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Why would I need a sump pump, and how would I go about putting one in? Should I call in a professional? These are questions that anyone could ask themselves when dealing with excess water entering your home from outside during heavy rains or times of thawing snow.
The purpose of a sump pump is to collect flood water entering your basement into a pit and, by utilizing a pump system, redirect the water to a point outside your home. By using this system, the likelihood of water pooling and causing damage and mold is significantly reduced.
Installing a sump pump requires a well-thought-out plan involving a few materials and tools. For a fresh DIY person, this kind of project may take a couple of days depending on what tools you have on hand or may need to rent. For an experienced DIY person, this would most likely take 1 day to finish, again depending on tools available and knowledge. I would recommend that anyone attempting this, who is not comfortable with concrete work and work of this nature, should seek a professional.
The first step in installing a sump pump would be to locate the lowest point in your basement, as that would be the point where moisture would accumulate. This can be accomplished with a long level or laser level.
Next, you would break open the concrete and dig a hole deep enough to accommodate your system. This will involve removing the drainage rock located beneath the concrete, so plan ahead of time where this material will be moved to out of your construction area to prevent it from impeding your project. This kind of work is usually done with the aid of a jackhammer or a sledgehammer and cold chisel. Work cautiously, and wear safety glasses and possibly a face shield to prevent flying debris from injuring your face. Once the hole has been dug out with enough space to accommodate the sump pump and tank, you are ready to proceed to the next step.
For the sump pump to operate efficiently, the well must have weeping holes in it to allow the water to enter. The best practice is to drill out holes in the sides and bottom if the manufacturer has not already done so. You then wrap the tank in some form of material to prevent any mud or debris from plugging the holes. Landscaping fabric is most used for this purpose. It is important to note to add some form of a solid base for the tank, usually by adding stone to prevent the sump pump from shifting.
Upon adding the sump pump to the tank, test the pump to ensure that the float valve moves freely up and down. This is an important checkpoint, as the pump will activate when the float arm is in the up position, and if it sticks in the down position, the well will overfill, causing flooding. An optional item to consider is a device called a high-water alarm that will sound a loud audible siren if the well does overfill. The next step is to add a hose to drain the well to a point outside your home far enough away from the foundation that the water won’t immediately re-enter. This can be run with a flexible hose or some form of PVC pipe with connections to allow for future inspection in case of a blockage. An important note on this is to make sure the sump pump is on a separate electrical circuit to help lessen the chances of it tripping into the “off” position during times of heavy demand on that circuit.
The final steps of installing the sump pump are to test the system by pouring water into the well high enough to raise the float arm and activate the pump. Observe the drain line for any visual leaks and make any adjustments to the slope of the drain to maximize its potential. Finally, after all the testing has been performed, close the space around the sump system with concrete, making sure that the concrete does not overlap where the tank lid will be placed. Do a final round of testing after the work has had a chance to cure, and you have a comfort level for any water issues in your basement that were not there before.
Ways that this system can go wrong are as follows. The float arm on the sump pump may not lift due to breakdown or debris preventing it from lifting during high-water points. This can be tested by manually lifting the float to see if the pump activates. If it does not, check the outlet/breaker to the pump and ensure it has power. If power is present, then there is an issue with the pump float, and a professional should be brought in to diagnose it. Another issue that may occur, more often in colder months, is the drain hose being plugged with ice, preventing the pumped water from leaving and instead returning to the tank, causing an overfill and flooding. Always check the drain hose during colder months to prevent this issue from occurring. If you have a PVC drain setup, look for any cracks in the colder months, as the water, if unable to flow out, will accumulate and freeze, causing the PVC to possibly split open due to ice buildup. If freezing occurs, then it is recommended to use a space heater to thaw it out where possible to get it flowing again. If there is damage due to ice buildup, replace the drain line.
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