Your Insider Guide: Sump Pump

Sump Pump Guide

What is a Sump Pump?

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is an appliance that is installed in the basement floor of a home, commercial building, or crawl space, typically anywhere that groundwater will collect.

Water can easily find its way through the foundation of your basement or cracks in the floor, causing flooding which leads to mold, mildew and more. The purpose of a sump pump is to collect this water, and keep it away from your structure.

A sump pump sits in a specialized sump pit, created specifically for the pump itself. This pit collects the excess water as it flows through drains or directly through the soil. Most sump pumps are equipped with a device that signals when the water has reached a specific level, and automatically turns the pump on, ejecting the water away from your basement or crawl space – typically into the street or a storm drain. Without a sump pump, water can find itself trapped in your basement, soaking the carpet or foundation with no place to escape. Mold thrives in an environment like this – wet and dark – and when it goes untreated, can become a major household hazard. With our years of experience, McMahon Services can assist with any mold remediation services, but a sump pump should help with this problem before it forms.

How does a Sump Pump work?

What are the Details on How a Sump Pump Works?

When installing a sump pump, the first issue is determining the correct size and power for your property and location. A professional can help you quickly pick a sump pump that is appropriate for your property. A larger sump pump is better than a sump pump that is too small. A sump pump that overflows defeats that purpose of a sump pump all together!

Once you’ve determined the correct size, a sump pump will be installed inside a special pit known as the “sump pit”. This pit allows water to drain naturally into the hole through different methods. This could be drains placed strategically around your basement or crawlspace, or even natural flow of groundwater directly to the sump pit.

Once the pit is full of water, the automated flotation system will turn on, causing the electrically powered sump pump to turn on and push the water from your home and back outside where it belongs. The excess water flows through pipes, and then often a hose leading to an area away from your structure, where the water can flow freely away from the foundation.

How do I know if I need a Sump Pump?

How Do I Know If I Need a Sump Pump?

More than 60% of American homeowners suffer some type of moisture in their basement or crawl spaces. You may have a problem with moisture if you notice a musty smell when you enter your basement, or see signs of flooding including:

  • Wet flooring
  • Standing water
  • Water marks on walls
  • Mildew
  • Mold

The easiest way to determine if a sump pump is needed in your home is by checking for the signs above, as well as checking the moisture levels in your basement after it rains. However, there are additional signs that it is time to consider calling a professional to install a sump pump:

  • Your basement has a history of flooding and continues to flood with each rainfall.
  • Your basement is finished and needs to be protected against water damage and potential mold.
  • A sump pump is already installed in your home, but it is more than 6 years old.
  • Rain and snow are heavy where you live.
  • Your home sits in a low area, or an area that easily traps water.

What are the most common types of Sump Pumps?

What Are The Most Common Types of Sump Pumps?

There are several different types of sump pumps that all work in different ways – here are two of the most common.

Submersible Pump

This sump pump is built directly into the foundation of the basement. They are quieter than pedestal sump pumps since the motor is deep in the floor. Submersible pumps are also typically stronger than pedestal sump pumps, meaning they can remove larger amounts of water in a short amount of time.

Since it is underground, it saves room in your basement, and keeps the area free of hoses and pipes. Most importantly, submersible pumps typically come  with a back up battery which will keep the sump pump working even if power is knocked out during a storm.

Pedestal Sump Pump

A pedestal sump pump is above ground and comes in two pieces. The motor sits on the floor, while the hose feeds into the sump pit. Unlike the submersible pump, this version is smaller, so in the event of big storms, this pump may not be able to keep up with the amount of water that comes down.

Since this pump is not underground, it is easier to repair should anything happen to the pump. Pedestal pumps can also be more reliable since they are not constantly submerged in water.

What causes Sump Pump failure?

What Causes Sump Pump Failure?

A sump pump is only useful; when it is functioning properly. You must routinely check the machine to avoid failure, which can lead to costly water damage and major home repairs. If you find that your sump pump is not working properly, here are a few things that could be causing the problem.

Clogged Switches and Pumps

One of the most common issues that cause sump pumps to stop working are clogged switches and pumps If your sump pump pit does not have a lid, more than likely dirt and other debris is finding its way into the device. These issues lead to clogs that can slow down and eventually stop your sump pump from pulling water from your home.

