What Is a Sump Pump and Why Do you Need One?

There are lots of plumbing applications that can stop your home from falling victim to severe water damage. A backflow valve can prevent sewage back-up from coming through your low-level drains. Insulation can protect against pipe freezing and bursts. The main supply-valve can help you deal with broken pipes and overflowing fixtures.

Another plumbing installation that can keep your house nice and dry is a sump pump. If you’re not entirely sure what the device is and why you should have one installed, read ahead:

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Sump Pump 101:

A sump pump is a flood-prevention device installed in the basement level of a home inside an area called a sump pit. It can also be located in a crawlspace. It’s meant to divert groundwater away from the house. Without a sump pump, groundwater can quickly encroach into the foundation and even flood the basement.

Your house will have weeping tile surrounding the foundation to collect underground water and to guard the property against moisture damage. Some people call it the drain tile, foundation tile or the foundation drain. It’s called “tile” because the main material used to be terracotta tile. Now the system is usually made of plastic piping with small slits or holes in the surface that allow water to slip inside.

When the ground surrounding your foundation is saturated with water, the weeping tile should collect the water and direct it toward the connected sump pit. The water enters the basin inside of the sump pit through a filtered trap. When the rising water reaches a certain level, it triggers the pump into action, pumping the water out of the basin through the discharge pipe.

If you haven’t thoroughly investigated your basement, you may not realize that you have a sump pump. According to CBC, most homes constructed after 1980 in Ontario will have a sump pump sitting in their basement.

If it’s an older home built before 1980, it could still have a sump pump, but it will likely need professional intervention. Older versions were often set up to discharge water into the sanitary sewer system. The design is now illegal. Discharging the contents of a sump pit into the city’s sanitary system or stormwater system violates Toronto’s city by-laws.

Ideally, the sump pit should collect water from the foundation drains and push it through a pipe in the basement wall. The pipe system should direct the water away from the house’s lot and expel it from a safe distance onto the ground surface. This water should not go directly onto the street.

It is also against city by-laws to discharge water directly onto the street, especially if it’s deemed a public hazard or disruption. If you’re aware that your sump pump system discharges in a way that violates local by-laws, you should call a plumber to get it fixed right away.

 

The Two Types of Sump Pumps:

There are technically two types of sump pumps that you can have installed in your basement: a submersible pump or a pedestal pump. The submersible one sits inside of the sump pit, hidden from view. A pedestal one has the machine sitting on a column, away from the water.

There are advantages and disadvantages that come with each version. The submersible pump is considered ideal for most homes because it runs quietly. It won’t disturb your peace when it turns on. On the other hand, the models tend to wear out faster because they are submerged in water. Their life-span ranges from five to fifteen years, depending on whether you give it routine maintenance or not.

Pedestal pumps last much longer because they aren’t sitting under water. They can last up to twenty-five years with good maintenance and care. However, in comparison to the submersible pump, it’s very loud. You will notice when it’s on and directing water away from the structure. For anyone who has a basement office or bedroom, this could be a real nuisance.

Why You Need One Installed:

Sump pumps will protect your foundation from water intrusion. A common reason for water intrusion is when the water levels increase in the soil from snowmelt or rainfall. Spring is a precarious season for basement flooding because the moisture from frequent precipitation blends with the moisture from melted ice and snow.

Another reason for an increase in groundwater is a heavy storm. For instance, Toronto experienced a torrential downpour on August 8th of last year, where 50 to 75 millimetres of rain fell in the span of 2 to 3 hours. The rain flooded roadways, parking garages and basements.

Last year’s storm will not be a flash in the pan. Experts state that climate change will make summer thunderstorms worse and bring 80% more rain in certain areas across North America. Preparing houses with flood prevention appliances and backup plans is incredibly important right now.

How to Get a Sump Pump Installation:

If you don’t have a sump pump or it’s in need of a replacement, you should give us a call. We offer professional sump pump installation for residents living in Toronto and the GTA. We can help anyone who lives in Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Pickering, Newmarket, Mississauga, Oakville and Brampton.

If you’re worried about the cost of the installation, there are subsidies available for residents of Toronto and Markham that can help. For Toronto, the city’s basement flooding protection subsidy program can give up to $3,400 per residential home to limit any damage. The amount can be used to install a sump pump, get a backwater valve or sever the external weeping tile connection.

To qualify for the subsidy program, you must:

1. Be a registered owner of an existing residential house, duplex or triplex

2. Live in the City of Toronto

3. Have downspouts that are disconnected from the city’s sewer system

4. Use a licensed contractor

5. Have no outstanding debts owed to the City of Toronto

Markham offers a rebate program to help residents with a number of plumbing changes, including $1,750 for a weeping tile disconnection and sump pump installation. As long as you meet all of the qualifications and submit an application, you should be able to qualify for the rebate.

To qualify for the rebate program, you must:

1. Have a property connected to the Markham’s sewer system

2. Have downspouts that are disconnected from the city’s sewer system

3. Have no outstanding debts to Markham

4. Guarantee that the installation follows the Building Code Act

How to Run Sump Pump Maintenance:

Like all emergency devices, you should test to see if your sump pump is in good condition before it needs to be put to use. You don’t want to find out that it’s faulty in the middle of a storm. You should perform sump pump maintenance at least once a year to check if it’s running correctly or if it’s showing problem signs. Early spring is the ideal time to do this because you will want it to tackle the seasonal groundwater levels.

For a quick test, slowly pour buckets of water into the sump pit, until it triggers the device. Make sure the pump is plugged into the outlet. If it turns on, wait for it to pump all of the water out. If it doesn’t pump out the water properly or it doesn’t turn on at all, you have a problem. You should call Sewer Squad Plumbing Co to inspect the machine to determine if you need a repair or a replacement.

If it passed your test, you should still complete sump pump maintenance tips to guarantee efficient water diversion and flood prevention:

1. Clear any debris from the intake screen

2. Take out any visible debris from the sump pit

3. Remove any obstructions from the discharge pipe

4. Test the backup battery to see if it works 

A sump pump is an electronic device. If it’s not switched on correctly or the power goes out, it will stop working. Insurance companies cite power outages as the main reason behind sump pump failure — the common problem results in a flooded basement and expensive water damages. It’s a frustrating situation because power outages happen during heavy storms, which is when you’ll need the device to be up and running.

The best way to solve this issue is to have a backup handy. A plumber can help you figure out what sump pump backup will work well for you, like an additional power source or an auxiliary pump. The tool may never be put into use, but you want to have it there just in case. No one wants to wake up in the middle of the night with no power and flooding basement.

As you can see from this simple guide, a sump pump is not like your other plumbing fixtures and applications. You won’t think about it in your day-to-day life. The only time you’ll think about your sump pump is during an emergency. But it’s occasional use doesn’t mean you should ignore its need for maintenance or replacement. When it’s storming outside and water is pooling around your front yard, you’ll want to know that the machine is running perfectly. 

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