Sumps too often overlooked in homes

Sump pumps the heart of a home's drainage system

The difference between a good sump pump and a bad one (inset) is clearly evident.

Severe winter storms are said to be a regular occurrence in the South Island’s future, and the threat of increased power outages should be a warning for all basement homeowners to ensure their sump pump is in top shape.

“Every time there’s a power outage we get one or two calls from homeowners about a [non-functioning] sump,” said Chris Schmidt of Island Basement Systems.

The company is based out of Prospect Lake in Saanich and services the entire Island, with three separate crews. They install more than 200 sumps per year.

Schmidt said that most homeowners are aware of their sump pumps but there’s some, surprisingly, that are oblivious to its importance, usually newer home owners, Schmidt said.

The biggest problems Schmidt sees are inadequate pumps, which he calls the do-it-yourself special, as well as maintenance issues.

“The No. 1 issue we see is an inadequate pump, usually a low-cost, do-it-yourself installation that’s typically not reliable,” he said. “What you don’t want to see on a sump system is an open pit, where all the humidity and smells get out and into the house. Quite often we see open, nasty pits that haven’t been maintained for years.”

It’s not uncommon that homeowners have bought a house and ignore the inspection report that mentions a sump in need of attention, or that the inspection report has overlooked the weakness of the sump system.

Sumps should be well sealed with an air-tight lid, ideally with the sump sitting in a plastic basin with a perforated base that allows water under the sump to drain into it, Schmidt said.

“Look at it this way, the sump pump is the heart of an interior drainage system, so if it’s a crappy sump, the system isn’t going to last that long.”

Maintenance, cleaning and replacing the machines is the other area he says is often overlooked.

“We’ll see pumps that have been working fine but they aren’t being cleaned out [semi regularly] or they’re sitting in dirt, so obviously dirt gets into the pump.”

For the do-it-yourselfers out there, Schmidt’s advice is to make sure it’s cleaned and maintained.

Sumps can also be subject to power failures.

“If your home has regular power failures, you have to calculate, is it going to cost more than $1,000 to put in a backup battery for the sump? Because it’s going to cost at least $1,000 if it stops working.”

About five to 10 per cent of his Island Basement Systems clients call back later to install a battery backup.



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