As a homeowner, one of your primary concerns is protecting your home from the elements, particularly water damage. This becomes even more pertinent during the wetter months of spring and summer, when the risk of water-related issues is at its highest. Addressing water management in and around your homes not only ensures your property's integrity but also helps you avoid unnecessary repair expenses. To this end, there are several effective strategies you can employ.

Have you ever heard of 'weep tile'? It's this clever drainage system built into most homes, usually about 10 to 12 feet below ground level. Picture tubing with small openings, wrapped around the base of your home's foundation walls. This system is a real game changer in keeping basements dry.

When water gets into a basement, it's not just a nuisance. It can cause structural damage, lead to mold growth, and even ruin important appliances and stored items. That's where the weep tile, or 'weeper' as it's sometimes called, comes into play. Some of these systems even have a fabric 'sock' over them to keep out dirt and gravel, preventing clogs. But where does all this collected water go? It flows through the footer and ends up in a sump pit.

The sump pit, usually lined with plastic, is like a collection point. However, the water can’t just stay there. That's why there's a pump system in place. This pump does the heavy lifting, moving the accumulated water from the pit and discharging it far away from the foundation. It's an efficient way to manage water and protect your home from potential water damage.

Types of Sump Pumps

Sump pump system (submersible pump)

There are two main types of sump pumps – submersible and pedestal. The submersible kind, as the name suggests, sits right in the water in the pit. On the other hand, the pedestal pump has its motor sitting above the water level as it's not meant to get wet. Whichever type you have, they work similarly. They draw in water when the float switch is triggered and then push the water out.

You should also consider adding a battery backup system. If there's a power outage, or the primary pump decides turns off due to age or blockage, a battery backup can be a real lifesaver. Imagine your finished basement getting flooded because the main pump failed – not a pretty picture, right? Everything from wall coverings to furniture could be ruined, not to mention the risk of electrocution if water meets electrical outlets.

This is where the battery backup pump system comes in. It's like a plan B, running on a deep cycle battery that can keep its charge for years. Depending on the system, it could run for hours, or even days, giving you peace of mind. Many of these systems also have alarms to let you know if the battery's running low.

There are also sump pumps that don't even need electricity. They work off the pressure from your public water system. When the water level rises, it creates a siphon effect thanks to the water pressure in the supply plumbing, and voila – the water gets discharged. However, these aren't suitable for homes on well systems since the well pump needs power too.


Keeping your basement or crawl space dry involves some basic but essential steps. First and foremost, you must ensure proper exterior grading away from the foundation. This is crucial in preventing water accumulation. Additionally, it’s vital to keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris and make sure that downspouts and sump pump pipes discharge water at least four feet away from the foundation. Installing covers on basement window wells is another smart move to prevent water ingress.

No matter the type of sump pump system in your home, regular checks are a must. I recommend at least a monthly check. Here's what I usually do:

  • Power Check: Always ensure that the pump is plugged in and the receptacle is powered.
  • Manual Testing: If the sump pit has water, manually lift the float to test the pump. If it's dry, I pour in about 5 to 10 gallons of water to ensure the pump kicks in as it should. Running a dry pump can damage it, so be cautious.
  • Float Check: The float, which looks like a plastic ball, controls the pump's operation. It needs to move freely without obstructions. If it's hindered, the pump might not activate when needed.
  • Debris and Screen Cleaning: Keep an eye out for debris in the sump pit that might block the float or the pump's intake. A clean screen at the pump's base is crucial for efficient water suction. A cover over the sump pit can prevent accidental falls of objects that might hinder the pump's function.
  • Discharge Pipe Stability Check: The discharge pipe should be a rigid material, like PVC, and be properly secured. I've seen flexible pipes cause a mess by coming loose under the pressure of the water flow. A stable, rigid pipe is always the better choice.
  • Valve Installation Check: An in-line check valve is essential. It prevents water from flowing back into the sump pit when the pump stops. This valve must be installed correctly, with the arrow pointing away from the pump.
  • Proper Discharge Routing: Extending the discharge pipe at least four feet away from the house is crucial. If it's too close, the water can seep back, creating a never-ending cycle of pumping.
  • Electrical Safety Check: Make sure the sump pump is plugged into a grounded receptacle. Modern pumps are grounded and should also be connected to a GFCI-protected receptacle for safety.

By keeping these points in mind and regularly maintaining your sump pump system, you can significantly reduce the risk of water damage in your home. It's a bit of effort, but the peace of mind it brings is well worth it.

When it comes to the lifespan of a sump pump, there's no one-size-fits-all answer. Factors such as the size and type of pump will contribute to the longevity. However, how often the pump runs makes the biggest difference. For example, if you have a high-water table around your home and the pump is working overtime, say every 15 minutes, it's naturally going to wear out faster. Compare that to a pump that only kicks in hourly during heavy rains, which will likely last longer comparatively.

Understanding the role and maintenance of your home's sump pump system is a vital part of responsible homeownership. It's not just about reacting to problems as they arise but about proactively ensuring your home remains dry and safe. With the right knowledge and regular upkeep, you can significantly reduce the risk of water damage, preserving the value and comfort of your home for years to come.

Author Bio:

WIN Home Inspection

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