6 Causes of Basement Moisture (and How to Fix Them)
Got a wet basement? Basement moisture is not an uncommon problem. In fact, basements are notoriously dark and damp places. Yet however common it may be, moisture in your basement can be bad news. Unfortunately for homeowners, a little bit of moisture can turn into a big problem. From structural damage to toxic mold that is hazardous to your health, basement moisture can cause major issues for your home. So what exactly are the causes of basement moisture? And more importantly, what can you do to fix it?
Let’s start at the beginning. First of all, how do you know if you have moisture in your basement? It is important to be able to identify the warning signs and symptoms. The signs of basement moisture may not be as obvious as a puddle of water on the floor. In fact, there are numerous ways in which moisture can present itself in your basement. Here’s a quick list of a few things to look for:
- Water Trickling Out of the Walls
- Saturated Base of Concrete Walls (a ring of dampness)
- Condensation on the Walls and Floor
- Stained or Blistering Walls
- Damp, Humid Air
- Standing Water on the Floor
- Deteriorating Carpet or Wood
- Rotting Columns, Headers, and Joists
- Odor of Mold or Mildew
If you see any of these signs, you are experiencing moisture in your basement. Now that you know there is moisture, let’s find out where it is coming from.
Basement moisture typically comes from one of 3 sources
Rain or Groundwater
Simply put, this is outside water that makes its way inside. As little as 1 inch of rain can bring 1,250 gallons of water pouring down onto a 2,000 sq. ft. home. Without proper grading, downspouts, and gutters, that water might find its way into your basement.
Interior Moisture Sources
Sometimes the water in our basements originated or was created there. Such sources can include dryers, showers, cooking, humidifiers, and even the moisture from newly-constructed concrete.
Ventilation with Humid, Outside Air
In warmer weather, we often open our basement windows to help ventilate the space. However, when we let humid, outside air into our cool basements, it can condense on the walls and floors.
Now that we know the possible sources of the water, we can determine the cause of the moisture, and ultimately what to do to fix the problem. Check out our list of:
6 common causes of basement moisture and how to fix them
#1. An Interior Water Leak
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you should always check for inside leaks first when trying to identify the cause of moisture in your basement. A water leak can come from numerous places: a shower, a sink, a toilet, a washing machine, a dishwasher, a bad pipe, just to name a few. Sometimes, if the moisture in your basement is located on the ceiling or walls beneath a bathroom or kitchen, an interior water leak is to blame. Find where the moisture is located and determine if something in that area is leaking.
How to Fix It: An interior leak is typically one of the easiest problems to solve. Simply repair the leak (or have a plumber take care of it for you) and with any luck, that was the cause of the moisture, and it will be gone for good.
#2. Ineffective Grading
Rain or groundwater often makes its way into basements due to poor grading. The ground around your foundation should slope away from the house, not towards it. If draining in the wrong direction, water will accumulate against your foundation and eventually make its way inside. This often happens when fill dirt around your foundation isn’t properly compacted. As the dirt settles, the slope changes and water flows toward your house rather than away from it.
How to Fix It: Build up the dirt around your foundation, creating a slope aiming away from the house. This should be a minimum of one inch per foot, for at least 6 feet.
#3. Missing or Defective Gutters and Downspouts
The purpose of gutters and downspouts is to direct rainwater away from the foundation of your home. If those gutters and downspouts are missing, or not functioning properly, rainwater is often directed towards your foundation. As water drains toward your house, it can accumulate in the soil around it. If water accumulates around your foundation, chances are, it will make its way inside into your basement.
How to Fix It: Consider adding gutters if there are none already in place. A minimum of 1 downspout should be placed per every 50 ft. of the roof eave. Extenders should be placed on all downspouts, dispersing water at least 4 ft. away from the foundation. Existing gutters should be cleaned regularly to ensure they are functioning properly.
#4. Cracks in Your Foundation
If you have cracks in your foundation, you can be sure that water will find them and make its way into your basement. In fact, sometimes the water is even the cause of the cracks themselves. If floor joists are not properly connected to the foundation walls, it can allow the walls to move, and in turn, cracks are formed. Water can actually cause cracks in the foundation as well due to poor drainage in the soil.
