The fight against flooding, dampness, and humidity can feel like somewhat of a losing battle for homeowners in and around Colorado Springs and Denver, CO. The cold winters and often hot summers create a uniquely stressful environment for homes in this area. It is common for basements to flood in certain areas, especially if they are older or non-waterproofed.
This is why most homes in this area have a sump pump in their basement to manage water levels and keep the space habitable and healthy at all times. If you don’t already have a sump pump in place, we urge you to consider one. It could protect you from flooding and water damage, even during a serious storm.
Of course, if you already have a sump pump, it is easy to ignore it. In fact, you should be able to forget about it entirely if it is working at full capacity. The automatic nature of this appliance makes it very useful and incredibly effective—until something goes wrong.
Sump Pumps: The Unsung Hero of Your Home
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the sump pump is one of the most underappreciated appliances in many homes. As well as effectively and quickly removing water from your basement, a sump pump will direct it away from your property’s perimeter to ensure that it does not enter your home again at a later time. Better still, it does all this automatically and requires no intervention on your part. This is because of the floating switch mechanism that automatically engages when the water in the sump pit rises above a certain level.
By removing water from your home quickly and safely, your sump pump is really your first and last line of defense against water and dampness (not to mention all the other issues they can bring). Unsurprisingly, your sump pump has to work hard to keep your home in the condition that you are used to. This can cause it to wear down surprisingly quickly, and when your sump pump fails the consequences can be severe! There are a lot of things that can go wrong and cause your sump pump to fail.
What Causes Sump Pump Issues?
It would be impossible to list every possible cause of sump pump failure or inefficiency. Because it is a complex piece of machinery, there are many things that could potentially cause issues within your sump pump.
There are some issues that are more common than others, of course, and it is a good idea for you, as a homeowner, to be familiar with them. The most commonly reported causes of sump pump failure or inefficiency are:
Battery Failure or Power Outage
Your sump pump needs power to work. If your home suffers a power outage or the power supply to your sump pump fails, it will stop working. Aside from blackouts, the most common causes of power loss in a sump pump are damaged wires and connections or battery failure. These issues can be repaired fairly easily by a professional. In fact, if the issue is a dead battery, you may be able to replace the battery alone. However, we suggest that you ask a professional for advice before you attempt this.
Misaligned Drainage Systems
If your sump pump is working, but you have noticed leaks leading up to or moving away from it, you could have misaligned drainage systems. Misaligned drainage systems that do not join seamlessly will lead to leaks and dampness in your basement. This is a fairly common problem that can generally be repaired quickly.
Clogs and Blockages
Clogs and blockages as a result of debris buildup are perhaps the number one cause of sump pump breakdown and inefficiency. Even relatively small pieces of debris can cause a serious and lasting problem for your sump pump. If your sump pump is draining water more slowly than usual, you should investigate to see if there is any visible debris in the sump pit and remove it – gently, if you can.
There is also the possibility that your discharge line might freeze in winter. If you notice that your sump pump stops draining water suddenly in winter, it is good practice to check your discharge line to ensure that it has not frozen.
Jammed or Damaged Floating Switch
The floating switch is one of the most vulnerable points in an average sump pump. It can easily become stuck or tangled in debris. This could lead to it being jammed in the on or off position and lead to either flooding or the pump running dry. A pump running when there is no water to remove can cause the pump to deteriorate and breakdown incredibly quickly because of the way it overheats.
Poor Design or Installation
Finally, there is always the chance that the sump pump itself is unsuitable for your home, of poor quality, or was improperly installed in the first place. If the pump is low quality or has been installed improperly, it is likely to be less effective and break down more quickly. If your sump pump has broken down three or four times in the last year without an obvious cause, this could well be the reason. Alternatively, it could have simply reached the end of its useful lifespan.
Most of these issues are relatively easy to repair, and preventing recurrence is often as simple as taking some precautionary measures. Installing a sump pit cover, for example, will prevent large pieces of debris from entering your sump pump and causing blockages or jamming your floating switch. Likewise, scheduling regular maintenance is a good way to prevent small issues from snowballing into more serious damage that requires repair or replacement.
