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Battery Backup Sump Pumps

To ensure that your sump pump doesn’t go out in a storm, buy one with a battery backup.

You can buy a sump pump that will operate even when the electrical power goes out due to a thunderstorm, major flood, or brownout, for example.

This sump pump system has a primary plug-in pump and a secondary pump that runs on a 12-volt battery. Photo: Wayne

This sump pump system has a primary plug-in pump and a secondary pump that runs on a 12-volt battery. Photo: Wayne

Most of these are intended to be auxiliary pumps. Used in tandem with the primary pump, they kick in if the main pump fails.

One type runs on a rechargeable 12-volt battery. If you get this type, it pays to buy one that has an automatic battery recharger that will keep the battery alive even when it hasn’t been used for months. This charger should be designed so that overcharging the battery is never a problem.

Another type of sump pump backup system is hooked up to the house’s water system and operates by water pressure. If the electrical power goes out, the water-pressure backup takes over.

Whether or not you need a backup really depends on your situation—the likelihood of a power or pump failure and the damage such a failure could cause. Because the backup system doesn’t add much to the price of a sump pump, it is usually worth paying the premium.

In some cases, an inexpensive high-water alarm will suffice. With one of these, the alarm senses rising water and sounds. On the other hand, if you’re going to lie in bed on rainy nights worrying if everything you’ve stored in the basement is under water, a backup may give you more than flood protection—it may give you peace of mind.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Sump Pump Installation Contractor

How to Install or Replace a Sump Pump

Expert advice on how to install or replace a sump pump, with basement sump pump installation diagrams and tips for installing battery backup sump pumps.

Installing a sump pump is not exactly an easy do-it-yourself job—in fact, it is considered “heavy construction” by many in the building trade. [GARD align=”left”]It usually involves renting and using an electric jackhammer to break a hole in the concrete floor, digging a large hole and removing the dirt, punching a hole through the exterior basement wall for the drainpipe, and more. In some cases, it also requires doing electrical work to provide a GFCI-protected outlet for connecting the pump. Be ready for considerable labor if you decide to do this job yourself. If this looks like more than you want to attempt, hire a pre-screened local sump pump professional.

Replacing a sump pump, on the other hand, is a relatively manageable job for those who are handy at DIY work because the site is already prepared. Always be sure to disconnect the power to a sump pump before handling the pump. And never work on live electrical components when standing in water. (For more about how sump pumps work, see What Is a Sump System? Before purchasing a new sump pump, see the Sump Pumps Buying Guide.)

Sump Pump Parts & Installation Diagram

Planing the Pump’s Location

Before beginning construction to install a new sump pump, buy the pump and liner (tank) to help determine the location of the sump pump and the route for the discharge pipe. Also try to identify the locations of any underground pipes or utilities so you can avoid them when digging. There is nothing worse than cutting a big hole in the concrete floor and starting to dig only to discover there is a 4-inch cast-iron sewer pipe in the way.

In addition, choose a location that is at the low point of the basement floor so water will naturally drain to it. Ideally, this location will be a place where it’s easy to work, somewhat near an exterior wall where the discharge pipe can exit, and near an existing GFCI-protected electrical outlet. You may not be able to satisfy all of these variables, but each will decrease the work involved.

One more note about location: In most cases, you will want the pump’s discharge pipe to go very directly from the pump out through a wall. If an existing pump has a discharge pipe that already penetrates the foundation wall, plan to use that portion of the pipe. Otherwise, it is much easier to plan for this pipe to exit through the floor rim joists above the foundation. Be aware that the pipe must carry the discharge at least 10 feet from the house.

Digging for the Sump Pump

Place the pump liner in position on the floor and outline it. Then draw a second line about 4 inches beyond that outline. Plan to dig to this outer diameter so the hole will be large enough to allow for a layer of gravel around the outside of the liner.

Rent an electric jackhammer and, if you don’t already have them, buy goggles, heavy gloves, a dust mask, and ear protectors to wear when you use it. Also make sure your have a 5-gallon bucket with a handle to make carrying dirt and debris out of the basement an easier job. If the basement slab is reinforced with steel mesh, you may also need a metal grinder or heavy-duty wire cutters for cutting it.