If water is not directed away from your foundation and accumulates against the foundation walls, and that pressure (hydrostatic pressure) can force the water into the walls, creating cracks. No matter how the cracks formed, if they exist, water can enter your basement through them.
How To Fix It: Depending on the cause of the cracks, your solutions will vary. If hydrostatic pressure (due to water accumulating around the foundation) is the cause of the cracks, repairing your exterior drainage should help to solve the problem. The cracks will still need to be repaired, but the cause should have been repaired. If structural problems caused the cracks, proper footing and connections (straps or anchor bolts) should be put into place to seal the gaps. Click here to learn more about ways to fix cracks in your foundation.
#5. Poor (or Missing) Drain Tile and Sump Pit
Many houses do not have a subsurface drainage system. Basements in older homes often were not intended to be habitable spaces, thus an under-the-floor drainage system wasn’t necessary. More modern homes that do have a drainage system often experience problems with their system. This can range from a clogged pipe, broken connection, or a broken sump pump.
How To Fix It: Unfortunately, problems with your subsurface drainage system, or adding one where there wasn’t one, are a much more serious project than some of the aforementioned solutions. If you think this is where your problem lies, its best to call in the professionals. It involves digging up your flooring and adding a drain system, which leads to a pump that will expel any moisture. Building, or repairing a subsurface drainage system is a complex task, best left to experts with tools and knowledge to get the job done right the first time. Click here to get help with your drainage problems.
Basement condensation occurs when warm, moist air comes in contact with your cool basement walls and floor. As the walls cool the warm air, moisture is created, just like condensation on a cold beer on a hot summer day. You’re in luck if the moisture in your basement is coming from condensation, rather than a leak or drainage problem, as these issues are typically much easier and less expensive to resolve.
How To Fix It: There are a few ways to deal with condensation in your basement. First off, check the exhaust of your dryer and drain the central air conditioner. Ensure they are not clogged and are flowing properly. Both can cause a surprising amount of moisture to be put into the air. Next, consider one of the following options:
Basement Exhaust Fan: If you have a bathroom or kitchen in your basement, be sure to install (and use) an exhaust fan. Steam from hot showers and cooking creates lots of moisture than if trapped, can create condensation. Be sure to use the exhaust fan anytime a shower is taken or the stove is used.
Increase Air Circulation: If you only have a minor amount of condensation, increasing your air circulation could resolve the issue. If your basement does not have air conditioning vents, consider adding some. It is typically a relatively easy project. Make sure to keep vents open to keep air flowing. If you don’t have AC, adding a fan, and running it a few hours a day, can help to distribute moisture. If your basement is cluttered, eliminating some of the junk will help air to flow more freely as well.
Insulate Your Basement: Insulating the places where condensation builds up can also help to eliminate moisture. Covering those places, such as walls, pipes, and ducts, with insulation, will help keep warm air from coming in contact with the cool surfaces, thus preventing condensation.
Moisture Warning Signs
If you see signs of moisture in your basement, do not wait to do something about it. The longer the problem persists, the bigger and more costly the repairs will be. For more tips or help with your wet basement, reach out to our team at Triad Basement Waterproofing.
9 Reasons Your Basement Might Leak in the Winter
Nothing will put a damper on your holiday plans faster than a flooded basement. No one wants to spend their holiday season mopping up water in an old, leaky basement rather than enjoying time with family and friends. The costly repairs and bothersome inconvenience associated with basement leaks are guaranteed to disrupt your winter plans.
While we typically think of leaks and flooding during times of heavy rain, it is important to remember that these events can occur year-round.
Basement leaks and flooding are actually quite common during the winter months. There are many factors as to why your basement might leak, however all leaks are ultimately caused by an accumulation of moisture.
Keep in mind that moisture doesn’t necessarily come from rain. During the winter months, our homes are surrounded by water in the frozen form: snow. While it is always best to consult a professional to assess your basement’s waterproofing, it is important to understand the basic reasons behind those bothersome basement leaks.
Why Your Basement Might Leak
Below is a list of 8 common reasons why your basement might leak this winter, to help keep you in the know.
