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Keeping Your Basement Dry With Sump Pumps

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For all you people who are pissed you didn’t buy a house last year (or five years ago) and now can’t because of interest rates and home prices, read this little story about sump pumps to cheer yourself up. Owning a house has its rewards, but it also has its share of headaches.

Chalk it up to inexperience and growing up without a basement but whenever there is torrential downpours here in Maryland, my sump pump gets itself going and spits all this water out of a little two inch pipe poking out of the side of the house. When I grew up on Long Island (where there are basements, which many people somehow didn’t believe) we didn’t have a basement so there was no reason to have a sump pump and so I never knew how one worked. That being said, in a perfect world the sump pump always works, the water is always pushed away from the house, the wine flows like water, and we feast on filet mignon. Luckily this marginally downbeat (I avoid saying sad because it’s not that bad, it’s hardly classified as bad) tale of home ownership is about what happens when the pipe pushing the water outwards starts leaking back into the ground and through your brick wall.


A sump pump is a simple contraption that has a switch attached to a buoy. This buoy sits in a hole in the ground waiting for the water to attack. As the water table rises, the buoy is pushed up until the pump is activate and water is pumped out of the ground and out the side of your house. This is necessary because the water table will rise all the way up to the ground, pushing its way through any cracks you may have in your basement. The reason why people get floods in their basements, when all their pipes are intact, is because of these cracks and the water table (or other outside water like runoff) rising. The sump pump is only effective if it’s able to pump out the water at a faster rate than the water table is rising.

Here’s my situation: The sump pump was working great, it was pumping out water at a ridiculous rate, except the outflow piping was inadequate. The sump pump connects to a thick black PVC pipe that goes about three feet up and two feet out, ending as a two inch long metal pipe, about an inch and a half in diameter, that pokes out the side of my brick exterior. Then there is a corrugated black vinyl pipe that is about maybe twenty feet long. Six feet or so snake their way back into the black PVC piping, there is no seal, and the remaining is dug into the ground with the end pocking out by the sidewalk. Here’s my dilemma, the sump pump pumps at a rate faster than what the corrugated vinyl piping can get through it and so there is a tremendous amount of spillover at where the vinyl pipe exits the three inch metal pipe. That spillover hits the dirt and soaks it, spilling water back into the house through the wall. Essentially what happens is that water flows back into the house through cracks and goes into my basement, passing by the sump pump hole by about three inches.

I can’t find vinyl piping, so far, that will go around the metal pipe that I can tighten down with some clamps wo, my temporary solution is to put rocks underneath the ‘interface’ (for lack of a better term, yes I’m a computer nerd) so that the water doesn’t push back into the house. I also just run the sump pump, when it rains, in controlled bursts so that the spillover water has time to be soaked in by the dirt without completely saturating it and running it back into the house. Luckily this is only a situation that occurs when there is sustained torrential downpours such that the sump pump has to work overtime.

It’s really not a bad situation, but it is something I wouldn’t have to deal with if I was a renter in some apartment. Any suggestions anyone?

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4 Responses to “Keeping Your Basement Dry With Sump Pumps”

  1. denon says:

    Sump pumps are a pretty basic concept. :) You probably want to get rid of that corrugated pipe (sounds like someone hookd up some underground tile, which isn’t the right tool for the job.) Go down to your local hardware store and pick up the right pipe .. attach it to the house, and get it as far away as possible. Sometimes it’s also worthwhile to toss a Y in, and have the water go to two areas, so the ground doesn’t get saturated in that one place. Usually it’s just easier to move the pipe over a few feet from day to day during the rainy season.

    Also – and this is important – next year, BEFORE the spring (or even before fall rains this year), reach down and lift the float up on the pump. Make sure it still works. On sump pumps, motors die, floats stick after a long time of being dry, or the ball can even break of fall off. All things to be aware of before the water table is at eye level. :)

  2. CK says:

    Also might not be a bad idea too have a backup system in place in case the sump fails. Say for a power outage, they tend to happen during nasty storms that produce lots of precipitation.

    Some tips from State Farm;
    http://www.statefarm.com/consumer/vhouse/articles/sumpump.htm

  3. jim says:

    Thanks for the tips fellas, definitely things I didn’t even think about. I think not having grown up with a sump pump (or more specifically, a basement) leaves you without experience in all the bad things that can happen underground so you don’t even think to check them. I didn’t even think about the sump pump when it was raining hard but my girlfriend did, luckily.

  4. Bryan says:

    Welcome to having a home with an active sump pump. Do your self a favor and BUY A GOOD 12 Volt BACKUP SYSTEM that will cover you when the power goes out. It has been my experience so far that 95% of those people who buy a backup system have been flooded before, the remaining 5% helped someone (neighbor, friend, relative) with cleaning up the mess when the main pump failed and nobody wants to do that again.
    How do I know? I have a compnay that bullds and sells backup sump pumps to local plumbers here in Iowa. No this isnt a sales pitch and I wont even mention my companie’s name, Just please for your own sake get backup system installed
    do it yourself or hire a plumber but get a good system that pumps at least 3k gallons of water at 0′ head or 1.5 to 2k gallons at a 10′ head height. Let me know if you want or need more info on backup systems


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