Elevation Cross Section of a Sump Pump Tank

Now for the real work. Wearing all of the recommended safety gear, use the jackhammer to cut along the outline and then to break up the concrete so you can remove it. Clear the debris from the area of the hole and then start digging. Use the jackhammer to loosen the dirt and a shovel to scoop it out. Dig the hole about 12 inches deeper than the full height of the sump liner. Then level the dirt at the bottom of the hole. Shovel a layer of coarse gravel into the hole. Put in just enough so that the rim of the sump liner will be flush with the basement floor.

Preparing the Pump & Liner

Follow any instructions on the sump pump or liner regarding installation and take special note of whether any additional holes will need to be drilled in the liner for drainage.

Place the liner in the hole, its rim level with the floor, and then fill evenly around its perimeter with gravel, stopping about 6 inches shy of the floor. Mix concrete according to label directions (see more about concrete in the article on mixing your own concrete) and fill the remaining hole around the perimeter of the liner up to the floor level. Finish the surface smooth, using a trowel. Allow the concrete to set up overnight and treat yourself to a much-deserved break.

Positioning the Pump

Next, check the pump’s instructions for the size and type of pipes for the discharge plumbing and the proper connections. In most cases, 1 1/2-inch or 1 1/4-inch PVC is used, but the type and size can vary. Attach the discharge pipe to the pump. Then put the sump pump inside the liner and level it (in some cases, plastic shims are required for leveling). Be sure the pump’s float, designed to turn the pump on and off as the water level rises or falls, is unobstructed.[GARD align=”right”]

Without gluing the pieces together yet, use elbows to route the pipe as needed to exit through a rim joist and beyond. You can use a combination of a hole saw mounted on a 1/2-inch power drill and a hammer and chisel to cut a round hole through the rim joist for the pipe to pass through.

Once all the piping is properly figured, use PVC cement to glue the pieces together. Use plumber’s tape (flat metal “tape” with holes punched in it) and short screws to secure the pipe to framing members. Caulk around the pipe where it goes through the hole to seal the gap. Be sure the water will drain away from the house.

Testing the Sump Pump

To test the pump, pour 5 or 6 gallons of water into the liner. Then plug it in and make sure it turns on automatically and pumps the water outdoors.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Sump Pump Installation Contractor

What Is a Sump System?

How a sump pump works, with parts diagram and information on submersible and pedestal sump pumps.

A sump pump system consists of four major parts: a ground water collection system, a sump tank, a pump, and an outlet drain. Here’s how they work:

Components of a Sump Pump System

Ground water is collected by drain rock and drain tile buried along the foundation (and, in some cases, under the floor). Drain tile carries the water to the sump tank (or two sump tanks, in a large house) that is buried in the basement floor.

The sump tank, also called a “basin,” “crock,” or “sump pit,” may be made of clay, tile, steel, concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Though they vary in size, standard tanks are about 18 inches in diameter and 2 to 3 feet deep.

Normally, a sump tank is located at the lowest point in the basement. Most tanks have a hole in each side for incoming drain tile and all have a sturdy cover. When ground water fills the tank to a given level, a float or some other type of switching device activates a pump. (Though much less common, some pumps are controlled manually.) Many sump pump manufacturers sell polypropylene or fiberglass tanks custom-fitted to their pumps.

Standard sump pumps are electric, powered by household current. There are two main types: submersible and pedestal. A submersible pump is completely concealed inside the tank. A pedestal model has a column that protrudes up through the tank’s cover; the motor is mounted on the column, above floor level.[GARD align=”right”]

Both types draw water in through a filter trap (this should be cleaned periodically). They pump water out through a discharge pipe and/or hose. As soon as an automatic pump empties the tank to a certain level, it’s motor turns off.

If the sump pump is connected to a sewer, the discharge pipe has a check valve and may have an anti-siphon device to prevent backflow. Or the discharge pipe may simply connect to a hose that carries the water well away from the house. Building codes in most areas dictate where the water must be discharged.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Sump Pump Installation Contractor

How a Sump Pump Works

How a sump pump works, with parts diagram and information on submersible and pedestal sump pumps.

