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Keeping Dry with a Sump Pump

The sump in which a sump pump sits is a small pit; a 24-inch-diameter sewer tile on a gravel base makes a good one. When water in the sump reaches a given depth, a float-operated switch turns the pump on; when enough water is pumped out, the switch turns off. You can set both levels with the two float clamps. An inlet screen in the base filters out solids.

Use 1 Winch plastic pipe to carry water from the pump to a drain (see Plastic pipes). To prevent backflow, install a brass check valve, its arrow pointing away from the pump. Plug the power cord into a receptacle that is at least 4 feet above the floor and protected by a ground fault interrupter (see Ground fault interrupters).

To test the pump, fill the sump with water; do this at least four times a year and any time you plan to be away for an extended period. If the pump works slowly or makes labored noises, clean the inlet screen and check the cord and plug for damage. Be sure the pump is seated firmly on its base.

Clean and inspect the sump, the pump, and the check valve annually. Oil the pump as needed, following the manufacturer's directions. If problems continue, call a plumber or a dealer for service.

Sump Pump Questions

Excerpt: Q. How do you check or test a sump pump? A. First, make sure the outlet pipe is not frozen shut or plugged and that it directs water away from the house. Next make sure the pump is plugged in. Remove the lid (if the sump has one) and use a flashlight to check if the sump is clean and that the pump inlet is not plugged. Then slowly pour about 5 gallons of water into the sump. Try to simulate the speed that water would normally flow into the sump. Watch the action of the on/off switch and listen to the pump. Make the pump turn on and off at least twice. If something doesn't work right, fix it as soon as possible. Read more

Selection & Maintenance of a Sump Pump

Excerpt: Do not assume that having a large horsepower pump will be the best choice. A large horsepower pump in a small diameter basin will cause the pump to frequently cycle, shortening pump life. At the same time, you need a pump that will keep up with maximum drainage. Pump capacity charts are available from professional installers and pump manufacturers. Read more

A number of factors, including the area of drainage connected to the sump and the depth of the basement, determine the right size sump pump for a house. However, a one-third horsepower pump generally works for most houses. Homeowners should not pump the water into their septic system or basement floor drain. Pumping into the floor drain is illegal in many cities because it puts additional water into a city’s sanitary sewer system and can overtax it. The additional water also can damage septic systems. Read More

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