As temperatures begin to rise, it’s time to protect your home from future flooding and overflow of water damage, and to properly gear up for threats posed by the next, often unpredictable storm. Here’s one proven technology that will help safeguard your home or business property from winter and seasonal storms: The Sump Pump.
The U.S. recently experienced heavy snowfall across several regions, including some not used to frigid temperatures or the precipitation that comes with them. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), over 73 percent of the U.S. was covered in snow in February, 2021.
When that snow melts, the mess can escalate beyond your control very quickly. That’s where the sump pump comes in.
The Basics of Sump Pumps
A sump pump is a mechanism to remove water from the lowest point in your home (like a basement or a crawlspace), along with the soil below, and forces it out into a draining space to avoid flooding, water damage, and mold growth.
Most sump pumps have a float that rises with the water level and triggers the motor to start pumping water out before there’s a problem.
Sump pumps continue to be among the best ways to prevent water damage as a means of preventative maintenance.
What Size Sump Pump Do I Need?
You can expect a water removal rate of 1,800 to 2,200 gallons/hour from your average household sump pump.
However, if you live in an area prone to flooding (i.e. areas – like Nashville – near rivers or towns on the coast near large bodies of water), it is more prudent to install a one half horsepower sump pump that can remove 3,000–5,000 gallons/hour.
How to Install Sump Pump in Basement
You may wonder, “Do I need a plumber to install a sump pump?” and the answer is: Yes. This is not the household project to put your DIY skills to the test. If a sump pump is improperly installed or wired, it can malfunction, not operate correctly as floodwaters rise and cause a lot more headaches and expensive repairs than the initial cost for installation.
A licensed and experienced plumbing contractor has the proper equipment and the expertise to get this job done efficiently and effectively, so you don’t run into a flooded basement, property damage and the potential threat to family safety.
To get a better idea of how plumbers install sump pumps, check out this short video from the home improvement show, This Old House.
Proper Sump Pump Maintenance
Do sump pumps require maintenance? Like most systems in our homes, annual maintenance is a must to ensure the proper function and longevity of the sump pump, which typically lasts about 10 years.
You’ll want to consider a maintenance visit once each year, and the pump should be cleaned once per quarter or more as needed. When a professional plumber and plumbing contractor performs sump pump maintenance, they will typically inspect and adjust parts like the discharge pipe, the check valve, the alarm, your backup power source and the fit of your cover.
They’ll also want to take a closer look at the discharge location and the housing pit where the sump pump lives and where water collects.
Sump Pump Maintenance Management Best Practices
To properly care for your sump pump system, most professionals recommend the following:
- Remove the pump and clean the grate at the bottom of the sump pit
- Make sure the air gap is clear between the internal and external discharge pipes to avoid backflow
- Regularly check the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) that your sump pump should be plugged into, and reset it if it has tripped
- Locate and remove debris as a first measure of cleaning the pump
- To avoid malfunction, test the sump pump and make sure the float is not stuck.
“When testing the pump, no one should ever reach into the pit. The float can be reached and manipulated with a household item such as a golf club (with a rubber handle) or anything else non-conductive that happens to be lying around.” – International Association of Certified Home Inspectors
What to Do When It Floods Anyway
Sometimes despite your best efforts and careful preparations, your home can experience heavy rain and flash flooding. In this case, the best thing you can do is damage control.
- Make sure the float isn’t stuck
- Double check that the sump pump is still plugged in
- Check your GFCI outlet and reset it, if necessary
- Assess the damage and try to salvage what you can
- Call for backup to help restore your home to its pre-flood state
How to Prevent Future Damage
After experiencing flooded areas and seeing firsthand just how much damage a high volume of water can cause, it’s clearly not an experience anyone would like to repeat. Preventing future property damage then becomes a top priority for homeowners.
That is where these preventative measures become essential:
- Research your city’s online resources to see if they provide a flood zone map like Nashville does, so you know what to expect where you live (especially if you are new or are building in the area).
- Redirect downspouts to areas where the water can be absorbed into the ground and clear them (as well as any drains and pipes) of ice and debris.
- Plant trees and/or a rain garden to absorb and slow runoff.
- Install a rain barrel as a way to reuse water and prevent flooding.
- Move snow away from your house and be sure to clear doors, stairwells, and window wells to prevent leaks and flooding.
- Turn off the water as temperatures start to rise if your pipes froze, and call a professional to help thaw or repair them to prevent water damage.
Additional Home Protection
Sump pumps work to prevent your basement from flooding as well as to protect against health and safety hazards such as mold and fire. Once installed, you can further protect your home by:
- Testing your pump
- Considering a battery-operated backup in the event of a power outage
- Pumping the waste water further from the house (think: 20+ feet)
No matter the time of year, make sure your home is protected against flood and property damage by installing a sump pump before you need it.