Debris is not the only issue that can cause a blockage. Mechanical parts can become caked with dirt if not cleaned on a regular basis, and float switches can become jammed due to lack of maintenance as well. If your sump pump shifts in its basin, the float that signals the switch may become jammed. As you perform maintenance on the pump, check the position of the switch and adjust it if necessary to avoid a stuck switch in the future

Installing a simple airtight lid the hardware store can solve many of these problems by preventing foreign objects from finding their way into your sump pump pit.

Old Age

Sump pumps typically have a shelf life of around 10 years. If your pump is acting up, it could simply be a sign of old age and time for a replacement. Regular maintenance checks can help keep the life of your sump pump as long as possible. 

There are a few factors that do contribute to how long a pump will last. These include frequency of use, quality of the pump, electrical source, and how far the pump has to carry the water a safe distance from your home.

An Overwhelmed (Too Small) Pump

Sump pumps are not a one size fits all appliance, and an incorrect size can result in sump pump failure. It’s recommended that your sump pump carry at minimum 35 gallons of water per minute. However, the higher the horsepower, the higher the discharge. If your sump pump is not powerful enough to keep up with the amount of water entering your home, it will stop moving the water away from your home and potentially overflow into your basement.

No Water in the Sump Pit

Even if your sump pump seems to be working properly, if there is no water in the pit itself, it means that the pump is not hooked up properly to the drainage system. The drainage system is supposed to work hand in hand with your sump pump, helping the machine pull the water through the pipes away from your home. A drainage system that’s clogged or not installed properly can lead to a sump pump that doesn’t function. Call in a professional to check on the installation if your sump pit is dry.

Clogged Sump Pump Discharge Pipes or Hoses

A sump pump has discharge pipes and hoses that can become clogged with debris and create a backup, causing issues with drainage. If this happens, there is nowhere for your water to flow, leaving your sump pump to stop completely. Prevent this by installing a piece of mesh or a protective cover over the pipe to keep it clear of any debris or blockages.

Installation Problem or Faulty Products

Product defects occur from time to time, which are out of your control. In addition to this, installation issues may also occur. In this instance, be certain all directions were properly followed. It’s also good to have a professional double-check the installation of the sump pump to verify that everything looks as it should and that all pieces of equipment are functioning properly.

Improper Sump Pump Maintenance

As we discussed before, always perform regular maintenance on your sump pump. Clean it three to four times a year to avoid blockages. If you notice any of the above issues, replace the sump pump immediately to prevent costly water damage and home repairs.

Loss of Power To Your Sump Pump

At some point, almost every home and business has lost power. A sump pump runs off of electricity, and the most common reason for sump pump failure is a power outage.  This can be due to a storm knocking out the power, or something as simple as someone forgetting to plug the sump pump back in if they unplugged it for some reason. With a sump pump, the loss of power can mean no water flows away from your home. Instead, water builds up leaving the potential for flooding. Don’t run the risk of a pump failing when you need it the most. Hook the sump pump up to a secondary power source like a backup battery, or understand how to safely connect your sump pump to a generator.

What are the best back-up power options for Sump Pumps?

What are the Best Back-Up Power Options For Sump Pumps?

As we just explained, a loss of power is one of the most common reasons for a sump pump to fail. Here in Illinois, the stormy weather that brings rain can also often bring power outages. Because of this, it’s worth considering a backup power source for your sump pump. Here are a few options:

  • Battery system. A sump pump battery backup will kick in when the electricity goes out. It works exactly as you’d think. Instead of running off of electricity, the sump pump will draw power from the battery for a limited amount of time.
  • Battery-operated sump pump. Different from the battery itself, this is an additional sump pump that will kick in when yours cannot. Runoff of batteries, this pump will switch over and pump out the water until your main sump pump can return to working order.
  • Generator back up. A generator can power a sump pump when electricity fails. There are two types of generators – one is a manual start fuel generator and the other is an automatic standby generator. An extension cord may have to be run to the generator from the sump pump – which could be a safety hazard, so take precautions.
  • Water alarm system. This is an alarm system that will detect when the water level inside the sump pit is too high. Once you hear this alarm, it is time to bring in a backup option to your sump pump. This could be a second pump, wet/dry vac, or start manually removing water from your basement.

What maintenance does a Sump Pump need?

What Sump Pump Maintenance Needs To Be Done?

