A sump pump is your basement’s first line of defense against flooding. It’s the most important method used when waterproofing basements, and when it functions properly, your basement stays dry all the time.
However, like any other machine, sump pumps can malfunction. When you have a malfunctioning sump pump, flooding occurs shortly after. To protect your basement, your foundation, and the rest of your home, you need to get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible. There are many reasons as to why a sump pump might cease to function properly. Which is why it’s important to know what to keep an eye out for, and why it’s crucial for you to contact a basement waterproofing expert as soon as possible.
What Causes Sump Pump Failure?
Sump pumps are a lot better than your usual gutter or drain in the sense that they don’t rely on gravity in order to drain the water out. However, they are intended to work best when paired with an interior drainage system. Sump pumps collect water from the interior drainage system and mechanically pump that water out of the home. This makes sump pumps highly effective and a superior basement waterproofing method. The only downside is that, since it is a machine, it relies on a lot of moving parts to make it function as it should.
Should any one of those parts stop working or get damaged, the entire sump pump system could fail. If you’ve had a sump pump system in your basement for a long time or you’ve never had to deal with moisture issues before installing a sump pump, you may not think a broken sump pump is not an urgent problem. After all, your basement is dry and clean, so the sump pump can always be looked at later.
You may not feel the effects of a broken sump pump immediately, but after a while, you will. So, take some time to get a proper look at your sump pump and see what’s going on. Even if it’s something you’re not able to fix on your own, you should still inform yourself as to what happened so that once the problem is fixed, you can avoid it in the future. Here are the reasons why a sump pump would stop working:
- Power Cord
Have you checked to see if the sump pump is connected? Family members will sometimes disconnect the sump pump because they need to use the power outlet. If they forget to connect it again, the sump pump is incapable of functioning.
If the sump pump is connected to a power outlet, thoroughly inspect the power cord. The cord could be damaged, torn, ripped, or bent to the point where there’s a faulty connection. Cheaply made sump pumps usually have weak power cords because they weren’t reinforced properly by the manufacturers. If your sump pump’s power cord is broken, you might want to invest in a well-built sump pump like one of our sump pump systems.
- Discharge Pipe
The water sump pumps collect get released from a discharge pipe. Like any other pipe, discharge pipes can get clogged up or freeze. Leaking can also occur if the pipes are damaged. Check the pipes, and if it seems like debris is stuck inside, it needs to be cleared out.
- Overworked Battery
When sump pumps are working overtime, the backup battery can die pretty quickly. North Carolina is among the top 10 states with the highest risk of flooding. It’s also among the top 15 for the highest average precipitation. With statistics like those, dead sump pump backup batteries are very common in North Carolina.
Severe storms can also kill your sump pump’s backup battery. The purpose of a backup battery is to step in to keep your pump working even when the power goes out. But if the battery is old or is not properly charged, it will cease to function. If a big storm happened very recently and suddenly your sump pump isn’t working, your problems might be caused by a dead battery.
Something that helps sump pumps work a little less is making sure your yard grade is as positive as it can be. A negative yard grade means the ground is sloped in such a way that rainwater trails toward your home instead of toward the streets. This causes your sump pump to work overtime.
- Sump Pit
The sump pit is where the water is collected before it gets drained out through the discharge pipe. Because water from the outside gets into the pit, it can easily clog, depending on the type of sump pump liner or basin your system has. Mud, dirt, and other sediment or debris could get through the pipe and into the pit. It’s very easy to check your sump pump’s pit; all you have to do is open the lid.
An impeller is a fan that pushes water out of the sump pump’s pit. The impeller is behind a filter specifically designed to make sure the impeller doesn’t get clogged. However, there’s nothing protecting the filter itself from getting clogged. When the filter is clogged up, the fan is unable to discharge the water from the pit.
Another reason the sump pump might not work is because of the material the impeller is made of. There are two types of impellers a sump pump can have: Plastic impellers and cast-iron impellers. Plastic impellers are more likely to stop functioning. This is not to say that cast-iron impellers are invincible (they could corrode with time), but their lifespan is far longer than a plastic impeller.
- Float Switch
A sump pump’s float switch is how the sump pump is able to automatically turn on. When the water in the pit rises to a certain level, based on the position of the switch, the sump pump turns itself on to begin draining the water. If the float switch is damaged in any way, the sump pump will not turn on automatically.
You can dump some water into the sump pump’s pit to test the float switch. If it turns on automatically, the switch itself isn’t the problem. However, if it doesn’t turn on after the test, the float switch might be the problem, so it needs to be replaced.
