Barrie Home Inspection Tips

Home Maintenance Advice from a Professional Home Inspector

What will happen when your sump pump fails?

Most houses with basements require a sump pump.  A weeping system is used to direct water into the sump hole where the sump pump then pumps the water to an exterior discharge location which  keeps the basement from absorbing moisture or flooding.  When a big rain storm comes through, the sump pump will really be needed… and that’s also the time that the power to a  neighborhood is most likely going to get knocked out, disabling the sump pump and allowing the basement to flood.  This happened to a lot of homes in Ontario and Quebec during the high winds  this spring .

If your sump pump quits working, will you know about it before your basement floods?  Do you have a backup in place?  Does it work?  Are you sure?  If you depend on a sump pump to keep your basement from flooding, it’s important to have a backup system in place, just like it’s important to back up the hard drive on your computer.  Even if you have a backup installed, when was the last time you checked to make sure it is working.

It’s one of those things that most people don’t think about until it’s too late.  If you want to protect your basement from flooding, get a backup system.  There are a few different backup systems available.

Secondary Electric Pump

A secondary electric pump would be a good option to keep your basement from flooding in the event that your primary sump pump failed.  The secondary pump would need to be installed a little bit higher in the sump basket than the primary pump.  The downside to installing one of these is that if the power to your house went out, the pump would be useless.

Battery Backup

Backup Sump PumpBy far, the most common type of backup sump pump system that I’ve encountered is a battery powered system.  This consists of a big heavy battery that’s about the size and shape of a car battery, as well as a backup sump pump that sits in the sump basket a little bit higher than the primary pump.  This system will save your basement from flooding if your sump pump fails or your power goes out.

The Basement Watchdog is a brand that makes backup batteries with a warning to tell you if the battery has a problem.  This is a good feature to have, because I find that many backup batteries are dead.

If you already have a backup battery for your sump pump and it doesn’t have a warning to tell you if the battery is dead, you should test it periodically.  You can simply unplug your standard sump pump and fill the sump basket with water using a garden hose to test the backup pump.

Hydraulic Pump

Another backup option for your sump basket is to install a pump that is powered by the municipal water pressure coming in to your home.  The nice thing about hydraulic pumps is that you don’t have to worry about keeping a battery charged all the time, and if you have an extended power outage, you won’t have to worry about the pump failing.

The downside to using a hydraulic sump pump is that they’re not nearly as powerful. 

If the water at your home is supplied by a well, a hydraulic backup pump obviously wouldn’t be any good, as a power outage would also knock out your well pump.

High Level Alarm

High Level Water AlarmNo matter what type of system you have installed, it’s a good idea to have a high level alarm installed in your sump basket.  These alarms will sound off if the water level in your sump basket gets too high, and you can buy one for under ten dollars at Home Depot or Lowes.  If you have no backup pump system in place, these alarms will  tell you that you have a problem and you need to act to remedy before damage and flooding occur.

I inspected a very nice home this year that had a completely finished basement that definitely could have benefited from one of these high level alarms.  This house had in-floor ductwork; when the sump pump failed, the ducts ended up filling up with several inches of water.  Click these links to see photos of the flooded ductwork and flooded ductwork 2.

The water level in the sump basket never got high enough for the basement floor to get wet, but the standing water in the ducts acted like the worlds largest whole-house humidifier, which caused major condensation throughout the basement; even the outlet covers were dripping with water.  If the sump basket had been equipped with an inexpensive  high level alarm, this would not have happened.

There are many products on the market that will suit your needs.  Hire a professional plumber to ensure you have the proper equipment and it is installed correctly.




1 Comment

  1. If you live in a home that is prone to any kind of basement
    flooding, a sump pump is a necessary flooding prevention device.
    There was quite a bit of stormy warm weather here in southern Ontario, it is
    during these times we end up with lots of people calling on us to look at their sump pump.
    From time to time propertyowners simply need the sump pit maintained, other times they’ll need a brand new sump pump.

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