#1. Basements Radiate Heat, Melting Snow
While it may be below freezing outside, the temperature in your basement is significantly warmer. Whether your basement is finished or unfinished, it is quite cozy compared to the chilly weather outside. The ground outside your home is cold, frozen, and covered in snow, while the temperature inside your basement is warm and toasty. This causes your basement to radiate heat. Basements typically radiate warmth up to 8” outside the basement walls.
This radiant heat entering the ground causes frozen soil and snow to melt, thus creating and accumulating moisture. As we learned earlier, a build-up of moisture is the basic cause of most leaks. As the snow melts around your basement, moisture builds up and is trapped between the frozen soil and your basement walls and floor. When moisture accumulates with nowhere to go, that’s where the problems begin.
#2. Hydrostatic Pressure
We all know what gravity is; the downward force that weighs things down and keeps them from floating off into the atmosphere. Hydrostatic pressure is the fancy term for the downward pull of gravity. When it comes to a leaky basement, this pressure is a common culprit. As we mentioned in #1, when heat radiated from your basement causes the frozen soil and snow to melt, moisture accumulates and becomes trapped between the ground and your basement walls. Hydrostatic pressure pushes down on that trapped moisture.
As the pressure builds, it can force the moisture through existing cracks and holes in your foundation. Additionally, the pressure can build up so much that it creates new cracks in order to give the moisture somewhere to go. Ultimately, the hydrostatic pressure will force the moisture downward, and into your basement if you don’t have an alternate route for it to travel through.
#3. Eaves, Troughs, and Downspouts Draining Too Close to Your House
Properly functioning and installed eaves, troughs, and downspouts are essential to keep leaks at bay. These elements are designed to reroute water away from your home. However, if these features are improperly designed or not maintained, they have the potential to do more harm than good. When properly installed and functioning correctly, these elements pull water away from your home. The further away from your foundation that the water is sent, the less likely you are to have leaks.
However, if these elements are poorly maintained, installed improperly, or missing altogether, water can be deposited too close to your foundation. If excess water accumulates close to your foundation, hydrostatic pressure can cause it to be forced inside, as it has nowhere else to go. Keep your gutters clean, and downspouts draining away from your foundation (a minimum of 4 feet away) to help prevent this cause of basement leakage.
#4. The Wrong Type of Soil
The soil surrounding your basement plays a large role when it comes to leaks. The right type of soil and irrigation will help water drain properly and pull moisture away from your home. However, the wrong type of soil with improper draining can cause moisture to pool and become trapped against the walls of your basement. Certain types of soil, such as clay soil, can actually prevent leaks and flooding by absorbing moisture and expanding, rather than allowing moisture to collect and build up pressure. If the soil surrounding your basement does not drain properly, we suggest replacing it with clean fill dirt, properly installed, and topped with stone or mulch to prevent erosion.
#5. The Slope Surrounding Your Foundation is Off
No matter what type of landscape your home was built on, the soil surrounding your foundation should always slope away from the home. Improper drainage is one of the most common factors in basement leaks. The soil surrounding the foundation of your home should slope down 6 inches in the opposite direction of the home.
While 6 inches of slope may not seem like much, it guides water away from your foundation, rather than allow it to pool at its base. The further away the water drains, the less likely you are to experience leakage. Make sure there is a clear downward path for water to follow, away from, not towards your foundation.
#6. Cracks in Your Basement Wall and Floor
Water most commonly enters your basement through cracks in the walls and floor. When moisture accumulates outside between the soil and the walls, pressure pushes down on that moisture, causing it to look for a way to escape. As the pressure builds, moisture is pushed through cracks in your walls and floors, resulting in a wet basement. Cracks in basement walls and floors are very common.
As your house settles over time and pressure changes for various reasons, cracks will inevitably occur. Click here to learn more about how and why cracks occur . If not properly repaired, these existing cracks are a direct route, leading moisture straight into your basement. Water will continue to seep through these cracks in the walls and floors until the pressure is relieved or the cracks are eliminated.
#7. Your Sump Pump Isn’t Working Properly
If you have a basement, you most likely have a sump pump. This pump is designed to collect excess water and pull it away from the home. However, if your sump pump isn’t working properly, water will accumulate and potentially flood your basement. A sump pump is installed by creating a hole in the basement floor (the sump pit). When the pit fills with water, the electric pump is activated, pumping the water away from the area.
