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Buildings and structures have a myriad of things that we have designed over the centuries to help people live and work wherever they want. We have air conditioning and heating for climate control, indoor plumbing to make life easier, and sump pumps to help prevent flooding in the structures we build. Sump pumps are the answer we dreamed up when basements were flooding and homes were being damaged due to the flooding.
When is a Sump Pump Warranted?
Not every structure needs or warrants a sump pump. Sump pumps are installed where there is a high likelihood of flooding, for instance in floodplains. Sump pumps are also recommended for structures that are located in areas that experience an extreme amount of rain and the topography around the structure causes the water to flow into the structure. For instance, if a home is located at the center of a closed valley or at the bottom of a hill.
Other reasons for sump pumps to be installed:
- Wet basement
- Keeping mold and moisture out of a structure
- Consistent heavy rainfall
- Heavy snowfall
- Required by local building code
Often, especially in areas with consistent and heavy rainfall or where there is the potential for large portions of melting snow, new structures and homes are being built with sump pumps and it is no longer an option to not have one. The areas where there is heavy rainfall, often have a moisture problem in the structures.
How do Sump Pumps Work?
Sump pumps, with a nod to the name, pump water away from the structure or your home when necessary. Sump pumps do not run 24/7, instead, they only run when they are triggered to run based on water levels. This concept is similar to toilets and many other plumbing systems that really on a float trigger system to know when to run. You can expect sump pumps to be triggered when there is excess rainfall, flooding, or when rapidly melting snow overwhelms the area it's in.
The sump pump is generally placed into a recessed pit in the ground at the lowest point of the structure. A drain pipe is attached to the pump which goes out to the outside of the structure to safely drain the collected water a good distance away from the structure. For the pump to be triggered to run, a float is included in the system which is connected to the pump. Once the water in the sump pit reaches the height that makes the float to rise high enough to trigger the pump, the pump turns on to pump the water out. The pump turns off when the float goes below a certain level.
The pump will most likely be fitted with an impeller, a fan-like device, to aid with pushing the water through the drain pipe. The impeller will begin spinning when the pump is initiated. Sump pumps run on electricity and should be connected to the power supply through a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This is required as the sump pump will always be near water.
When Sump Pumps Fail?
When sump pumps fail it is undoubtedly not a good situation. Depending on the reason why the sump pump has failed on-site maintenance staff or homeowners may or may not be able to get it going on their out. Checking the power supply and checking the unit for any obvious obstructions would be some of the first steps to take if the area is safe for occupancy. Having a backup power supply would be a sensible option to help prevent the sump pump from failing when the power goes out in a structure.
Contacting professionals who have the expertise to examine, diagnose and repair the sump pump is the wisest course of action in a situation where a sump pump quits working or fails to trigger. In addition to contacting a professional, if it is safe, remove any items that may become damaged or can still be salvaged. Unfortunately by the time you realize the sump pump isn’t working it will most likely be too late to save anything that was directly on the floor of the room where the sump pump is located.
Choosing a Sump Pump
Selecting the correct sump pump for your structure design is an important step in the design process. Consulting qualified MEP engineers will be a vital step in selecting a sump pump that will be able to handle the needs of your structure and the strain of the environment. They will take into account the
- size of the structure,
- environmental factors,
- local building codes,
- grade of the area surrounding the structure,
and a myriad of other factors they have been trained to factor into the final selection decision. Relying on the experts will be your best defense against future problems. Hiring competent contractors and engineers will make all the difference when it comes to the success of your project.
The MEP engineer will ensure that you have a sump pump sized to handle the potential rainfall, flooding and estimated snowmelt. Using their experience and know how they will help you avoid the pitfalls that cause sump pumps to fail. Eliminating problems like having a sump pump that is too small or a unit that has known manufacturer issues.
If you aren't sure where to find a well-qualified engineer, check with local municipalities as they will have had contact with many engineers and architects in the local area. In order to get the permits needed for building contracts engineers will have visited the municipalities and gotten to know the staff. Creating and building relationships with the staff of the municipalities in which they work is an important part of successfully getting permits approved.
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