How Will I Know if My Sump Pump Has Stopped Working?
A sump pump is what protects you and your basement from the problems that come with flooding and humidity. If your sump pump stops working, you’ll see the effects water has on your basement within a few weeks to a few months, depending on the condition of your basement and how severe the leaking problems are. If your sump pump stops working, you’ll know because of these signs:
- Humidity and Mold
Where there’s excessive humidity in an enclosed space, there is mold. Mold will grow within your basement if your sump pump stops working. If the humidity gets too severe, your entire house might experience an increased level of humidity. A strange smell will waft from the basement over to the rest of the house due to the mold growth. This can be a serious health hazard for homeowners with allergies since mold is a common allergen.
- Concrete Stains
Water permeates through concrete. The moisture can interact with certain salts used in the cement mixture and bring them to the surface, causing the concrete to stain. One of the most common forms of concrete discoloration is efflorescent staining. The salts within the concrete rise to the surface and form a white, rough, powdery substance that sticks to the concrete.
- Increased Number of Pests
Insects, especially cockroaches, love damp places. They prefer to make their nests near sources of water, so basements with flooding or leaking problems are common pest breeding grounds. If you’re suddenly dealing with a pest infestation in your basement, your broken sump pump might be the reason pests have suddenly taken a liking to the place.
When there’s water in the basement, most homeowners’ first instinct is to check the washing machine. However, if you have no washing machine in the basement or if you’ve determined there’s nothing wrong with your washing machine, the flooding means your sump pump has malfunctioned.
How Soon Should I Fix My Sump Pump After It Breaks?
If you’re unable to fix the broken sump pump yourself but you’re not able to call a basement waterproofing professional immediately, you might be wondering how long you can hold off on getting it repaired. If your sump pump broke down during the summer, you can’t exactly get away with a broken sump pump for a few months. If you live in North Carolina, you can’t have a broken sump pump no matter what time of year it is.
North Carolina’s climate doesn’t discriminate when it comes to rain. If it’s summer, you’ll want to try to fix your sump pump even sooner than any other time of year. North Carolina summers bring rain, but they also bring a lot of heat. This means the humidity will be at an all-time high in your basement and in your home.
Another reason you should be quick to fix a broken sump pump is because of hydrostatic pressure. Without a sump pump working to drain your foundation’s water, your basement walls will begin to succumb under the effects of hydrostatic pressure. Once the walls of your basement begin to fall apart because of the pressure, a chain of events can occur that result in even more leaking and flooding in your basement. If you don’t repair your sump pump fast enough, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in basement repairs in the future.
Can I Try to Fix a Sump Pump Myself?
In the age of the internet, DIY resources have never been easier to access. If you look online, there are many guides explaining how to fix a sump pump that no longer works. While there are certain parts to a sump pump you can easily replace yourself (such as the battery) when it comes to repairs you should leave it to the experts.
Why You Should Contact a Professional for Sump Pump Repairs
Replacing a broken piece and repairing one are not the same things. As mentioned previously, a sump pump is composed of a lot of moving parts. It’s a highly efficient machine, yet it can easily break apart if placed in the wrong hands. Because your foundation’s drainage system is so important, you shouldn’t try to tinker with such a delicate instrument.
An expert will be able to inspect the sump pump and determine the specific problem. He will also be able to spot any other problems that might cause future dilemmas. For example, a professional would be knowledgeable enough to know if the sump pump you have is the right size for your basement. If the sump pump is too small, it would be unable to pump out large amounts of water. This forces the sump pump to work overtime, which shortens its lifespan and fries its battery.
Sump Pump Issues
Installing a sump pump makes a homeowner’s life a whole lot easier. It’s important to have a good interior drainage system to collect leaking water and drain it to the sump pump. A sump pump keeps your basement dry automatically, so you don’t have to worry about much when you have one installed. That said, just because a sump pump does things automatically doesn’t mean you can just have one installed and then never check on it again.
A sump pump is a convenient device to have, but it still needs maintenance. A sump pump’s average lifespan is 10 years, but with proper care, it can last longer.
- General Maintenance
On average, a sump pump should be maintained once or twice a year. Maintenance procedures include cleaning the filter in front of the impeller, making sure the float switch is working properly, making sure the power cord is protected, cleaning out the sump pump pit, and greasing up the pump bearings.
While some of these things can be done without the help of a professional, it’s always best to leave the care and maintenance of your sump pump and its inner workings to the experts. Professionally cleaning your sump pump ensures that it clogs up a lot less frequently. It also means the professional you hire will be able to spot any problems and get them fixed right away.