Sump pumps can fail for various reasons: improper installation, power failure, lack of maintenance, or frozen/clogged drainage lines. Click here to learn more about common sump pump problems that can result in flooding. Remember to always make sure your sump pump is working properly before the wet winter season arrives.
#8. Your Drain is Clogged
While this may seem like an overly simple explanation, you would be amazed at how many leaks and floods can be prevented by simply ensuring your drains are draining properly . Clogged drains can cause water to back up in your pipes, and ultimately overflow into your basement. These clogs can occur in your home’s sewer lines, as well as the municipal sewer lines outside your home.
While you can’t do much to address clogs in the municipal line, take measures to ensure that the lines in your home are flowing freely. If your drains are free of clogs and draining properly, it will help to eliminate the chances of water backing up into your basement.
#9. Leaky Window Wells
While windows allow much needed light to flow into your basement, they can also allow water to make its way in as well. Windows should be properly sealed and free of cracks. The window wells , the areas around your basement windows, should have proper drainage in place, allowing water to flow away from the home, and not pool in the wells. Keep a close eye on these areas, as they are common culprits in basement leaks.
Preventing Basement Leaks with Triad
As winter quickly approaches, it is important to take measures to prevent basement leaks and flooding. Remember, just because it isn’t raining, it doesn’t mean that water isn’t there. Be sure to take a good look at all 9 factors listed above during your thorough check of your basement. It is much easier to stop a leak before it starts than to repair damage after the fact.
As you begin steps toward waterproofing and winterizing your basement , we encourage you to reach out our team at Triad Basement Weatherproofing. Our team has years of experience in basement waterproofing and are here to assist you as you prepare your home ready for winter. Contact us to learn more about keeping your home dry this winter.
A sump pump is a pump that is used to remove water that has gathered into a sump basin designed to collect water, usually found in the basement of a home. There are a few ways the water may enter the sump pump: it enters by funneling into the pump through the designated perimeter drains in a basement’s system of waterproofing, or by gravity because of groundwater or rainfall, if the basement happens to be below the water table level.
Sump pumps are most commonly used when basements regularly flood, and also to solve issues associated with dampness (again, if the basement is located below the water table level). The main purpose of a sump pump is to pump and send water away from the house, to a place where it can cause less problems — usually a city storm drain or a dry well.
Sump pumps are usually hard wired directly into the electrical system of a home; however, some sump pumps may have an additional battery back up system. Occasionally, a home’s pressurized water system will power the pump in a home, which effectively eliminates the need for electricity all together — although it is done at the expense of using potable water, which can potentially make them more expensive to operate than their electrical pump counterparts.
Maintaining Your Sump Pump
It is important to keep in mind that a sump basin can overflow if it is not constantly and properly pumped. For this reason, it is imperative that you have a back up system in place for your sump pump in the event that the main power to your home is out for any extended period of time, such as is often the case in a severe storm.
Sump Pump Mistakes
Of course, that isn’t the only mistake that can potentially happen when dealing with a sump pump. Read on for some of the most common mistakes that happen with sump pumps — and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Letting debris get in the pump.
To avoid this common mistake, make sure that your sump pump does not sit on any loose silt, small sized gravel, or any other type of debris that could easily be sucked up into the pump — because it will cause a problem. Instead, use large rocks or gravel at least the size of a dime so that your lines will not get clogged, which can ruin the motor in your pump.
Mistake #2: Issues with the float switch.
A float switch simply tells the sump pump motor to stop once the water level becomes too low. Because of what it does, your sump pump will need to have plenty of space around the float and switch for the arm to both freely float and also sink. If there isn’t sufficient room or if there is some type of obstruction in the way, the float will likely cause the pump to work improperly, which can burn up your motor.
Mistake #3: Errors with the check valve.
A sump pump’s check valve simply creates a barrier that prevents any water from flowing backward into the pump. There should be an arrow printed around the check value that indicates in which direction the valve should face. Make sure the arrow is pointing away from the sump pump.
Mistake #4: Not testing your sump pump system.