Basement Sump Pump Issues
Sump pumps work best in conjunction with other drainage systems and waterproofing measures, especially those whose function is to collect water and direct it toward the sump pump. The pump itself protects your home by removing water completely.
Collecting and Detecting Water
A sump pump is a unique piece of equipment. Unlike drains, which must be ideally placed to ensure they collect as much water as possible, a sump pump is set in a pit. This below-ground orientation means that water is more likely to gravitate to the pump of its own accord. Of course, larger homes may also have drain systems to collect excess water and direct it to the sump pit.
Once water starts to build up in the sump pit, it will lift the floating switch. This clever mechanism rises with the water level and activates the pump when it reaches a certain point. The use of a floating switch is what ensures your sump pump runs effectively without intervention (and only when needed). Once activated, the pump will remove water from the pit until the floating switch drops into the off position once more.
Unlike drains, sump pumps are active waterproofing measures that require power to work. The benefit of this, of course, is that they can remove large amounts of water from your home quickly. The downside is that anything that deprives the pump of power will prevent it from working at all. When activated, a sump pump works by drawing in water from the sump pit and discharging it outside.
Depending on the age and model of the sump pump, there may also be a series of protective filters in place to prevent debris from entering the pump or discharge line to cause a blockage. The discharge line itself can be surprisingly short, which often causes an issue for homeowners who do not invest in proper perimeter drainage options for their home.
Directing Water Appropriately
Many newer sump pumps have been developed to tackle the issue of perimeter saturation. That is done by having a longer discharge line that is directed into an external drainage system. This prevents soil saturation by directing water toward the more robust street drainage facilities and can protect your home from a range of water-related issues.
If you have an older sump pump with a short discharge line that terminates just outside your home, it is not necessarily better to replace the whole system. If your pump is still in good working order, installing perimeter drains around your property or extending the discharge line might be the most cost-effective solution. This will not only help your sump pump work better but will protect your home during storms as well.
When so much rests on one appliance, it pays to keep it in good working order. Your sump pump is a hardworking appliance, but there are a few simple things you can do to keep it in good repair.
Install a Sump Pit Cover
Covering your sump pit is not only good for your sump pump, it is better for you! The sump pit may not be huge, but it still presents a risk to anyone moving around your basement. Covering the sump pit will not only remove a tripping or falling hazard from your home but can help to lower the risk of serious clogs and damage to your sump pump.
If your basement floods, any loose debris picked up by the water—for example, pieces of fabric, twine, cables, or paper—will eventually be carried to the sump pit as the water is drained. A sump pit cover will prevent these from coming into contact with your pump directly. As such, that will help avoid clogs, blockages, and damage as the moving parts of the pump become tangled or smothered.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Scheduling a regular maintenance appointment for your property as a whole is a good idea. Once a year is the recommended interval for maintenance work and checks, and it’s usually best to schedule it for the fall. Having your maintenance professional also assess your sump pump (and repair any minor issues they may find) will go a long way, especially in a storm.
The floating switch, for example, is one of the most fragile parts of a sump pump. If it is damaged in any way, it can stick or lag in a way that has real consequences for your basement. As well as keeping your sump pump ticking, regular maintenance will alert you to the end of your sump pump’s lifespan. This will give you time to prepare to buy a replacement.
Invest in a Backup Pump
This measure will do more to protect you and your home from sump pump failure than anything else, but it is nonetheless a sensible choice. A backup pump that is powered by a battery or emergency generator can be a real lifesaver if a big storm rolls in and knocks out the power in your area while it’s raining.
These systems come in many shapes and sizes, but the best are connected to the main pump in a way that ensures that they activate automatically when needed. This means you don’t have to worry about getting down to the basement in the dark to turn on your backup power supply or sump pump. More importantly, it means you will not have to deal with a flooded basement when the power comes back on!
Has your sump pump started to break down, or is it simply failing to function? Either way, it’s time to investigate and implement appropriate repairs.
Check for Debris and Blockages
If your sump pump has started to work at a reduced rate, or it is simply failing to activate at all, there is a chance that the cause is a blockage of some kind. If you feel confident and safe doing so, you can put on some protective gloves and check the sump cover and pit for blockages. Be careful when removing anything you find.
