Basement flooding due to sump pump failure

Posted by Matt Buchanan

If we surveyed our clients that have suffered basement flooding, our guess is those that have suffered a sump pump failure would be the most emotionally upset. If you think about it, it makes sense. They did everything right, or at least they thought they did. Having a sump pump installed is a significant investment. On average, if you need to have the catch basin, pump and drain lines installed it can be around $5,000. So when you make that type of investment and then the system fails and causes a basement flood, it can be devastating. Especially if the loss was caused by rain fall and you don’t have flood insurance.


Why do sump pumps fail?


sump-pump-failureWe’ll get into some of the specifics, but a sump pump is no different than any other mechanical system in your home with a ton of moving parts: if one part doesn’t do its job, the system fails. It can happen, despite your best efforts to ensure it doesn’t. But we do know a lot about sump pump failures and can offer some advice on the ways you can lessen the chances you suffer basement water damage because of it! So let’s dive right in and discuss some of the common causes of sump pump failure and what you can do to try and prevent them from happening to you.


Power loss


We’ve blogged about this issue extensively, but when a major storm hits it often times cut off power to your home. Since your sump pump is powered by your home’s electrical system, if the power goes out, your pump will hopefully run on battery power for a little while before that drains. At that point, you’re a sitting duck. We always recommend that if you are going to invest in a basement flooding prevention system as expensive as a sump pump, to go ahead and invest in a generator as well that can power it throughout the storm in the case of a power failure.


Improper sizing of the sump pump


If you buy a sump pump that is either too big or too small, the system can’t operate properly. If it’s too small, it won’t be able to pump out water at a high enough rate to prevent your basement from flooding. If it’s too big, it wont operate efficiently and will end up working too hard to get the water out, reducing the life span of the system. Here is a useful guide to determine the right size sump pump.


Poor installation


As with any DIY project, you need to assess whether or not you have the proper skills to get the job done. If you’re at all second guessing your ability to install the sump pump, hire out a professional to do it for you. There’s no point in paying for an expensive system like a sump pump only to install it incorrectly such that it’s basically worthless. Do your home and make an honest assessment.


Lack of maintenance and testing


This is the biggest issue in our minds, and luckily it’s the one can take control of. Most manufacturers recommend you test your system everything 2 to 3 months and have it serviced by a professional once a year. While we agree with the testing frequency, the reality is you can make sure it’s working properly on your own. If you discover an issue that can readily be fixed, please call in a plumber to fix it for you! Here are some things you can do to test your system:

sump-pump-maintenance() do you have a backup sump pump? If so, unplug the primary pump plug and allow water to run to the secondary pump to make sure it’s working properly.

() if your pump is running but not ejecting water out of the drainage line, there could be an issue with the impeller or it may be the case the check valve (the valve designed to keep water from coming back into the drainage pipe) has been installed in reverse.

() make sure the float is operating properly

() if there are any strange noises while the motor is running, it could be an early warning sign that something within the motor is nearing failure.

() if you depend upon battery power to backup your sump pump, please be aware those batteries should be replaced every 2 to 3 years. Here is a good guide to help you through that decision!


About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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