Basically speaking, there are typically 3 levels of “need” for a sump pump. Level 1 is when your sump pump basically runs constantly, even when there is little to no rainfall. Level 2 is considered to be the “ideal” scenario, when your pump isn’t normally running — but does occasionally run when the need arises, such as during heavy rain or storm, and then shuts off. Level 3 is when your pump never runs.
You need to test your system regularly, or at least once a year. But how do you test your system? That’s easy — just pour water in. Take a 5-gallon bucket filled with water, and then slowly pour the water in (think about the rate which rain water may enter the pump) until the float triggers your pump to activate. Next, you should ideally see the water level slowly drop and then eventually shut off again once the float has dropped back down below the shut off level. If this isn’t what happens with your system, you will need to troubleshoot any issues that you may be having for repairs or replacements.
Mistake #5: A broken discharge pipe.
The worst part about a broken discharge pipe is that the break can occur underground — making it impossible to see or know about until it’s too late. And how will you know it’s too late? When you walk into your basement… and find everything floating. Chances are, something similar has happened to someone you know, at some point or another. The moral of the story? Always inspect your discharge pipes, whether they stick out from your house or you have an underground system.
Mistake #6: Someone unplugged your pump.
This one seems like a no brainer, but it actually happens more often than you may think. Someone goes down into your basement and needs an electrical outlet for something. In order to plug up said item, they accidentally unplug your sump pump… and forget to plug it back in. Fortunately, this one is a simple fix: always check to make sure you plug the sump pump back up. Or, better yet, never unplug it.
Mistake #7: Failing to check for loose wiring in your system.
Checking for loose of faulty wires is another simple step that should be included in your checklist of regular system maintenance. How will you know if your sump pump may have loose wires? One indication is if your sump pump suddenly stops. Unfortunately, without checking something simple as the wiring, you may very well be overlooking something that is a simple fix to get the pump back in working order.
To check the wiring, first turn off power to the pump at the source. Next, disconnect the pump. Check the pump, inspecting for any loose wires and replacing any that you may find. Install the pump again, restore power, and then see if the pump begins working again.
Mistake #8: Not listening to the sump pump motor.
Believe it or not, mistakes can often be made if you don’t simply listen to the motor of your sump pump. If the motor and pump are both running, then you will need to inspect the outside pump (where the water should be escaping). If no water is coming out, then you will need to do some troubleshooting. Perhaps a water pipe may be blocked, or your check valve may be stuck. Some of these are fairly straightforward fixes that are easy to do yourself; other times, it is better to call in a team of professionals.
Which leads us to mistake #9, quite possibly the biggest mistake and also the most commonly made mistake of all…
Mistake #9: Not recognizing when a professional needs to step in and complete any necessary repairs to your sump pump.
If you have looked over your sump pump and inspected all of the minor details and you have exhausted troubleshooting any issues you may have discovered, you should always call a professional to get the repairs started. By simply checking if the water is discharging properly on a regular basis, you will easily be able to determine when your pump may need professional repairs.
Need Sump Pump Help?
At Triad Basement Waterproofing, we know leaky basements and everything that causes them. Unfortunately, sump pump issues can be pretty common and can easily cause a basement to flood — and we’ve seen how disastrous a leaky or flooded basement can be. We offer a wide range of basement flooding services, including sump pump repairs.
If you have any questions, or if you think there are issues with your existing sump pump, feel free to get in touch with us today. We would love to help.
While a comprehensive waterproofing and drainage systems have many layers, sump pumps are considered the most essential. Most homeowners in the D.C area have a sump pump in their basement to protect the house from flooding.
Unlike the membranes, drainage sheets, and perforated pipe, which usually last for the life of the structure, sump pumps need replacing every few years. The US Department of Housing and Development estimates the average life expectancy of a pump at ten years. Just like all mechanical equipment, by performing regular maintenance, you’ll give a longer lifespan to the equipment.
How a Sump Pump Works
Sump pumps will turn on automatically; this is due to a pressure sensor or float activator in the system. The pressure sensor activates as water builds up in the pit, or around the pedestal and creates more pressure than air, prompting the pump to start working. Similar to the one in your toilet tank, the float activator has a ball that floats on top of the water, moving the arm as the water level rises.
