Mar 162011

When I was in college I moved my study room into my parents basement. Yes, I lived at home, I was a “commuter” student. The study room was in an area located right next to the sump pump, which may have been the inspiration for my life’s work.

Late one night in March, I think it was around St. Patrick’s Day, I came home to finish some reading only to find the window well above my desk full of water and leaking around the sash and water running down my cork board wall drenching my desk. Fortunately no electrical devices were on my desk to get wet or damaged. In 1973 the only things that were at risk were my eight track tapes, and they were safe.

The sump pump was running continuously, so I ran outside and found the discharge pipe was un-attached and a huge pond was forming right outside that corner of the house in the flower bed. I think the discharge pipe must have broken apart due to the small diameter pipe being clogged or frozen.

Once a larger down spout pipe was attached the water started to flow away from the house. The next morning the window well was baled out and I was able to drag my cork board and desk out to dry.

Fortunately the basement was sparsely furnished. It was just concrete block walls, old furniture and a few throw rugs. Back then a finished lower level was rare and even then is was referred to as a rec room that may have included a ping pong table, a pool table, laundry room or a bar.

Remembering that event reminds me that by this time of the year, the beginning of spring, you need to take a long hard look at your sump pump discharge and make sure the water you are pumping has a place to go, other than in your flower beds.

So far in Wisconsin we have had a pretty good melt down, but there still may be some drifts and piles of snow that can block the natural drainage from around your home. In addition, you should take a walk around your home and make sure your down spouts and gutters are free and clear because in the event of a heavy spring rain you want the water from your roof to have a place to go.

If your sump basin is dry it would be a good time to carefully add water with a hose or a 5 gallon pail to “test run” your pump. You want to make sure that it runs several times so you know it is ready for the spring rains.

In closing, remember if you have a finished lower level you need protection. Consider a high water alarm or a battery back up system to protect your property.

Jan 102011

Lately I have been recommending to those who have extremely high end finished lower levels to explore the cost of a generator, particularly a whole house generator. A whole house generator would turn on automatically if the power goes out and would in turn power the sump pump circuits along with other crucial circuits including heating, refrigeration, water well, phone, computer and security systems. With a whole house generator you would have almost unlimited pumping capabilities. You could up your pumping potential by then adding a second or larger sump pump and a “Duplex Control Panel” that would alternate the run time of the  two sump pumps or turn both sump pumps on if a single sump pump could not keep up with the inflow of water. This “Duplex Control Panel” has a built in high water alarm that would let you know if one sump pump has failed or if both sump pumps are working at the same time. A generator system will test itself weekly or monthly to insure that it is ready to go when you need it.

The key again is maintenance and testing. If you travel frequently or spend several months away from your home, you should have someone regularly check your house and basement. If you have a home security system it can be attached to your sump pump system or you can have an “Automatic Phone Dialer” installed that will notify you of any sump pump issues.

Finished Lower Level? – You and Your Customer Need Protection

 battery back up system, Finished Lower Level, High Water Alarm, Sump Basin, Sump Pump  Comments Off on Finished Lower Level? – You and Your Customer Need Protection
Dec 302010

The cost of cleaning up a flooded basement in 2011 is astronomical. Just recently I received an insurance claim for over $16,000.00 relating to a failed sump pump that was over five years old. Yes… I said five years old! You have got to be kidding?!?!?

In this particular case the sump pump impeller was jammed with a buildup of iron and minerals, a sandwich bag full of debris, to be exact! This buildup prevented the sump pump from starting and the motor overheated and burnt itself up. I was surprised the homeowner did not smell something. Eventually the water raised up, probably after a big rain storm, saturated the foundation and leaked in around the finished areas creating a real mess.

“How could this be prevented?” you might ask. Well the homeowner should have tested the sump pump and periodically cleaned the sump basin as outlined in the owners information provided with each sump pump that leaves our shop. Or the owner or plumber could have installed a simple “High Water Alarm” set a few inches above the point where the sump pumps float switch turns the pump on; the homeowner would have been notified that there was a “high water” situation sooner and would have been able to remedy the situation before the water had backed up into the drain tiles and caused the flooding.

The retail cost of a basic “High Water Alarm” with a 9 volt battery, similar to a smoke detector, is about $35.00 and is easy to install. A better high water alarm, similar to a septic tank alarm, retails at around $109.00 and some can even be wired directly into a home security system or an “Auto-Dialer” that notifies the homeowner if they are away from their home.

The key is to remember with any of these  high water alarms is that they need to be tested and checked yearly, or even more often, if they have an active sump pump.

Or… how about a battery back up system, which is always a great idea and will be the subject of my next blog.

Remember… a finished lower level means you and your customers need protection.