If there are wires or loose fibers in the item causing the blockage, you could well break something important by dragging it out carelessly. The floating switch is particularly prone to becoming tangled when debris enters a sump pit, so make sure to check it specifically. If you are able to, you could activate the floating switch manually, but be gentle. This will lower the water level and give you a better look at the pump, assuming the pump is indeed inactive.
If the pump sounds as though it is active, but water doesn’t seem to be draining, it is far more likely that you are looking for a blockage in the pump or discharge line. Of course, the Colorado Springs and Denver, CO, area winters can be cold. You should check your discharge line to ensure it has not frozen too.
Call a Professional
If there is no obvious sign of blockage or damage that you can find, it is time to call in an expert. Sump pumps are surprisingly delicate pieces of equipment; if you try a DIY repair, you could end up damaging it beyond repair. Furthermore, there is the issue of flooding. If your sump pump has broken during a storm, your basement may well flood.
If this is the case, calling a professional is the best choice. Basement waterproofing contractors will not only have experts capable of repairing your sump pump, but they will also have the equipment to drain your basement properly in order to access the pump itself. As such, it is far less stressful and generally more productive to avoid the DIY route.
Do Not Try DIY
We know it can be tempting to try DIY, but as we have already said, this can end up in you causing more damage. There are other less catastrophic reasons to avoid a DIY fix, however. First and foremost, DIY fixes tend to be temporary in nature. It’s all fine and well to keep the situation under control until an expert can attend the scene, but duct tape can only do so much. If you bank on a DIY solution, your costs could be astronomical in the long run.
Secondly, as a non-contractor, there is no guarantee that you will have access to the right tools for the job. This isn’t just about what’s in your toolbox, either. If your basement floods, you will need an industrial sump pump to drain it. These are expensive to purchase. Finally, the best sump pumps are generally not sold over the counter in the average hardware store. When you pay for professional help, it’s about more than the expert’s time; these professionals have skills and tools that are not open to most amateurs.
Damaged Sump Pump Warning Signs
As with all kinds of damage, it is best to catch issues with your sump pump early on and prevent escalation with timely intervention. In this endeavor, there are a number of warning signs that you should be aware of. If you see any of these problem signs, you should contact a professional immediately.
Standing Water or Flooding
A flooded basement is a sure sign that you have issues with your sump pump. Whether the pump is broken or simply draining water at a fraction of its usual rate, this warrants investigation from a professional.
If you notice signs of high relative humidity in your home—for example, mold, wet walls, musty smells, or a sudden increase in your energy bills—it’s possible that your sump pump may be damaged in some way. If water drains too slowly from your basement, it will have time to evaporate into the air and raise the humidity levels. This can have many effects on your home and even your health.
If you find small puddles of water in unusual places in your basement and you can find no obvious cause, there could be issues with the drainage systems that are meant to connect to your sump pump. If, however, water is actively overflowing from your drainage system, there is most likely a blockage somewhere. Either way, you should have a professional investigate.
If your sump pump is still working, but seems to be working at a reduced rate, this is a sign that there are issues you need to deal with. This problem could be caused by a number of things from debris buildup to wear and tear.
If you become concerned that your sump pump is damaged and in need of repair, or you think it might be time to replace your pump, it is important that you call in an expert. These are very delicate and complicated pieces of machinery that can easily be broken.
If you bring in someone who knows what they are doing, you can be sure that you will get the best results. They will also advise you as to how you can prevent avoidable breakdowns in the future. Setting up a regular maintenance schedule is a good start. Whatever you do, do not try to realign drains or conduct mechanical repairs on your own.
Book Professional Repairs with Complete Basement Systems
If your sump pump has started to deteriorate or is no longer working at all, it’s time to contact Complete Basement systems to schedule a free inspection and repair quote. Our team of repair specialists will attend in no time and return your sump pump to working order.
Bringing in a professional to repair or replace your sump pump may seem costly, but it is by far the most efficient way to protect your home from further flooding. Sump pump failure can be incredibly frustrating, but we can help you to prevent it from happening again. All you have to do is give us a call.