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Common sump pump problems and how sump systems are used to prevent water damage in the basement!

This page is dedicated to water damage losses originating from sump pump problem. A sump pump system relies on a number of individual components to work properly. The pump itself is the most obvious of these, but the well, the check valve, and the piping away from the home can all be just as important.

 sump pumpThe age of the pump and the expected lifespan of the sump pump are important things to know that most home owners do not think about until it is too late. Most sump pumps have a life expectancy of only five years, and should be replaced at the five year mark even if it is still functioning. Better to have the expense of replacing the pump that to have it fail and damage your home. The pump has a mechanism built into it that allows it to determine the water level in the sump well and activate when that level get to a certain height, but sometimes this mechanism will fail even if the pump itself still works.

Problems with the check valve and piping can lead to water damage to the home as well. If a break occurs with the check valve or the pipe, then water will flow out of the break, damaging the area by spraying water out of the break itself. A less obvious problem can occur when the check valve sticks closed preventing the flow of water through it. pipe burstingThis blockage will prevent water flow, so no matter how much the pump runs it can’t move the water away from the home. A blockage of Ice in the piping output can also cause this problem and the longer a blockage exists the more likely the pump cannot be used after the blockage is cleared.

Sump pump exist to pump water away from the home so that the water does not damage the home’s interior or foundation. The sump well collects the water before the level gets high enough to cause problems for the home. The pump will then move the water away from the home, lowering the water level in the well, and around the home’s foundation. If the sump pump fails, and the water level gets high enough to intrude, it will come in anywhere it can gain access. This is usually the lowest point of the basement, but not necessarily at the sump well itself. Most commonly it can be observed seeping in from expansion cracks and the seams between the floor and walls. The longer the sump is out of order, the more damage can result, but it will not get deeper than the water table around the home.

  water in basementSome “inspectors” that I have encountered decided that water damage in the basement is not a sump pump problem if the area around the sump well did not get wet, but instead a foundation issue. This is flawed reasoning in my opinion, because sump pump wells can exist almost anywhere in a basement, and is not necessarily on the lowest point of the concrete foundation. By this reasoning, it is better to wait until the damage is severe enough to affect all the area up to and including the sump well. Finding a flooded basement is bad enough, but it would be terrible to expect someone to allow additional damage to occur before taking action and replacing the faulty pump. By understanding how the entire sump system works and visualizing that the water should be pumped away before the water table reaches a level that could intrude on the home, it is easy to see why water damage from a sump pump failure is not a foundation issue when the area around the well is not wet.

Water damage from a sump pump is considered “grey” water, or Category 2. This term comes from the IICRC S500 guidelines for water damage restoration, and is used as a guide to determine what types of building materials can be saved. It is a guide, not a rule, and sometimes circumstances justify altering how the guide is used. As a general rule, though, expect carpet pad or cushion to be removed when it has been damaged by sump pump water.

Other aspects of sump pump water losses have similarities to other water damages and are mentioned in those categories.

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