Common Sump Pump Failures

Basement Detective performed a survey involving 5 major waterproofing companies to find out the top 5 reasons sump pumps fail.
The results were no surprise to any of those experienced in the field of foundation waterproofing.

1. Pump was unplugged. This almost always happens intentionally. Like when a homeowner needs to use an outlet or an electrician is performing something and forgets to replug the pump.
2. No check valve installed. Many non professionals will gladly install a pump without a check valve.
3. Check valve installed backwards.
4. Cheap pumps that just burn out.
5. Mud clogged system burns pump out. Poor system installs that lead to failure.


Sump Pump Failures

Homes that have sump pumps will sometimes have drainage systems draining into the sump well. The operation of the sump pump in these types of systems is not as big a priority as the actual drainage system itself.

Here is why.
Interior and exterior drainage systems are designed to drain the water away from the interior of the home. Exterior systems drain the water away from the home and interior systems drain the water under the home and collect the water in a well. Exterior systems require no well, but exterior systems rarely last past 2-5 years and many actually fail immediately. Interior systems require a pump to lift the water up and outside. In these types of systems it is the actual drainage system that is doing 90% of the work. It is the drainage system that is allowing a path for the water to go under the house and or move from one spot to another under the house until the water table naturally lowers again. If the sump pump fails, and if given enough water, the water will drain upward out of the sump well. This will flood the area around the well. This is obviously not ideal, but it is a far better scenario than if there was no drainage system at all. Comparatively, without any drainage system the water would leak from the floor wall seam around the entire perimeter of the basement. This is much more destructive than a single sump pump failure in the presence of a operational drainage system. Still, no one wants even the smaller problem of a failed sump back up.

The solution.
There are many. And they each depend heavily on the specifics of the building area where the work will be performed. Consulting a drainage expert would always be advised. Failed systems can be a mess and preventing a back up is part of good system design.

U.S. Federal Clean Water Act (1987)

As a result of this national legislation, sump pumps are a requirement in new construction— including those areas that aren’t necessarily a high risk for flooding. Builders in Northern Virginia are also no longer allowed to drain rainwater collected by gutters into sewerage systems. Water collected on the roof of your home and drained by your gutters can cause flooding if it is not carried far enough away from your foundation.


Sump Pump Service Article

• Annual inspection by a professional contractor may head off problems, but there are some steps you can take yourself to keep your pump working.
• Make sure debris can’t get into the pump area and clog the works or get tangled in the float. It’s a good idea to keep a solid cover over the pit.
• Unplug your sump pump periodically and check the bottom for sludge or debris. Make sure the float assembly can move freely.
• Pay attention to odd noises. They’re one of the first clues that something is amiss.
• Prevent air lock by making sure the vent hole in the discharge pipe is clear. Check to see that the float switch moves freely. Some that are tethered to the pump by a cable can get tangled.
• Sump pumps are made to be used, so test the pump every few months, especially if there has been a long dry spell. Contractors suggest using a hose or bucket to slowly pour five to 10 gallons of water into the pit. If the pump doesn’t kick on, have it checked.
• Check outside to see that water is actually being discharged. You might hear the pump running, but a blockage could prevent water from getting out.
• Learn how to check the valves. Some keep the water pressure set properly and help save on wear and tear.
• Others are one-way valves on your pump that keep water from backing up.
• Backup systems need maintenance, too. Contractors suggest that you check the battery every three to four months to make sure it’s charged. Whether it has been used or not, the battery should be replaced every two or three years.

As featured in The Washington Post on August 9, 2008, article authored by Ann Cameron Siegal.


Will A Sump Pump Stop My Basement From Leaking?

Sump pumps are designed to ingest water and force them away to another via a discharge pipe (1.5 to 2 inches usually) to another location (usually out of a basement or out of the bilge of a boat). The well they often reside in is designed to hold the pump and as a reservoir to collect the water for the pump to pump.

If a basement is leaking it is almost always doing so from the walls or cove seam. This is the concrete seam where the wall and floor meet. By itself a sump pump will not drain this area. To drain the cove seam requires (most often) an interior drainage system that will guide the water using drainage pipes to the well so that the pump can pump the water out. Pumps themselves will not stop a wall or floor even 2 feet away from leaking.

In exterior drainage system sump pumps are only a part of the entire waterproofing design.

Sump Pumps

The general purpose of a sump pump is to force water to another location. Their most common use is in marine systems, most often to drain bilges of excess water. They are often used to raise a sunken boat. In homes they are used in interior basement waterproofing drainage systems. In these systems water is collected via interior, and sometimes exterior, drainage pipes often situated in or below the basement floor. These pipes drain to a collection well where the sump pump sits. The term for this well, whether it has a pump in it or not is a ‘sump’ (from the German word sumpf, which means swamp). Sumps are otherwise commonly known as a sump wells. A ‘sump pump’ is simply the type of pump designed to be installed in these types of wells.

Types Of Pumps

Submersible Pumps are the type described above that sit in sump wells can operate under water (submersible) and operates via a switch assembly that is operated by a float. It is often these float assemblies that become unsealed take on water and fail to raise and trigger the pump. This simple failure is common and can cause flooding from a sump pit even though the mechanical pumping action is still operational the pump does not engage when the float does not raise. Checking this assembly regularly is always wise if you have a subfloor drainage system.

Pedestal Pumps are the same as submersible but their motor assembly is above the well and water. They still operate using a float. They substantially louder and are what most people think of when they talk about sump pumps being loud.

Floor Sucker Pumps are designed to extract water off of a flat surface: floor, cellar, roof, basement etc. They can collect water to less than 1/8’’ from the surface and are often used to clean up water damage on site or to prep an area for work. Most commonly they have an attachment for a garden hose to discharge the collected water. These are not considered as a waterproofing or drainage system, but for water collection after a flood has occured.

Water Powered Pumps operate using the houses existing plumbing.  These still use an internal  float system yet has fewer other moving parts to fail. These are not used in interior residential waterproofing systems