Sump Pumps: Last Line of Defense Against Basement Flooding

March 31, 2017

In the Boulder and Denver area, there are many communities where a high water table, spring runoff, or heavy seasonal snow or rain creates significant concerns about basement flooding. Water seeping up from below the basement floor, through cracks in the foundation wall, or at the joint where the basement floor and foundation wall meet, can create an unhealthy indoor environment — not to mention ruin valuable flooring and belongings that may reside in the lowest level of your home. In some areas, this may even be a year-round issue.

Proper grading of the ground surrounding your home and modern foundation drainage systems can make a big difference, but in many cases this simply is not enough, and a water removal system is needed. Enter, sump pumps.

Some Sump Pump Background

Sump pumps to help protect against indoor flooding were first developed in the 1940s. Their designs have been continually refined to the point where there are now a variety of options available, depending on the application and desired level of protection.

Flooded home Benefits of Sump Pumps
Sump pumps can help protect your foundation, reduce rust or peeling paint, help prevent the growth of mold and mildew, discourage infestation of termites and other insects, and help maintain a more comfortable basement environment by removing dampness in that level of your home. So it can be seen that, when needed, a professionally installed sump pump system will help protect your home investment.

A Typical Installation

A typical residential sump pump installation in the Colorado Front Range consists of the following: A relatively small ‘sump pit’ is dug in the lowest point in the basement, below floor level. The pit is lined with material that helps isolate it from debris and silt present in the immediate area.

A submersible pump–the quietest, most unobtrusive type of sump pump–is placed in the bottom of the lined pit, and a cover is placed over the top to keep debris from entering from above, while further minimizing motor noise. Output piping is connected to the pump and is routed outdoors away from the home. When the pit naturally fills with water the pump automatically turns on and continues running until the water level drops, and the pump shuts off on its own.

A word of caution about the termination point of the output piping: Sump pumps can deliver a significant volume of water, so be sure that the area where the water is pumped to is chosen wisely. No one likes an unplanned lake in the middle of the backyard! Some municipalities allow termination into the local sewer system, while others require a different approach.

Other Options?

The other common type of sump pump is called a pedestal pump, which supports the pump above the pit, with suction piping extending down to the bottom. While pedestal pumps normally have a much longer life expectancy than the submersible variety and are easier to service, they are more challenging to hide from view, and their noise levels are considerably higher.

Hence, submersible sump pumps are frequently a better fit for homeowners, while pedestal sumps are more popular in less sensitive locations such as agricultural, commercial and industrial applications.

A popular feature found in many sump pumps these days is a battery operated alarm that sounds if the water level gets too high and the pump fails to turn on.

In some cases, a homeowner may choose to invest in a system consisting of more than one pump, with a backup pump for enhanced protection or greater pumping power for high volume periods of time. Pumps that operate off a large rechargeable battery (think automobile batteries) or off of hydrostatic water pressure are also available, for areas where electrical supply may be unreliable.

The type of sump pump system best suited for your home may depend on considerations such as the nature of what resides in the basement, reliability of your electrical supply, frequency and volume of water being removed, and of course, budget.

Maintenance of Your Sump Pump System

To help ensure reliable operation and long life, we recommend having your sump pump, liner, and piping inspected and serviced at least once per year. In cases where the system sees significant, consistent use, more frequent servicing might be required.

Annual servicing includes the following, as appropriate for your system:

  • Clean and test float switch, which turns the pump on and off
  • Clean pump impeller and intake valve
  • Clean dust and debris screens and filters
  • Clean sump pit liner and cover
  • Inspect discharge piping, especially termination point
  • Replace water level alarm batteries
  • Check charge on backup power battery, if included in system
  • Perform thorough test of system operation

Lift Stations

Considered in the same family as sump pumps are ‘lift stations,’ also known as sewage ejection systems. Lift stations can often be found in homes located in low lying areas that are not serviced by a municipal sewage system.

Lift stations work in conjunction with septic systems, which normally are located below the home and rely on gravity to do the transport work to the septic tank. However, in this case, the septic tank and leach field are located higher than the home and need pump assist to get drain and waste products from the home to the septic tank. Given the nature of the products being pumped, it’s easy to see that regular, routine maintenance of the pump and accessories doing this important work is quite important.

Routine maintenance of lift stations may be needed more frequently than for standard sump pumps, and it’s very important to understand the servicing needs of your system.

Learn More Today

Springtime is upon us, and sump pumps and lift stations are likely working as hard or harder than they do at any time of the year. Now is a good time to make sure that these important systems are up to the job. Routine maintenance helps ensure proper, reliable performance, helps avoid unforeseen failures, protects your valuable investments, and helps extend the life of these important products. In the Denver and Boulder, Colorado area, contact Save Home Heat Company’s plumbing and drain specialists for friendly advice and professional service.