It can often feel like keeping your basement free from flooding and dampness is a never-ending cycle of clearing water, dehumidifying, and leaking or flooding. It needn’t be this way, however; with the right waterproofing solutions and tools, you could be free from this cycle.
Your sump pump is one of the most important waterproofing tools in your arsenal. Sump pumps are vital pieces of equipment that work hard to capture water and funnel it away from your basement and foundation. When it fails, of course, the water will remain in your basement.
Why Your Home’s Sump Pump Is Important
Your basement is essentially built in a hole in the ground, and while this has its benefits (maximizing square footage, for example), it brings a host of unique issues as well. The most common issues are dampness and standing water; even arid climates can have water locked into the soil and heavy rain will increase soil saturation levels dramatically. In humid states like Missouri, however, humidity and underground water sources are far more common.
This is just one of the reasons you should keep your sump pump in good condition. Standing water, humidity, mold and mildew, and rising dampness are just some of the issues that can arise when you don’t have a sump pump or your current model is damaged.
One of the biggest benefits of a sump pump is that it is very reactive. Sump pumps have a float switch, which means they only activate when the level of standing water reaches a certain level. When paired with an interior drainage system and a good dehumidifier, a sump pump can effectively ward off most common dampness related issues.
What Can Cause a Sump Pump to Fail?
Your sump pump works hard and has many enemies, so to speak. Of course, the most common cause of sump pump failure is wear and tear; the average model has a lifespan of 10-12 years, assuming you take care of it. As your sump pump reaches the end of its life, you will notice reduced efficiency and increased noise, so look out for that. The most common causes of sump pump failure outside of simple wear and tear are:
Floating Switch Malfunctions
Sump pumps operate through a floating switch, which trips when water rises to or above a certain level. If this switch becomes disconnected or debris jams it, your pump can fail to activate. This will cause flooding in your basement, of course, but it is easy to fix. Alternatively, if the switch jams in the on position, your sump pump will continually run. This can cause your pump to quickly burn out as a result of running dry.
If your home experiences a blackout, your sump pump will not work. If the pump is connected to an alternate power source, however, or the power in the main house is in working order, it may be a connection issue. Check that your pump is connected and that the connections are undamaged. If both of these are in order, you should test the battery to ensure it is functioning properly.
Blocked Discharge Pipe
Your sump pump relies on having a clear discharge line to get rid of water. If your discharge pipe is blocked or the water inside it freezes, however, it won’t matter how hard your sump pump works. There will simply be nowhere for the collected water to go. If you find standing water beginning to rise into your basement, you should check the discharge line for blockages.
Debris in Your Sump Pump
The pit holding your sump pump can be a trap for debris and should be covered by a lid to prevent the pump from becoming clogged. If your pump is clogged, it will not work as well as it should. It could even fail to work at all. As such, you should check your pump regularly and invest in a cover for the sump pit to get the best results from your home.
Sump Pump Failure
Your property’s sump pump is its first and last line of defense against flooding and water damage, especially when storms roll around. By activating when there is water present in your home, they provide efficient protection from many issues.
- Standing Water
Without a sump pump, water would simply build up in your property over time. While this might not seem like a lot at first, a serious storm could lead to full-scale flooding in your basement. Hiring someone to pump and drain your basement every time this happens is not only inconvenient, but it would also be very costly, both in terms of hire costs and damages to your home.
When you have a sump pump, you get reactive protection that activates only when water reaches a certain level. This is thanks to the unique floating switch that is a part of the sump pump. As such, your basement stays dry and energy is used efficiently, keeping your bills low and your property healthy.
- Persistent Dampness
Even if your basement isn’t prone to flooding during heavy storms, water can still build up in your basement. While your perimeter drains might remove the bulk of this, all it takes is a little water to create a humid environment. This persistent, low-level damage may not be as immediately destructive as flooding, but it can cause many issues.
Mold and mildew formation, for example, are common in persistently damp environments. While most species of mold are fairly harmless, some can cause skin irritation and respiratory problems. Furthermore, persistent dampness and humidity make your HVAC systems work harder to heat and cool the air in your home, thereby raising your energy bills.
Many things can cause your sump pump to fail. The most common causes of sump pump failure are debris buildup, blockages, a floating switch failure, and clogged or frozen discharge lines.
