A sump pump is not a home feature you’re likely to show off to guests. That lowly sump pump, however, is one of your first lines of defense against forces of nature trying to mess up your home. That's why sump pump repairs are so important when something goes wrong in your basement.
Floods are the number one natural disaster in the U.S. (and Alexandria)
Sump pumps prevent your basement from flooding. Why is this important? The number one natural disaster in the United States are floods, according to the National Flood Insurance Program. If you live in Alexandria, Virginia (home of John C. Flood), you know this all too well.
"Alexandria is prone to flooding from heavy rainfall and from tropical storms creating overbank flooding from the Potomac River and its tributaries (Backlick Run, Cameron Run, Four Mile Run, Holmes Run, Hooff's Run, Taylor Run, Timberbranch Run, Strawberry Run and Lucky Run)," notes the Alexandria city website. "The most common local flooding problem is due to summer thunderstorms with high intensity-short duration rainfall. The tidal influence on the Potomac River in conjunction with development in low lying areas and an overtaxed stormwater system are also contributing factors to flooding."
Major floods hit Alexandria in 2003, 2006 and 2011. It will happen again! Installing a sump pump and making sump pump repairs offer some of the best flood protection a homeowner can buy.
How a sump pump works
Think about it: your basement sits below ground level. Water flows toward the lowest point. Hydrostatic pressure also pushes water upward through the ground. Of course a basement is a target to attract excess water.
So how does a sump pump work? Typically installed at the lowest point of a home’s basement or crawlspace, sump pumps collect water in a recession pit or basin. The water triggers a float switch that engages the pump, which directs water through a system of pipes away from your home. Sump pumps provide the best protection with a backup battery so that they can function during the power outages that may accompany a storm.
The two common models of sump pumps
There are two types of sump pumps:
1. Pedestal sump pump: This kind of sump pump is installed above the surface of the basement floor and features a floating arm that activates when water pushes it upward. The drawback of this model is that it can create an eyesore in your basement; it does provide easy access for technicians when you need sump pump repairs, though.
2. Submersible sump pump: The motor of a submersible sump pump is installed inside apparatus and the sump pump itself is kept below floor level. Submersible sump pumps makes less noise while operating and are harder to see. Access, however, is more difficult, which probably means you’ll spend more money on any sump pump repairs.
Pro tip: Consider having a backup sump pump installed to provide extra security against flooding. Flooding causes $1.9 million per year and a flood insurance claim tops more than $46,000 on average. Avoid that hassle!
Signs you need sump pump repairs
One of the most obvious indications that your sump pump is broken is flooding in your basement! If there's water down there, you need sump pump repair.
Other signs you need sump pump repairs:
- Your sump pump fails to activate when water accumulates
- The sump pump frequently cycles on and off
- You hear excessive noise during sump pump operation
- The sump pump's cycles of operation are longer than necessary
- There's an unpleasant odor, or you can visible mold or mildew in the basement
- Visible rust can be seen on the sump pump unit
These problems could indicate that your sump pump is not working correctly or you have an improperly sized model for your needs.
Sump pump performance test
- If you suspect your pump isn’t working correctly but you haven’t yet seen any damage, try pouring a bucket of water in the sump pit or basin. If the pump fails to engage and convey the water out, you probably need to call a pro.
- Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for replacing the battery on your sump pump. You don’t want to have your battery die during a storm!
- Finally, if your sump pump is over 10 years old, you might need to replace the whole system — a decade is about the life you’ll get out of it.
Protecting your home from flooding amounts to protecting your home’s structures and any belongings housed in your basement from damage. You’ll also prevent the growth of mold and mildew, which not only have an unpleasant look and smell, but can pose a health risk. Excess water in your basement can also attract pests.