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Installing and Maintaining Sump Pumps To Prevent Water Damage

Portland is famous for its cool climate and frequent precipitation, as rain-laden clouds drift across the Pacific and settle above the city; powerful storms can soak the state far inland, which spells trouble for those homeowners who are unprepared. 

When it comes to keeping your basement or crawlspace safe and dry, a sump pump is your greatest ally. What is a sump pump exactly, and how do you install one that will ensure years of security for your home? Read on to learn more about these essential tools for Portland properties.

A sump pump uses a motor and a pipe to push water away from your home

Sump pumps are generally installed in a pit, called a sump pit, that is dug below the lowest area of your home; this allows the sump pump to begin drawing water out of the area before it actually reaches the basement or crawlspace level, preventing damage to your belongings. 

The sump pump consists of a float switch, motor, impeller, and discharge pipe. A float switch works similarly to the float valve in your toilet, which forces the tank to stop filling when it reaches a certain level, but in reverse: this float switch turns on the motor of the sump pump when the water gets too high. When it reaches this level, the float switch will turn on the motor, which spins the impeller to force all the water into the discharge pipe. This pipe then channels the water outside of your home, typically into a drain where it can be safely recirculated in your city’s water system. 

There are several types of sump pumps, which vary in the placement of the motor and their form of backup energy. The most common one is the submersible sump pump, which has the motor inside the sump pit itself; this makes it much quieter and more efficient, as well as more compact. A pedestal pump has the motor on top of the sump pit, which can allow you to dig a smaller pit and maintain it more easily.

Sump pumps need to be properly installed in order to work most effectively

While it’s possible to complete this project yourself, it’s still best to allow professionals to install a sump pump, as it involves both plumbing and electrical components. However, the process of placing a sump pump in your property is relatively straightforward and will only take a few hours.

First, the team identifies the best location in your basement or crawlspace to place the sump pump; it needs to be near to a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) outlet, but also as close as possible to the lowest level of the floor. Once this spot has been identified, workers prepare the pit in which the sump pump will be placed, which can involve breaking through concrete and digging up several feet of soil. This additional material is disposed of once they’re certain that the hole is deep enough to house the pump, but also wide enough that you can easily access the motor and impeller for maintenance.

Next, the pit is readied for the sump pump by providing a level base, which can consist of a polyethylene coating, concrete, or gravel. The PVC discharge pipe is placed where it will exit out to a given drain, stabilized by PVC primer and cement so that it will not come apart even with regular use. Technicians will allow the cement to cure and check that there are no leaks before moving on to the sump pump installation.

The sump pump is now lowered into the pit and connected to the discharge pipe, then hooked up to the GFCI outlet mentioned above. With all the components in place, the installers test the sump pump by pouring water into the pit and ensuring that the motor kicks on when the float switch is activated. If it’s a success, then you’re now the happy owner of a brand new sump pump.

You should check your sump pump regularly and contact professionals should you need advice

Like every other household appliance, sump pumps need to be checked regularly to ensure that they are working. Make it a habit to open the lid of the sump pump and take a good look at it, noting any damage such as loose connections or debris. 

Depending on the location of your pump, it may accumulate dirt, leaves, and other detritus, which you need to regularly remove; a wet/dry vac is a great choice here, as the long hose can easily stretch down to the bottom of the pit. Make sure that the pump itself, including the motor and impeller, are clean and free of grime. Some systems should be lubricated to keep the bearings moving freely: check the instruction manual to see if this is necessary and what lubricant to use.

If the weather has been dry lately, you should run the sump pump by pouring water into the pit, just like the technicians did when they originally installed the device. Check that it completely drains the water; if it doesn’t, then check the instruction manual to see what you should do next, or call the installer for more advice. 

It’s important to note that sump pumps aren’t perfect, and they can be overloaded, leading to failures. These problems are common during extreme weather events, such as heavy rainstorms that overload your unit; the motor simply cannot keep up with the amount of water being dumped into the pit. Should you find that your sump pump is no longer keeping water out of your home, you need to get in touch with Portland water damage restoration experts to prevent further damage to your property. 

Some more basic units may not have a battery backup, which means that if your power goes out, they will stop working. You can remedy this by installing a backup power source or a generator that will supply power to the sump pump regardless of what is happening in the rest of the house. With careful installation, maintenance, and monitoring, your sump pump will be a trusty companion in the fight against the elements for years to come.