- Debris/Sediment Build Up
Because your sump pump receives all of the water that gets into your property, as well as the debris that it contains, it can quickly become clogged with a buildup of sediment and other debris. Many sump pumps have covers for the sump pit to minimize the debris that can enter, but even still, this buildup can cause a blockage.
In many cases, sump pump malfunction caused by sediment or debris buildup can be resolved by removing the debris and cleaning out the system. This is the best-case scenario when it comes to sump pump problems, and it is fairly easy to prevent it from happening again by scheduling regular maintenance.
- Mechanical Malfunctions and Damage
The worst-case scenario is a mechanical malfunction or breakdown. One example of this would be the floating switch becoming jammed or no longer responding to changes in water level. This can be caused by it being tangled in debris, but these switches are also notoriously prone to malfunction and damage as they get older.
If this kind of issue is the cause of your non-functioning sump pump, you will need to book a professional repair, as there is a high likelihood that you will need to have parts of the pump replaced. This is a straightforward and relatively easy task for a professional, but it is not one that you should attempt alone. If you cause more damage, you may have to replace the whole pump!
There are some sump pump issues you can fix on your own. Clogs, debris buildup, and dead batteries, for example, are all things that you can fix on your own. If you have tried clearing debris, checking the switch, and replacing the battery, and your sump pump still won’t work, it’s time to call an expert.
- DIY Fixes Can Go Wrong
If you try to diagnose your sump pump problems and implement a solution alone, there is a high chance that something will go wrong. First and foremost, it is hard for someone without proper experience and training to determine what is causing a mechanical malfunction. Secondly, even if you can identify the issues at work, fixing them is another matter!
Finding the right parts, for example, can be tough if you do not know where to look. Furthermore, if you try to replace broken parts without the right tools, you could very well cause irreparable damage to the pump as a whole. In this case, you will have no choice but to buy a whole new sump pump, which is far more costly than the cost of professional repairs.
- Professionals Services Offer Quality
As well as offering the best possible results, a professional will make light work of even a complex sump pump repair. They will not only be able to identify all contributing factors in a breakdown, but they will also be able to suggest ways in which you can protect your pump and ensure the issues won’t happen in the future. This will save you money in the long-term.
‘Professional repairs also come with a quality guarantee; if anything goes wrong, you know you can simply contact your repairman again. This offers peace of mind, which is more and more important these days. Finally, when you hire a professional to deal with your sump pump, you can rely on them to find even rare repair parts!
Preventing Sump Pump Failure
If you want to avoid sump pump failure, we recommend that you service your sump pump annually. There are four key things you should be keeping an eye on when you perform sump pump maintenance. They are:
Testing the battery in your sump pump and backup pump is vital. By ensuring that your pump is receiving power before heavy rainfall begins, you can replace any dead batteries before the pump fails and causes flooding in your home.
Ideally, you should check your discharge pipe once a season to make sure it is clear. Debris and frozen water will reduce its ability to remove water from your home. If you don’t have time to check it once a season, you should make sure you at least check it before the wettest months of the year.
Ideally, you should do this more than once a year, but once again, it is most important that you make sure debris is cleared from your pit before the rainy season arrives to ensure your home is dry. Installing a good sump pit cover or filter will prevent debris from clogging up your pit.
You should check your discharge line, pit, and pump for blockages and debris at the same time; it just makes sense. While you do so, you should make sure the floating switch is in good repair. Check that it works and that it is not tangled up in debris that could prevent the pump from activating or shutting off.
Undertaking these simple maintenance tasks will help you keep your sump pump in good working order. Regular maintenance will prevent avoidable breakdowns and flooding in your home, as well as preventing small issues from escalating into larger ones that cause full breakdowns.
Contact Foundation Recovery Systems Today
If your sump pump fails despite your maintenance and you can’t find a way to rectify the problem, it may be time to consider replacing your sump pump. They do have a lifespan, after all. Our team will be able to help you choose a replacement sump pump that will meet your home’s needs.
Whether you need a new sump pump or you want to schedule regular maintenance, you should contact Foundation Recovery Systems. Our consultation appointments are free, and our team is experienced, passionate, and knowledgeable. Every sump pump maintenance check includes an inspection of your other waterproofing systems like your drainage systems and your dehumidifier. This means you can kick back and relax, safe in the knowledge that we have an eye on your basement. If we see any red flags or warning signs, we will let you know. We will also provide you with recommended fixes. Our experts service homes throughout Kansas City, Moberly, St. Louis, Des Moines and Springfield.