A sump pump system consists of four major parts: a ground water collection system, a sump tank, a pump, and an outlet drain. Here’s how they work:

[/media-credit] Components of a Sump Pump System

Ground water is collected by drain rock and drain tile buried along the foundation (and, in some cases, under the floor). Drain tile carries the water to the sump tank (or two sump tanks, in a large house) that is buried in the basement floor.

The sump tank, also called a “basin,” “crock,” or “sump pit,” may be made of clay, tile, steel, concrete, fiberglass, or polyethylene. Though they vary in size, standard tanks are about 18 inches in diameter and 2 to 3 feet deep.

Normally, a sump tank is located at the lowest point in the basement. Most tanks have a hole in each side for incoming drain tile and all have a sturdy cover. When ground water fills the tank to a given level, a float or some other type of switching device activates a pump. (Though much less common, some pumps are controlled manually.) Many sump pump manufacturers sell polypropylene or fiberglass tanks custom-fitted to their pumps.

Standard sump pumps are electric, powered by household current. There are two main types: submersible and pedestal. A submersible pump is completely concealed inside the tank. A pedestal model has a column that protrudes up through the tank’s cover; the motor is mounted on the column, above floor level.[GARD align=”right”]

Both types draw water in through a filter trap (this should be cleaned periodically). They pump water out through a discharge pipe and/or hose. As soon as an automatic pump empties the tank to a certain level, it’s motor turns off.

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If the sump pump is connected to a sewer, the discharge pipe has a check valve and may have an anti-siphon device to prevent backflow. Or the discharge pipe may simply connect to a hose that carries the water well away from the house. Building codes in most areas dictate where the water must be discharged.

Get a Pre-Screened Local Sump Pump Installation Contractor


Basement & Crawl Space Moisture Control

 

Expert advice on waterproof basement systems, controlling moisture in basements and crawl spaces, with foundation water management diagrams.

Does your basement or crawlspace resemble a swimming pool in the winter? Heavy winter precipitation is a real threat to basements and crawlspaces in many parts of the country. The problem is this: Rainwater or snowmelt spills off the roof, pours down gutters and downspouts, and saturates the ground. Eventually, water pressure builds in the ground and squeezes water through foundation or slab cracks. The result is a flooded crawlspace or basement.

The best first step toward solving this problem is to control water flow off of your home’s roof, gutters, and siding. Another important step is to seal up or repair cracks in your home’s foundation walls or slab.[GARD align=”left”]

If, despite diverting water flow and sealing up cracks and fissures, water continues to pool in your basement or crawlspace, you have a couple of options. One is to consult a basement waterproofing contractor about how waterproofing or new drainage systems might solve the problem. This can be very expensive, so get two or three bids.

Another option is to automatically expel the water from the basement before it has a chance to collect with the aid of a sump pump. A sump pump system utilizes drain rock and tile along the foundation and/or under the floor to collect groundwater. Drain tile carries the water to a basin buried at the low point of the basement floor. When water fills this basin, or “sump tank,” to a certain level, a pump turns on. This pump, which is partially or completely submerged in the basin, discharges the water away from the house or into a sewer through a hose.

Depending upon where and when your house was built, it may already have a sump pump. If you’re unsure about whether or not your home does, look in the basement for a heavy cover with a discharge pipe sticking out of the top (it’s usually at the lowest point of the floor). If you can’t find one and basement water is a severe problem, seriously consider installing one. Please see Sump Pumps Buying Guide for more.

If a damp crawlspace is the extent of your home’s moisture problems, make sure that none of the foundation vents are blocked—improper ventilation can cause chronic dampness.

To kill mold or mildew, mix about 3/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon of water in a clean garden-style sprayer, and, wearing old clothing, goggles, and a respirator, spray the area (don’t breathe in the spray). Following application, wipe off the mildew with a rag, or scrub with a brush, if necessary. Then spread 6-mil polyethylene (plastic sheeting) across the dirt area so that it reaches up to the top of each foundation wall and staple it to the mud sills. Be sure to cut it away at foundation vents and openings so it doesn’t block airflow.

