Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Sump Pump?

If you have a basement, there is a good chance you also have a sump pump.  You might not care about it until it stops working... and chances are really good that some day, it will!  When it does, the picture above might be somewhat similar to what your basement will look like... WET!

This weekend was an interesting weekend at the Johnson house.  We recently got a new furnace and have been having trouble with it ever since.  It moves a lot more air, so it's been kicking up all the dust in the duct work.  Therefore, we've been constantly swapping out the furnace filters... as it got clogged, the airflow dropped off - and with it the ability to keep the house warm!  In addition to that, we purchased a new thermostat... programmable for all 7 days a week.  Still getting those program settings just right.  But the item on my list that was the biggest frustration was discovered when I heard a beeping noise...

A typical battery backup sump pump kit

When we moved in to this house, we were pleased to notice a battery backup sump pump system was installed.  The nice thing about this pump is that it runs when we have power and when we don't (until the battery dies obviously).  One option on this pump is to have an alarm activate when the backup pump is running, which I have made use of. 

This weekend project got it's start on Saturday morning when I heard a beeping noise coming from the basement. I asked Amanda what it was and her response went something like this... "Oh yea, I've been hearing that noise for about a week..."  At this point I challenged myself to keep my cool and not get excited... so instead of lovingly informing her that she needs to tell me these things as soon as they happen, I decided to do that later and went into the basement to investigate.

The good news, I didn't see any standing water in the basement!  (No bad news yet)  Upon peeling up the sump cover (caulked down complements of the Radon Mitigation System) I noticed nothing wrong.  The sump pump was running, water level wasn't too high, etc.  But as I watched, I noticed the sump pump was running for a LONG LONG TIME!  Okay, time to investigate!

(I need to see if I have any pictures that show the before plumbing of this thing)

The original plumber, in my humble opinion, did a... watch the language... they did a lousy job.  The check valve that was installed, maybe I can throw in a picture of that sometime... but it was lousy as well.  (That's some bad news)

Anyway, I took apart part of the system and pulled the pumps out of the sump (the hole in the basement that fills up with water, where the pumps sit).  The first thing I noticed was that there was a black plastic check valve installed between the plumbing and the main sump pump, same with the backup.  Only problem, the main one was broken in half and the backup, well it cracked fairly easily when I took the system apart.  The best part about this though, was that the guy who put everything together made sure you couldn't take it apart without cutting some pipes! 


With the system taken apart, I recognized the need to make a trip to the hardware store.  I made a quick sketch of what I wanted to build, to replace the old setup, and headed off... I wish I had remembered (written down) the pipe size!  After ariving home with everything I needed, I installed a nice new bronze check valve just upstream of where the water leaves the house, just to make sure no water sneaks back into the house.  Then I realized I screwed up and didn't have the right parts... 
Back to the hardware store... later that night, at 8:30 pm, I realized I still didn't have the right parts...
At this point I had a problem.  The hardware store would be closed before I could get there, my sump pump wasn't plumbed to pump water out of the house... and the sump was slowly filling with water. 

...and the sump was slowly filling with water. 

I set my alarm to wake me up a few times during the night and carried water out of the basement by bucket.  The next morning I knew I needed a backup backup plan (coming soon)!  After church, we stopped by the hardware store and I picked up the rest of the goods needed to finish off the project.  Within a few hours everything was back up and running and Ive been sleeping soundly since.

With all that said...

Every spring we get a lot of rain and there is a lot of flooding.  We have yet to loose power for anything more than a few minutes (so much for the generator transfer switch I installed) and we have never really put our system to the test... but all mechanical things break at some point.  Maybe you should go take a look at your sump pump system and get an idea for how it works while nothing is going wrong... that way when the power goes out and it's storming outside and your sump pump works, you already know what's going on, one step ahead of the ball!

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