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Sump Pumps: The Forgotten Guardian

Posted November 30th, 2010 under renovations and repairs.

Many homes in Brampton—and almost all homes outside of a city—have sump pits in their basement. When a home is built, the builders put a gravel bed around the footing (the part that the foundation and the rest of the house sits on). Above this they place weeping tiles, which carry away any water that runs down the side of the house. (In the olden days, weeping tiles were clay pipes about a foot long laid end-to-end. Nowadays they are usually plastic pipes with holes in them.) On top of the weeping tiles goes a layer of tar paper, then more gravel, to prevent dirt falling into the weeping tiles.

This is where the sump pit comes in. If the weeping tiles are not hooked into the storm sewers, or if the ground water level is too high, a sump pit and pump are needed to collect and remove the excess water so it doesn't flood the basement or create damp areas.

A sump pit is a hole in the basement floor, which builders usually put in the corner of the basement and cover with a plywood trap door. Usually, a submersible pump is used to pump the water to the outside when the level in the pit gets too high. This is controlled automatically, either by a float-activated or pressure-activated switch.

Because the sump pit is in a corner and covered up, it is often forgotten, but it does need maintenance.

If you have a sump pit, it is wise to make a note to check the operation of the pump at least once a year. You can check that the switch is operating properly by pouring water into the sump pit. This will show you the level at which the pump is activated, and also whether the pump is working properly.

You should also check for debris floating on the surface, as this can obstruct the operation of a float switch. Also check the electrical plug at the receptacle to make sure it is not corroded.

If you find that each spring your basement is very damp or even wet, check the level at which your sump pump activates and adjust it to a lower setting if necessary.

If your basement is wet and you don't have a sump pit, you should have one installed. The installation is best performed by a professional.

Want to know more about sump pumps or basement flooding? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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