A sump pump is crucial to protecting your basement from flooding

Image: State Farm

What is a sump pump?

A sump pump is an electric-powered pump that operates at the lowest point in your house to prevent or control flooding. Every home may flood at some point, and a sump pump is absolutely necessary for any home with a foundation below the water table.

It is usually wired directly into the home’s main power supply, and activated either manually by a switch, or automatically when the water level raises the float on an arm. Most are backed up with batteries in case of a home power outage, but if even that doesn’t work, there are other failsafe options that your plumber can discuss with you based on the specifics of your home.

Why is it so important?

Flood damage can be extremely costly. You may have to throw away a lot of what got wet and replace a lot of the drywall. If you store things of sentimental value like family heirlooms in an area that floods, you may lose those as well. Even if you rescue everything valuable, there is still a long remediation process of drying things out and dehumidifying.

Stopping flood damage before it starts is crucial to maintaining your indoor air quality because damp materials and standing water are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, viruses, and mold. Some molds are difficult and expensive to eradicate if they take hold, so you really are saving a world of trouble if you can prevent flooding with a sump pump.

Your sump pump may even protect the structural integrity of your house. In some areas, the water table does not stay at one level but raises and lowers over time. When that happens it can destabilize the soil, possibly fracturing your foundation. If your sump pump is maintained and kept running during temporary high water tables, it can keep the soil stable and prevent structural damage.

What can I do about it myself?

There are a few things you can do at home to maintain your sump pump. First, you can keep it clean by removing any sand, dirt, or other debris that can clog and damage the pump. You can make sure that the outgoing line leads outside to a safe discharge area. You can also test the pump by pouring a bucket of water into it and seeing if the float goes up and the pump engages.

You may want to check for legal compliance too. Decades ago it used to be the norm for sump pumps to drain into the local sanitary sewer system, but as suburbs and towns grew bigger, this started to overwhelm wastewater treatment facilities. As a result, it is now illegal in many places to drain into those sewers, so to avoid possible legal liabilities consider asking your plumber to check where your sump pump drains.

Did you know?

There are systems that automatically test your main sump pump and backup weekly to give you an early warning if they are broken. They save you the trouble of testing the pump yourself but give you the same peace of mind that your basement and property are protected from floods.

You don’t have to do all this yourself, and no matter how carefully you check your sump pump you may still want a professional opinion. If you would like to set up a consultation to talk about inspecting, repairing, or replacing your sump pump, or about installing additional backup units, call us today at 703-754-1062 or visit us on our website.

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