After the sensor or arm tells the pump to start working, a centrifugal pump begins to move the water. When the pump is on, a screw or fanlike device called an impeller turns. The spinning impeller, using centrifugal force, drives water toward the sides of the pipe, creating a low-pressure area at its center. Water from the pit rushes to fill the void, and the impeller’s spinning action pushes it out through the pipe. Technical speak aside, the process is similar to water draining down a sink or bathtub, but with an electric helper.
What To Do if Your Sump Pump Fails
Hopefully, you have a backup system in place in case the worst happens. Pump failure leaves your basement with no recourse for eliminating water that is entering your basement, leading to flooding.
Remember, you don’t have to be waist-deep in water for it to wreak havoc. As little as two inches can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your structure, carpeting, belongings, drywall, wood support beams, and interior air quality.
Remember too, to call your insurance agent for flood policy information. Most homeowner’s insurance coverage does not include flood damage, and often you’ll have to take out a separate plan to qualify for reimbursement. Like most of our insurance, we pay premiums in the hopes that we never have to use them.
These days, some insurance companies offer sump pump failure coverage. This plan takes the form of a rider or endorsement attached to a standard homeowner’s insurance policy. Premiums are usually affordable, and you can receive up to $10,000 to replace or repair anything resulting from a flood or backup and pump failure, including pipes, drains, sewer fittings, and appliances.
As long as water threatens a property, then the sump pump fails to respond when the floods breach the barriers, you have cause for an insurance claim. The key to approval by the underwriters is proper pump maintenance, including debris removal and functioning mechanical parts.
The minute you notice or receive an alert that your pump fails, call us. We can help excavate the water and begin the remediation process with a team of professionals and commercial-grade equipment. Our first order of business is to drain the water from the space to initiate the drying process.
Waiting For Failure Isn’t An Option
This main pump is usually hard-wired to the home’s electrical system for power. Inevitably, during a storm, the power will go out, and the water removal system won’t be able to perform its task. Every home with a sump pump should have a reliable backup sump pump system for peace of mind.
But, power outages aren’t the only cause for pump failure, just the most obvious. You could be in a situation where the level control on the primary pump is obstructed or fails. Debris in the sump pit could prevent the level control from properly operating.
The pump fails due to some other mechanical problem because some components of the sump pump may be vulnerable to damage from power surges. The leading mechanical cause of sump pump problems is a switch problem.
Switch issues occur when the pump shifts from its position inside the basin, rendering the float ineffective. The float is responsible for the smooth operation of the on/off switch. Your sump pump relies on both the switch and the float arm mechanisms to operate.
Your water discharge pipe is clogged. If water cannot exit your home through the discharge line, your system will not work. It is important to keep the discharge tube protected from freezing and free of sticks, dirt, rocks and other debris. Protecting the water’s exit point of the discharge pipe will keep debris and animals out of the system, making it optimal for your sump pump.
Debris clogging the primary pump will also cause pump failure. Leaves, paper, dirt, garbage all flow with storm water and can find a new home in your sump pit. An interruption in the flow of water due to an obstruction will shut down the mechanics.
Types of Sump Pump BackUp Systems
A Battery Backup Sump Pump is a separate system that is installed adjacent to your primary electric pump in the sump basin. These typically run on 12-volt or 24-volt D/C battery power and can either be plumbed into the central discharge pipe (the pipe hooked up to the sump pump to carry the water outside of the house) or can be installed with an independent discharge pipe.
Similar to your main sump, the battery backup sump pump has a float switch so that when the water rises in the sump, it raises the float and the backup pump is activated. This device helps keep water out of your basement if the primary pump cannot keep up with the inflow due to excessive amounts of water entering the sump pit. During an abnormally heavy rainstorm or snowmelt, the backup pump will assist the primary pump in evacuating the water.
In the case of a power outage or if the main pump/level control fails, it will take over the role as the primary pump allowing time for the power to be restored or the A/C electric pump system to be serviced. When operating intermittently with a fully charged battery, most backup sump pump systems can provide pumping relief for days.
Some of the most advanced backup sump pump models incorporate unique monitoring systems that signal the homeowner with a message and audio alarm when the following conditions exist:
- Pump failure detection
- High water alarms
- Battery charging level
- Low battery fluid
- Corroded battery terminals or the battery is defective
- Unit is not receiving A/C power
- Pump was activated
Water-Powered Backup Sump Pump is appropriate in areas where a pressurized municipal water supply is available (city water). A water-powered backup sump pump can be a reliable backup sump system without the need for a battery power supply.