Crawlspace Moisture Control

To effectively insulate your crawlspace for energy efficiency and to create a comfortable home, you need to properly control moisture in it. A crawlspace is susceptible to moisture and deterioration problems because of contact with the earth.

The best approaches for preventing these problems will depend on your local climate and the style of your home’s construction. However, the following general guidelines for creating a water- managed foundation system apply to most crawlspace designs:

1Keep all untreated wood materials from direct contact with the earth.[GARD align=”right”]

2Provide rain drainage, such as gutters, to conduct rainwater away from the house.

3Slope the earth away from the house for at least 5 feet at a minimum 5% grade (3 inches in 5 feet). Establish drainage swales to direct rainwater to desired locations around the house.

4Add a sill gasket to provide air sealing.

 

5Install a protective membrane, such as an EPDM-type membrane, to serve as a capillary break that reduces wicking of water from the masonry wall. This membrane, in addition to metal flashing, can also serve as a termite shield.

6Damp-proof the below-grade portion of the foundation wall to prevent it from absorbing ground moisture by capillary action.

7Install drainage plane material or gravel against the foundation wall to relieve hydrostatic pressure and channel water to the foundation drain.

8Provide a foundation drainage system at the bottom of the footing, not on top, when the foundation floor (interior grade) is below the exterior grade. Surround a perforated 4-inch drain pipe with gravel, and cover with filter fabric.

9Install a 6-mil polethylene vapor diffusion barrier across the crawlspace floor to prevent soil moisture from migrating into the crawlspace. Overlap and tape all seams by 12 inches. Seal the polyethylene 6 inches up the crawlspace walls. As an option, pour 2 inches (51mm) of concrete over this to protect the polyethylene from damage.

Concrete Slab Moisture Control

To maximize your home’s energy efficiency and to protect its foundation, you should use the following moisture and air leakage control techniques when installing slab-on-grade floors:

1Keep all untreated wood materials away from the earth.

concrete slab on grade moisture control2Install well-designed guttering and downspouts that are connected to a drainage system, which diverts rainwater completely away from the house.

3Add a sill gasket membrane between the slab and bottom plate to provide air sealing.

4Install a protective membrane (such as rubberized roofing material or ice-dam protection membranes) to serve as a capillary break that reduces wicking of water up from the foundation. This can also serve as a termite shield.

5Install a foundation drain directly beside the bottom of the footing. The foundation drain assembly includes a filter fabric, gravel, and a perforated plastic drain pipe typically 4 inches in diameter. Locate the drain beside the footing, not on top of it, to avoid water flowing against the seam between the footing and the foundation wall, and to prevent wicking from a web footing through the stem wall.[GARD align=”right”]

6Install a capillary break and moisture barrier under the slab floor, consisting of a layer of 10-mil polyethylene vapor diffusion retarder over at least 4 inches of gravel.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Basement Waterproofing Contractor

Information courtesy of EERE

 

Basement & Crawl Space Moisture Control

 

Expert advice on waterproof basement systems, controlling moisture in basements and crawl spaces, with foundation water management diagrams.

Does your basement or crawlspace resemble a swimming pool in the winter? Heavy winter precipitation is a real threat to basements and crawlspaces in many parts of the country. The problem is this: Rainwater or snowmelt spills off the roof, pours down gutters and downspouts, and saturates the ground. Eventually, water pressure builds in the ground and squeezes water through foundation or slab cracks. The result is a flooded crawlspace or basement.

The best first step toward solving this problem is to control water flow off of your home’s roof, gutters, and siding. Another important step is to seal up or repair cracks in your home’s foundation walls or slab.[GARD align=”left”]

If, despite diverting water flow and sealing up cracks and fissures, water continues to pool in your basement or crawlspace, you have a couple of options. One is to consult a basement waterproofing contractor about how waterproofing or new drainage systems might solve the problem. This can be very expensive, so get two or three bids.

Another option is to automatically expel the water from the basement before it has a chance to collect with the aid of a sump pump. A sump pump system utilizes drain rock and tile along the foundation and/or under the floor to collect groundwater. Drain tile carries the water to a basin buried at the low point of the basement floor. When water fills this basin, or “sump tank,” to a certain level, a pump turns on. This pump, which is partially or completely submerged in the basin, discharges the water away from the house or into a sewer through a hose.