Maintaining your sump pump is basic but important. These steps are imperative to keep your sump pump working properly to keep your basement from flooding. In spring, when the rainfall is typically the highest, is when you should check your sump pump.

To keep the sump pump in working order, check these following things:

  1. Make sure your sump pump is upright. If the unit is tilted, it may not work properly, and then flood your basement.
  2. Test that your pump is working properly by pouring a bucket of water into your sump pit. If you hear the sump pump turn on, the unit is ready to go for heavy rainfall.
  3. From time to time, it is a good idea to remove a submersible sump pump from the pit and clean out the grates to ensure nothing is blocked.
  4. Tighten all pipes and hoses leading to and from your sump pump.
  5. Check your unit for any holes that could prevent water from flowing freely through the sump pump.

What is a Sump Pump alarm?

Why Do Sump Pumps Have Alarms?

Here in the Mundelein, Waukegan, Schaumburg and surrounding IL areas, sump pumps are essential to keeping the lower levels of your home or business dry, so a failure can be a big problem that you need to be aware of. To help with this issue, most sump pumps are equipped with alarms. 

The design of most sump pumps is a big part of why these alarms are needed. Sump pump chambers are submerged and often even sealed, so you often cannot see when there is a potential problem. Sump pump alarms monitor the water levels within the sump pump, and will go off when the water is getting too high, and beginning to overflow from the sump pump chamber.

Why is my Sump Pump alarm going off?

Why Is My Sump Pump Alarm Going Off?

When your sump pump alarm goes off, it is alerting you that there is a problem with your pump, but it does not tell you exactly what the problem is – or how you can fix it. Here are four of the most common reasons that your sump pump alarm may go off:

Loss of Power

If the power is off at your property, whether totally or just on the circuit that powers your pump, your alarm will go off. If you can, go to the circuit breaker board and flip the switch that restores power to your pump. For a total power loss, perhaps during a big storm that also resulted in a loss of power for your whole neighborhood, you are in a tougher spot. Battery back-up systems can be installed to keep your sump pump working even in those situations.

Motor or other Pump Part Failure

If you haven’t lost power and don’t hear the sump pump working, it may have failed or gotten clogged, and needs to be repaired. Similarly, if you can hear your sump pump working, but it isn’t pumping water out of your basement, the motor may not be working properly.

Extreme Water Levels

Your sump pump alarm tells you when the water is too high in your sump pump system. This high water level means that your pump isn’t removing the water quickly enough. This often happens due to the reasons discussed above, like a loss of power or other part failure. 

The water level can also cause an alarm simply because the pump can’t keep up with the amount of water coming in. This can happen during situations like a flood or a severe storm. If this happens at your property often, you may need to upgrade your system.

Wet Sensors

The water sensors that cause these alarms to go off are usually located at the top of the pump. If they get wet from a malfunction or other water source, the system can alert you even when your pump is working well. Drying off the sensors can solve this problem.

What should I do if the Sump Pump alarm goes off?

What Should You Do When Your Sump Pump Alarm Goes Off?

If a sump pump alarm works properly, you’ll get early notice that the water level in your home or business’s basement is getting dangerously high. It must be loud enough that you can hear it from anywhere in your home or business, and remote monitoring options are available for multiple or distant locations. Frequent alarms can be a sign that you need to invest in additional systems or repairs to help prevent basement flooding. 

Sump pumps and their alerts can help prevent dirty, dangerous water damage. Here in northern Illinois, wet messy storms and floods can occur almost year-round, so make sure you have the equipment you need to prevent it, and the right partner to help you when you need it. A failed or overwhelmed sump pump at your home or business can leave a dangerous, costly mess behind.

Protect Your Investment From Water Damage With Help From McMahon Services & Construction of Hainesville, IL

At McMahon Services and Construction, we offer full water damage restoration services and clean up services. We have a 24/7 emergency line, and are always ready to handle any water damage issues, day or night. If your home or business experiences basement water damage, call McMahon Services and Construction to begin a safe, expert restoration and mold remediation process immediately.

We offer FREE inspections and estimates to residential and commercial customers in our Chicago, Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Des Plaines, Evanston, Mount Prospect, Grayslake, Mundelein, Libertyville, Oak Park, Palatine, Wheaton, Naperville, Waukegan, Schaumburg, Skokie, and surrounding IL service areas.