This type of system uses the energy of flowing water through a venturi (a smaller section of tubing to detect water flow rates) to create a low-pressure region. As the pressurized water moves through the device, gravity and flow pressure push water out of the sump pit and empty it.
As with your leading sump pump system, the water-powered pump is installed in a sump pit, where a float will activate a valve to control the flow of pressurized city water. When the water level rises to a certain level, the valve will open, and when the water lowers the valve closes, and the flow of water stops.
These water-powered backup sump pumps are not intended to for use as a primary sump pump. They will require the use of municipal water for optimal operation and are not as efficient as an electric or battery operated sump pump.
Another drawback of water-powered pumps is that a water-powered backup pump must use a separate discharge than your primary pump.
Because, if the two pumps were to be linked together, a failure of the primary pump check valve would allow the municipal water to enter into the sump pit through the central pump. Plus, a failure in the incoming water pressure from city water supplies could allow sump water to infiltrate into the municipal water and produce a contamination risk.
Battery Backup Power Inverter systems offer a few advantages of the regular battery backup systems, but the difference is that the standard battery backup pumps pull directly from the 12- or 24-volt D/C battery power. The inverter models convert the low-voltage D/C current into 120-volt A/C current that powers the pump.
Getting Sump Pump Help
Our mission is to keep water out of your basement. Please reach out to us today with questions or to schedule an appointment with one of our professionals.
Any water that flows into your basement will make its way to this lowest point, which is why submersible sump pumps are in sump pits at the lowest point of your basement. When water enters your basement, the pump pulls it away from your foundation into your wastewater system and keeps your basement from flooding.
Sump pumps need replacing every few years. The US Department of Housing and Development estimates the average life expectancy of a sump pump at ten years.
Sump Pump Classifications
Like their name suggests, submersible pumps sit down inside a reservoir or sump pit. They are submerged during operation and have protective barriers that make them waterproof. The motors are stronger than the pedestal-type, making them suitable for areas of greater flooding.
Because they sit down in a reservoir, submersible sump pumps are, as a rule, quiet. The water muffles the sound of the motor. They are also out of the way when it comes to moving things around in the basement. They are not as prone to clogging as a pedestal pump but typically have a shorter lifespan.
A pedestal sump pump consists of a motor that sits atop a pedestal (hence the name) with a hose that goes down into the sump reservoir. The pump draws the water up through the hose and out to where it drains away from the house.
The motors have less power than the submersible models and work best where flooding is possible but usually minor. They start working when their float rises with the water in the reservoir and trips the switch.
Because the motor sits on a pedestal above the floor, the components are easier to reach for servicing. The other side of the coin is that the pump can get in the way of your moving things around in the basement. Pedestal pumps are also louder because there is no water to muffle the sound of the motor.
Factoring in Insurance
Sump pumps do the most work during spring and summer with heavy rains after snow melts. Homeowners’ policies ordinarily exclude water which enters into or overflows sump pumps. An insurance rider for sump pump failure often must be bought separately. You may have to buy it on its own from the National Flood Insurance Program.
The endorsement typically covers loss due to sump pump failure, power interruption and a pump overwhelmed by rising water. The same endorsement also usually includes sewerage backup.
Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Sump Pump
D.C residents spend an average of $460 to repair a sump pump and replacing a pump averages around $1,000. Both options will potentially save you thousands of dollars in repairs of a water-damaged basement.
The first warning sign is often a basement floor that goes splash. Beyond that, warning signs include:
1. Makes strange noises
Sounds coming from your pump can indicate worn or damaged parts. If the motor noise from your sump pump is excessive, the motor could have a failed bearing. Rattling or grinding noises may mean a jammed or damaged impeller, the fan on the bottom that pulls water into the pump.
2. Vibrates Excessively when Running
Pumps that have sucked up hard debris can have their impellers bent or damaged. An impeller is like a propeller except that it draws things in instead of propelling something along. Impellers are balanced to minimize wear on the shaft that they spin on. One that is bent or damaged will cause the whole thing to wobble and create stress on the shaft. The wobbling creates noise and is an indicator of future pump problems. Re-bending an impeller is nearly impossible to do right, so your best bet is to replace the unit.