Depending upon where and when your house was built, it may already have a sump pump. If you’re unsure about whether or not your home does, look in the basement for a heavy cover with a discharge pipe sticking out of the top (it’s usually at the lowest point of the floor). If you can’t find one and basement water is a severe problem, seriously consider installing one. Please see Sump Pumps Buying Guide for more.

If a damp crawlspace is the extent of your home’s moisture problems, make sure that none of the foundation vents are blocked—improper ventilation can cause chronic dampness.

To kill mold or mildew, mix about 3/4 cup bleach with 1 gallon of water in a clean garden-style sprayer, and, wearing old clothing, goggles, and a respirator, spray the area (don’t breathe in the spray). Following application, wipe off the mildew with a rag, or scrub with a brush, if necessary. Then spread 6-mil polyethylene (plastic sheeting) across the dirt area so that it reaches up to the top of each foundation wall and staple it to the mud sills. Be sure to cut it away at foundation vents and openings so it doesn’t block airflow.

Crawlspace Moisture Control

To effectively insulate your crawlspace for energy efficiency and to create a comfortable home, you need to properly control moisture in it. A crawlspace is susceptible to moisture and deterioration problems because of contact with the earth.

The best approaches for preventing these problems will depend on your local climate and the style of your home’s construction. However, the following general guidelines for creating a water- managed foundation system apply to most crawlspace designs:

1Keep all untreated wood materials from direct contact with the earth.[GARD align=”right”]

2Provide rain drainage, such as gutters, to conduct rainwater away from the house.

3Slope the earth away from the house for at least 5 feet at a minimum 5% grade (3 inches in 5 feet). Establish drainage swales to direct rainwater to desired locations around the house.

4Add a sill gasket to provide air sealing.

 

5Install a protective membrane, such as an EPDM-type membrane, to serve as a capillary break that reduces wicking of water from the masonry wall. This membrane, in addition to metal flashing, can also serve as a termite shield.

6Damp-proof the below-grade portion of the foundation wall to prevent it from absorbing ground moisture by capillary action.

7Install drainage plane material or gravel against the foundation wall to relieve hydrostatic pressure and channel water to the foundation drain.

8Provide a foundation drainage system at the bottom of the footing, not on top, when the foundation floor (interior grade) is below the exterior grade. Surround a perforated 4-inch drain pipe with gravel, and cover with filter fabric.

9Install a 6-mil polethylene vapor diffusion barrier across the crawlspace floor to prevent soil moisture from migrating into the crawlspace. Overlap and tape all seams by 12 inches. Seal the polyethylene 6 inches up the crawlspace walls. As an option, pour 2 inches (51mm) of concrete over this to protect the polyethylene from damage.

Concrete Slab Moisture Control

To maximize your home’s energy efficiency and to protect its foundation, you should use the following moisture and air leakage control techniques when installing slab-on-grade floors:

1Keep all untreated wood materials away from the earth.

concrete slab on grade moisture control2Install well-designed guttering and downspouts that are connected to a drainage system, which diverts rainwater completely away from the house.

3Add a sill gasket membrane between the slab and bottom plate to provide air sealing.

4Install a protective membrane (such as rubberized roofing material or ice-dam protection membranes) to serve as a capillary break that reduces wicking of water up from the foundation. This can also serve as a termite shield.

5Install a foundation drain directly beside the bottom of the footing. The foundation drain assembly includes a filter fabric, gravel, and a perforated plastic drain pipe typically 4 inches in diameter. Locate the drain beside the footing, not on top of it, to avoid water flowing against the seam between the footing and the foundation wall, and to prevent wicking from a web footing through the stem wall.[GARD align=”right”]

6Install a capillary break and moisture barrier under the slab floor, consisting of a layer of 10-mil polyethylene vapor diffusion retarder over at least 4 inches of gravel.

Featured Resource: Get a Pre-Screened Local Basement Waterproofing Contractor

Information courtesy of EERE

 

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