Damp basements can cause many problems, many of which lead to expensive foundation repairs. If water is coming up through the basement floor because of a rising water table or if seasonal basement flooding occurs, a sump pump is needed. A sump pump can also ensure that water damage does not occur if pipes burst or if basement drains are backed up.
Sump pumps empty the water that runs into a hole called a sump that is dug in the lowest part of a basement. A sump pump should start automatically when the water level in the sump rises and turns itself off when the water level falls.
There are many types of sump pumps. Most sump pumps are permanent units which run on electricity. However, some sump pumps are powered by small engines that run on gasoline, and other run off of pressure from the water main. These last two types of sump pumps are usually intended more for occasional emergency duty instead of regular use.
Two common types of electric sump pumps are the pedestal pump and submersible pump. Both types of pump have a rotary pump unit which rests on the bottom of the sump, or hole. Water enters this unit through a grill that is able to trap objects in the pump. The water leaves from an outlet attached to a discharge pipe.
One of the differences between the two types of pumps is that the submersible pump is completely sealed — and much quieter — while the noisier pedestal sump pump has an unsealed motor on the top of a long pole to keep it from getting wet. A submersible sump pump is controlled by a switch inside of the motor, while the pedestal pump has a switch attached to a float near the base of the unit which monitors the level of water.
Installing a sump pump can be difficult and usually requires the skills of a plumber, an electrician, and a carpenter. First, the hole, or sump, must be dug — a jackhammer is usually needed to get through the concrete floor of most basements. The sump should be lined with a cylinder that can be made out of a variety of different materials, but should be bottomless. This cylinder keeps the sides of the sump from caving in.
Depending upon the plumbing codes in a particular area, the discharge line can run to sewer lines or the storm drain system. Some areas do not allow for the water from the basement to be pumped into sewer lines. If so, the water can either be pumped into the storm drain or pumped away from the house into the soil.
All sump pumps should be covered both for safety and in order to minimize debris in the sump pump. Some sump pump liners come with a cover, but often a cover must be added manually.
Written by Bronwyn Harris