3. Infrequent Pump Usage
Similar to car batteries, limited use of a sump pump will reduce its shelf life. Regularly testing your sump pump in between heaving rains will give you an early indication of any problems and support the mechanisms inside the appliance.
Do yourself a favor and keep a notebook of when you test the pump. If this is the first time you’ve considered activating it, or you’re new to the home, call us for maintenance and testing.
4. Runs All the Time
The leading cause of sump pumps running all the time is a switch problem. The float is responsible for the smooth operation of the on/off switch. Your sump pump relies on both the switch and the float arm mechanisms to operate. Switch issues can occur when the pump shifts inside the basin, rendering the float ineffective, or the switch loses connection with its power source.
Tethered switches that drift to the side of the pump are prone to hanging up on your sump basin. Vertical floats with plastic brackets frequently break, and the vibrations from an improperly installed pump may push any float switch against the side of the container.
If your sump pump runs continuously for no reason, it may not be able to handle the water load it’s supposed to, and you may want to consider replacing it.
5. Irregular Cycling
If your sump pump is cycling on and off frequently, even in heavy rains, there’s probably something wrong. It might be as simple as an incorrectly adjusted float switch that is causing the pump to come on when only a few inches of water accumulates in the basin.
Wiring malfunctions could also contribute to the pump turning on and off at odd intervals. A short in the electrical system, either in the house or the machine will prompt the pump to start or stop sporadically.
6. It Runs for a Long Time
This symptom probably means that your pump does not have sufficient horsepower, either for the volume of water it is required to handle or for the distance, it must pump it. Calculating what size pump you need is a pretty involved matter involving pipe diameters, plumbing elbows or pathways, and reservoir dimensions.
Determining pump size not only includes the volume of water that it will be moving, but also the drain pipes and layout. If the pump has to push water up tall, vertical plumbing fixtures, it will need more power to combat gravity. Also, if there are a lot of turns and elbows in the layout, more power will be required to force water through the bends. Sump pumps that have to eliminate water through long drain pipes also need a lot of horsepowers to move water to the opening.
7. Visible Rust
The brown stuff could be from corroded battery terminals, but sometimes the discoloration is due to bacteria. Commonly referred to as Iron Bacteria because of its color, the blight feeds off the iron in water causing discoloration and in extreme cases, a gel-like substance that can clog plumbing, including your sump pump.
Iron bacteria is not a human health hazard, but it will cause problems with water flow in your drainage system.
8. Seven Years Old or Older
Regardless of maintenance and cleaning, these devices do not last forever. If yours is older than seven years, go ahead and replace it.
9. The Motor Gets Stuck Sometimes
The life of a pump motor can run out prematurely if it’s endlessly sucking up sediment and other material. A filter can be used to help keep such things out of your pump and extend its life. They do have to be cleaned and replaced periodically.
10. Motor Failure
Your sump pump could stop working because of an internal wiring failure. If the pump is getting electrical power to the unit but is still not working, there could be an electrical problem inside. Make sure it’s plugged in, and that it didn’t throw a fuse or breaker before searching for other causes.
If water cannot exit your home through the discharge line, your system will not work. Your pump system may have an extension hose that drains water away from the pit. When the temperature drops below freezing, this hose can ice up, resulting in a clog. When the pump tries to send water through the frozen hose, the water backflows or stops moving entirely, causing the motor to run at a higher output level, leading to burnout.
11. Installed by the Builder
Not all contractors are plumbing or waterproofing experts. New construction homes are not exempt from basement flooding, so if your sump pump came with the house, call us for an inspection.
12. Frequent Power Outages
Most sump pumps are directly wired into your home’s electrical system. Some components of the sump pump may be vulnerable to damage from power surges, causing pump failure.
We always recommend an auxiliary sump pump that runs on a marine battery. If you only back up the power system, not the pump; you protect yourself only from power failures.
Unsure of Your Sump Pump’s Status?
We can help determine the age and working condition of your sump pump long before you need it. Contact us today for an appointment.