pump at the lowest point of their basement, allowing water to drain into it so it can be pumped away from the house before it can cause damage. Essentially, this is how a sump pump works to keep your basement comfortable, dry, and free of flooding.
How does a sump pump work?
To begin, you set up a sump pump by digging a hole–called a sump pit or basin–in the lowest part of your basement and lining it with gravel. Then, the pump is activated when it comes in contact with water. Most pumps have a float switch–a sensor floating on the water–to let it know when the water level is getting high.
Sump pumps are available in two types–submersible and pedestal. As water flows into the pit, the pump is triggered and begins removing water from the basement. The most popular type of sump pump is the submersible. Its motor and housing are inside the sump pit. Submersible pumps run more quietly and are more powerful, making them the choice of homeowners who spend considerable time in the basement or need to pump out lots of water.
On the other hand, you can locate a pedestal sump pump next to the sump basin. If the sump pit is narrow or deep, or you don’t spend much time in the basement, a pedestal pump will suffice. However, understand that a pedestal pump is relatively loud when it runs, and this type is not as powerful as its submersible counterpart.
Do I need a sump pump for my home?
You might have purchased a home without a sump pump, and now you are concerned that you might need one. Not all homes require a sump pump, but there are plenty of homes without them that should have one. How do you know if yours is one of them? Look for the following warning signs:
- Your basement has flooded before: If your home has a history of flooding, installing a sump pump is probably an excellent move.
- Water is already in the basement: Many factors can play into a wet basement, including a clogged drainage system and landscaping issues. Whatever the reason, water is finding a way into your basement with no way out.
- You live in an area that gets lots of rain or snow: If you live where there are considerable amounts of snow or rainfall each year, you should get a sump pump before the melting snow or rainwater starts seeping into your basement.
- You live in a low-lying area: Water will collect in low places, and if the soil doesn’t drain properly, that water could end up in your basement.
- You recently finished your basement: If you turn your basement into a living space, you could benefit from having a sump pump. The pumps protect the carpeting, furniture, and walls against water damage and mold. Even if your basement is not finished, but you use it for storage, a sump pump will help keep your stored items dry.
Mistakes to avoid with a sump pump
- Not doing preventive maintenance to catch issues that might keep the pump from performing when needed.
- Not testing the pump regularly to ensure you do not need to repair or replace it.
- Unplugging the pump when you need an outlet in the basement and forgetting to re-plug it.
- Failure to have a battery backup for your pump in case you lose power during a storm.
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