big stormHurricanes, nor’easters, severe thunderstorms, swift snowmelt, or even just extended periods of rain can cause the level of the water table in your area to rise above the floor of your basement. While your kids may get a kick out of splashing in the growing indoor puddles, you’re likely waiting with bated breath for that old sump pump to kick in.

Next time, long before you have to stock up on flashlight batteries, potable water, and easy-to-prepare rations, consider saving yourself some worry by checking your sump pump.

Um, Do I Have A Sump Pump?
There are three basic basement home drainage systems. The simplest is a floor drain, installed when the house was built, identified by a circular metal grill in the concrete. Keep this grill clear of obstructions and debris and make sure that it’s draining well. The second is a French drain, also called a blind drain because it’s not visible above ground. This underground piping system uses gravity to divert rising water away before it ever enters the building.

Sump pumps are common in newer homes and is recommended to look into before you buy a home. They are mechanical devices installed to pump water into a collection bin called a sump basin where it’ll be directed far from the home. Pumps are usually installed in the lowest part of a basement, often a corner. If you have a working pedestal pump, it may be noisy when engaged. A submersible model is encased deeper within the sump basin, so the noise of the pump and the impellor will be muffled.

Er, Is It Working?
A sump pump works on electricity, so if the electricity fails so does your sump pump. If you live in an area where flooding is common, you may want to invest in a backup generator for this and many other reasons.

Check to see if your pump is working by pouring water on it to make sure the float rises and the device kicks on. Once it’s turned on, check that the pump is also sucking water. Several possible mechanical problems within the pump can result in what appears to be a working pump that is, in fact, not actually pumping water. If you have access to the outdoor discharge pipe, clear the pipe free of obstructions, leaf, stick, and soil debris to ensure easy flow.

How Can I Keep It Working?
Sump pumps have a lifespan of about 10-15 years, longer if they are well maintained. Fortunately, maintenance is a simple, yearly task. Most manufacturers recommend that you test the device and then run a vinegar solution through the pump to reduce hard water buildup and loosen any stubborn particles. While you’re at it, clear debris from around the all-important float as well as from vents.

Checking your sump pump is one more item on your honey-do list, but considering the damage of a flooded basement, it’s well worth the time.

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