Research shows that 14,000 Americans face a water damage emergency each day. The most common causes of water damage are plumbing and appliance issues. Less common are weather-related events such as heavy rainfall or pipes bursting due to freezing temperatures. Repairing the damage caused by flooding can be costly, so prevention is important for protecting your home, your property, and your finances.
Most standard homeowners’ insurance doesn't cover a flooded basement. Unfortunately, many people assume they are covered until flooding actually happens. Whether or not you are covered depends on the cause of the damage and the type of insurance coverage you have. Luckily, there are many ways homeowners can help prevent a flooded basement, including the installation of a sump pump.
How a Sump Pump Works
A sump pump is a submersible device installed in a pit dug at the lowest point of a home, such as a basement or crawl space. Most of the time, the pump is on standby.
Sump pumps are designed to keep water from flooding the lowest level of your home. Whether due to heavy rains, rapid snowmelt, or a blocked drain, a sump pump can help protect your home and property from flooding.
Sump pumps are uncomplicated devices. When it begins to rain heavily, the soil around your home becomes oversaturated. Excess groundwater funnels toward the sump pit and it begins to fill with water. When the water rises to a certain level, the sump pump float switch is activated and turns on the pump.
The pump continues to run until the water level falls back below that point, diverting water out of the home and away from the property. By removing the water from the pit and draining it away from the property, the sump pump prevents groundwater from rising to the level of your basement floor, which could cause a flood.
Sump Pump Benefits
While the benefits of sump pumps are clear, some properties need these more than others. A sump pump is a wise investment, especially if any of the following is true for your property:
1. You live in an area that experiences frequent flooding.
If your home is near a river, creek, or stream that regularly rises, a sump pump will help protect your home and property from potential flooding.
2. Your home is built on a flood-prone plot.
Poorly draining soil, low-lying properties, and homes surrounded by hills are more likely to experience rising groundwater levels during heavy rains, snowstorms, and spring runoff.
3. You’ve had water problems in the past.
If your basement has flooded before, or you struggle with high basement moisture levels, investing in a sump pump will help prevent future water damage.
4. You have a finished basement.
Even if your home isn’t categorized as a high-risk property, protecting your underground living space and personal property with an affordable sump pump is a sound investment.
Even if massive rainfall doesn’t occur, your home can suffer from a plumbing emergency such as a burst pipe in the basement or a broken washing machine hose. Investing in a sump pump is a preventative measure that protects property and gives homeowners peace of mind.
Pros and Cons of Sump Pumps
There are two types of sump pumps - primary and battery backup - that are important for keeping your home and possessions protected. Primary units operate using electricity, while battery backups can operate during power outages.
In addition, sump pumps come in two designs: submersible and pedestal. Both systems have pros and cons. Consider these, along with your sump pit size and budget, when deciding the best option for your situation.
A submersible pump is placed below the waterline at the bottom of your basement’s sump pump. Because of this, a submersible unit requires a larger sump pit. A submersible unit operates more quietly because it’s underwater. This makes it particularly beneficial for homeowners who have finished living spaces in their basements.
Submersible pumps are generally more expensive than pedestal pumps but they are also more powerful than pedestal pumps.
If your sump pit is too narrow or is not deep enough to accommodate a submersible unit, a pedestal sump pump may be the right option. A pedestal pump’s motor rests above the waterline and is, therefore, louder and can take up more space.
Since they are easier to access, maintenance and repairs are more convenient on pedestal pumps. Pedestal sump pumps are less expensive but they are less powerful than submersible units.
Regardless of whether you choose a submersible or pedestal pump, without electricity, a sump pump is useless. If you don’t have a reliable full-home generator, you should have a battery backup unit. This is especially important since power outages often occur during heavy rainfall or severe winter storms.
While the type of sump pump you purchase is a major cost factor, installation costs will also affect your budget. If you have purchased a home without an existing sump pump, costs will be higher than simply having an existing pump replaced. Installation costs are impacted by several factors including:
- Amount of Digging Required. If a property does not have an existing pump, digging the sump pit is labor-intensive and will increase installation costs.
- Type of Floor Materials. If you have a concrete floor, digging will require additional time and labor. If your crawl space is gravel or dirt, labor costs will be less.
- Accessibility. Is it easy to access the existing (or new) sump pump pit site? A sump pump needs to be installed in a basement or crawl space to ensure water will flow into it in the event of flooding. If the area is cramped, has a low ceiling, or is surrounded by mechanical units like HVAC systems, extra time will be needed to properly install the sump pump.
Getting the Most from Your Sump Pump
A properly installed and maintained sump pump should provide at least 10 years of worry-free use. However, since a sump pump sits idle until it’s triggered, you should check it occasionally to make sure it’s working correctly.
Before the rainy seasons or if heavy rains are predicted in your area, perform the following test:
Dump a few buckets of water into the pit. If it’s working properly, it will kick on as the water level rises. Make sure the unit turns on, there’s nothing clogging the valve, and that nothing is blocking the discharge pipe on the outside of your home.
Have the Sump Pump Installed by a Professional Plumber
Although an experienced DIYer might be able to switch out an old sump pump for a new one, hiring a plumbing professional is the best option. A trained technician can recommend the right product for your particular situation. They’ll also identify and replace worn components, including the pit liner, discharge pipe, and electrical wiring.
If you need sump pump repairs or a new pump installed, call Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter at (408) 716-1686 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
Our Los Gatos technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience. We understand that plumbing issues can happen at any time, that’s why we offer emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.