Unless a basement is professionally constructed with external french drains and thorough waterproofing, it’s bound to leak to an extent. This problem is especially prevalent in older homes where poorly-compacted earth may gradually subside. While quality sump pumps may seem to purr on endlessly, the time does eventually come when water starts pooling on the basement floor again.
When this happens the problem may not lie with the pump itself, because it is part of a system and the cause of the stoppage may lie elsewhere. It’s absolutely vital to remember that electricity and water do not mix. Make sure the power is turned off and the pump disconnected before you start. Never touch an electrical appliance with both hands if you have the slightest doubt.
Power supply is the logical place to start. However this is also the area where the greatest caution is required. If the sump pump is hard-wired to the mains distribution board you need to ask an electrician to perform tests. They will be able to confirm the integrity of the connection, or whether there is an electrical problem with the pump itself.
If your sump pump is of the plug-in variety (not generally recommended) then you can substitute another appliance that you know is working, and easily confirm whether there’s power to the pump or not. If it turns out that there are power supply problems or the pump is electrically faulty, then this is a job that needs the attention of a professional. If not, then here are a few other things that you could attempt.
Fill the sump with clean water and turn on the power. Does the pump start and run smoothly? If not, there are several lines of thought to follow:
- If the pump doesn’t start then there may be a problem with the float valve. Lift it gently using a wood or plastic rod. If this causes the pump to start then the float valve is either stuck or dirty. Remember to turn off the power before you investigate.
- If the pump is noisy or runs unevenly then you may be faced with a broken impeller or worn bearings. This is a job for someone with technical experience. It may be cheaper and quicker to install a new sump pump.
- If the pump runs smoothly but the water level is unaffected then water is not passing through it to the drains. Locate the one-way valve a little thicker than the pipe on the delivery side. Disconnect the valve on the pump side. Loosely cover the exposed pipe end with a damp cloth and run the pump for just a second.
- If the pump delivers water smoothly then your one-way valve is faulty and should be replaced. If not, then there is a stoppage in the pump itself. This could be a blocked filter which you should be able to clear easily. If not, then you’ve spent enough time on this one. Buy a new pump for the electrician to install. The old one belongs with the garbage!
Don’t always blame your handy little sump pump when water pools on your basement floor. There could be any one of a number of other things behind the problem. We recommend you test your sump pump from time to time during the dry season, and you have the time to repair and troubleshoot. The last thing you need on a cold and rainy Toronto day is a flooded basement.
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