Learn about sump pumps, where to find it in your house, how to maintain it, and seasonal tips to prevent backups and flooding.
What is a sump pump?
A sump pump is an important part of your home's foundation drainage system. It helps protect your house from flooding due to ground water infiltration. Your sump pump is usually located in your basement in a utility room or laundry space.
When it rains or the snow melts, the water is absorbed into the soil and down into the underground water table. The water table is the underground area that is saturated with water, and the water rises and falls over time.
As the water table rises under your house, water collects in your sump pump pit. When the water reaches a certain level, it will raise the float. The pump turns on and discharges water to the outside of your home.
As a homeowner, you are responsible for the drainage system on your property. It is important to ensure that your sump pump is in good working condition and your lot is correctly graded.
Grading and drainage
Proper lot grading is important for the correct flow of surface run off which prevents flooding problems and potential damage to you and your neighbour's properties.
The grade and landscape of your lot should:
- take water away from your house
- create a positive slope away from your house walls for at least 1.5 metres (5 feet)
- have the ground drop a minimum of 75 mm (3 inches) within the 1.5 metre slope
Do not change this grade as it will help minimize flooding in your home. Water that sits too close to your home may flow down your foundation and to your sump pump, which will have to re-pump the water out. This can cause your sump pump to burn out prematurely.
It is important to perform regular maintenance on your sump pump system every spring as well as every few months. Maintenance can help prevent backups and flooding.
Check your sump pump by slowly pouring water into your sump pit. Watch for the "float" to rise and trigger the pump. Once the pump has started, the water level will quickly lower and the float will shut off the pump.
If your home is located in a wet area or the water table is high, you may want to invest in a backup sump pump system.
To learn more about how to check your sump pump, watch the video below.
A sump pump is an important part of your home's outdoor drainage system. Here are some tips to help keep your sump pump in good working order.
- If you have a sump pump discharge hose, check it regularly to ensure that it is connected and flows away from your foundation.
- Your hose should be sloped so the water drains out and does not sit inside the hose. If you are connected to an underground system, check the riser unit for signs of water from the overflow which may indicate a blockage.
- Move the sump pump discharge hose so it is directed at least 1.5 metres away from the foundation. The sump pump discharge hose or piping must be a minimum of 7.5 metres back from the curb line. Water draining from sump pumps can cause algae and staining on sidewalks in the summer months.
- Make sure the grading on you house is positive and drains the water away from your foundation. This will help reduce water from flowing back down your foundation, and having to be continually pumped out by your sump pump. This can damage your sump pump which can result in basement flooding.
- If you have a discharge hose, make sure you check it often to be sure it drains properly.
- Be considerate, make sure the water from your discharge hose does not cause water pooling on a neighbour's property.
Discharge hoses or pipes
Strathcona County does not recommend using a discharge hose or pipe connected to your sump pump discharge pipe. The discharge may freeze in the hose causing damage and flooding. Instead, use eavestrough piping or a splash pad.
The transition from winter to spring and the fluctuating temperatures create thaw and refreeze cycles causing your sump pump to discharge more often. Check your sump pump each spring.
Rainfall events can cause your sump pump to discharge more often. Check your system often to ensure the pump is working.
Water draining from sump pumps can cause algae and staining on sidewalks in the summer months.
Be considerate - make sure the water from your discharge hose does not cause water pooling on a neighbour's property.
Water draining from sump pumps in the winter can cause ice to build up on sidewalks and streets, causing a public hazard. Be considerate, make sure the water from your discharge pipe does not cause icing on a neighbour's property.
Check your sump pump discharge pipe regularly to ensure that it does not freeze. This is especially important when the temperature fluctuates frequently. A frozen line could damage your sump pump. If you are connected to an underground collection system, this does not apply.
Be considerate - make sure the water from your discharge pipe does not cause icing on a neighbour's property.
Make sure your sump pump system is not connected to the sanitary sewer system. Unauthorized connections cost all ratepayers more in treatment costs. Stormwater does not require the same level of treatment as sewage, so any stormwater entering the sewer system costs you more.
Stormwater can also over tax the sanitary sewer system during storms. This overtaxing increase the risk of a sewer backup in both individual residences and the system as a whole.
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Further information on sump pumps
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