- Seasonal Maintenance
There’s some maintenance work that you should pay close attention to during certain times of the year. Sump pump pits and filters need to be checked frequently. In North Carolina, it rains the most during the summer, so this is the time of year when the sump pump works the hardest. You can help your sump pump work less by covering some parts of the yard so that the ground absorbs less moisture.
As for maintenance that should be done during the winter, you can actually avoid doing it by installing exterior discharge line attachments. They’re to be attached to your sump pump’s discharge pipe to protect it from freezing over during the winter. They also help drain the water away from your foundation even when the interior pipes are frozen and the stream is blocked by ice.
It’s not uncommon to hear your sump pump running while you’re going about your day. While hearing the sump pump may annoy you at times, being able to hear it a bit is actually a blessing. It’s easier to detect sump pump problems when it begins to sound differently than it usually does.
- Normal Sump Pump Sounds
Depending on how much it rains, there are really only two sounds you should hear a functioning sump pump make. The first is the sound of the motor as the sump pump runs. It’s completely normal for there to be a steady, quiet hum as the sump pump is working. Low-quality sump pumps usually make more noise because the cheap motor wasn’t built to be quiet.
The second sound is the sound of water filling up the sump pump’s pit. Depending on how much it rains and how much water the sump pump is taking in, this can be a loud or quiet noise. After heavy rain, it’s completely normal to hear a lot of water spilling into the pit. Sometimes, it might even overtake the sound of the motor.
- Irregular Sump Pump Sounds
A quiet hum and the sound of a stream of water falling into the pit is all you should hear. Any gurgling or slurping indicates problems with the valve or the sump pump’s shut-off height. After the water is in the pit, the sound of it being drained out is actually pretty silent, so if you can hear it draining, there’s a problem. Motor problems often manifest themselves by making the sump pump sound like an exhaust fan.
Loud banging and vibrating are also indicators of a malfunctioning sump pump. These noises are usually connected to the discharge pipes hitting the components of the sump pump. It means that the pipes need to be secured into place so that they don’t rattle. Sometimes, if the banging is really intense, you’ll be able to feel the vibrations in the areas of the house closest to the sump pump.
Hydrostatic pressure is a concept you might have heard before since it’s not a term exclusively used in construction. The word “hydro” refers to water, while the word “static” is a synonym for still or motionless. Hydrostatic pressure is a term used to describe the effects large amounts of still water has on objects. When talking about basements specifically, it refers to the effects it has on basement walls and floors.
- How it Works
Water is a lot more damaging to your property than you may think. In small quantities, it can cause humidity and mold growth. In large quantities, it can destroy the walls of your basement. This is something that happens all over the country, but it can especially be a problem in states like North Carolina. North Carolina’s soil is mostly expansive, which means it can absorb large amounts of water due to its clay content.
As the soil absorbs more and more water, it accumulates alongside your basement walls. Eventually, there is so much water pressing against the side of your basement wall that it places a great deal of pressure on the concrete. Concrete walls may seem tough enough to withstand a bit of water pressing against it, but you’d be surprised by how heavy water can be.
- How it Affects Your Home
The pressure alongside the basement wall builds up until the wall begins to bend and bow inward. When this happens, your basement is at risk of excessive leaking. Cracks will slowly form along the concrete, spalling and pitting will occur across the surface, the window frame will warp, and water will begin to come in a lot more easily. Things get worse when it rains since surface water adds weight and increases the amount of pressure exerted on the walls.
If you have a broken sump pump, there will be no way to automatically take care of the flooding caused by hydrostatic pressure. A sump pump that works properly and positive lawn grading are great methods used against the pressure exerted by large amounts of water in your foundation. It depends on the condition of your walls and your foundation, but the effects of hydrostatic pressure don’t occur overnight. Still, it’s important to keep the damage to a minimum and repair sump pumps as soon as possible.
Call Tar Heel Basement Systems for Expert Sump Pump Repair
Tar Heel Basement Systems specializes in basement and foundation repairs, and we’re proud to serve Winston-Salem and Raleigh, NC. We have our own line of patented sump pumps, so we know all about what makes sump pumps tick. You can rely on us to get your basement fully waterproofed once more. Whether it’s sump pump repair or replacement, we have the answers.
If you’re having problems with your sump pump or your foundation and basement drainage system, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to schedule a free inspection and repair estimate. Our expert team will visit your home, assess any problem areas like your sump pump, and present you with the right solutions to meet your repair needs.