If you have witnessed a flooded basement, you already know how much havoc it can wreak. One inch of water can take several hours to clean up and cause losses running to thousands of dollars in damaged furniture and carpets. A basement sump pump is your best protection against this natural disaster.
However, these appliances can fail from time to time if not properly maintained. Knowing what causes them to fail and what corrective measures you should take can prevent problems down the road. We’ll highlight sump pump problems, show you why they fail, and how you can check yours.
Signs of a Problematic Sump Pump
A faulty or defective sump pump will exhibit a number of signs. Keep an eye out for these signs:
1) Pump doesn’t turn on. It could be that the power cord isn’t plugged in. Try cleaning the plug prongs as well.
2) Pump runs but doesn’t remove water. A blockage or loose impeller are the likely culprits. Remove the grate and clean the impeller. Tightening the fasteners might help too.
3) Noisy sump pump. Any unusual grinding or hammering sounds could mean the impeller is brushing the inlet plate or the pump casing. Rotating parts and a loose impeller might be the other reason. Try replacing the bearings or tightening the fasteners.
4) Pump runs, then stops abruptly. Likely causes are motor defects and pump motor overload. Call your electrician to inspect the branch circuit voltage.
5) Pump runs nonstop. When the water drains out, the pump shuts off. If it doesn’t, the level switch might be the problem. Switch off the pump and inspect the shaft rotation and impeller, then tighten the fasteners.
6) Pump cycles frequently. An inoperative check valve and excess water flow are the likely causes. Try readjusting the control floats, then clean the valve of the gate.
What Can Cause a Sump Pump to Fail?
Anyone with a basement sump pump will tell you up front these devices can malfunction at some point in time. When they fail, your basement can turn into a waterpark. Fortunately, most of the problems associated with sump pumps come with warning signs that are easy to spot.
- Product Defect. It’s not uncommon for sump pumps to fail straight out of the box. Test the sump pump to ensure it operates properly after installation.
- Improper installation. Every sump pump has to be installed properly in order to avoid issues that could lead to water damage. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely. It’s also advisable to install a check valve on the drainpipe. By doing so, you will prevent backflows that can unscrew the motor shaft and rotate the impeller backward.
- Power failure. A power outage can render your sump pump useless in a raging storm. Be sure to have a backup battery for your sump pump system. You also can get a backup generator and activate it manually. In a storm, it can be a lifesaver.
- Faulty switch. This is the number-one mechanical cause of sump pump failure. It’s likely to occur when the switch moves from its original position in the basin. When this happens, the float can become ineffective.
- Poor Maintenance. Neglecting your sump pump sets the stage for issues and failure. It’s best to sign up for yearly maintenance programs and to test the pumps every two to three months.
- Clogged/frozen discharge lines. Dirt, debris, and ice can obstruct water flow and stop your pump from working. Ensure you clean the drainpipe and install a helpful attachment like a FreezeGuard™ to keep water flowing in winter.
Inspecting the Basement Sump Pump
Have a faulty sump pump? There are two ways to determine its condition. You can unplug the pump from the power source, then plug it back and turn it on. If the pump doesn’t come on, proceed with the next step, which is flushing the system. You can do this by running water through the pump. The pump should actuate automatically and eject water before shutting off if it’s all good. If it isn’t, you’ll have to investigate the problem further.
While these are actions you can take on yourself, it’s always best to get in touch with basement waterproofing professionals for thorough sump pump inspections and cleaning. Here are some of the following steps these experts may take in the maintenance of your sump pump system:
- Inspect the float. When water enters the sump pit, does it travel on the float rod?
- Clean the filter. Debris and pebbles can reduce the efficiency of the sump pump, and ultimately, burn out the motor. Clean and rinse it properly.
- Inspect the discharge pipe. Mud, stones, mulch, and other debris can clog it, meaning water won’t get discharged from the basement.
- Check the check valve. Your sump pump should ideally have a 3/16” weep hole somewhere between the check valve and the discharge pipe. It prevents a potential vapor-lock and prolongs the life of your sump pump.
Simple maintenance tips
- Ensure the float switch isn’t restricted.
- Clean the air holes and vents.
- Pay attention to motor noise.
- Readjust the floats and weights.
- Apply water repellent to stop rust.
- Install a grate or cover to lock out pests and debris.
- Ensure the discharge line drains out water.
- Lubricate bearings.
- Clean out small particles using vinegar.
- Replace the backup sump pump every three years.
Not sure of what to do with the basement sump pump of your Indianapolis, IN, home? Sign up for a yearly maintenance plan and free yourself to focus on more important things. The expert team at Indiana
Foundation Service is happy to provide you with a free sump pump inspection and repair quote after a thorough inspection of your basement.