For properties in relatively wet and changeable areas like Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, a sump pump can be a real lifesaver. These machines are designed to ensure water will never enter or gather in your basement again. This is done by collecting and proactively removing water before it builds up and causes flooding and water damage to your home. These appliances are relatively hardworking and durable, having lifespans of eight to 12 years on average, depending on the model and how well it is maintained during its usage.
Of course, even the best sump pump is not infallible or invulnerable. There are a number of issues that can cause failure and damage to your sump pump. While some causes of failure are rather obvious, like neglect, others are a little more uncommon or unexpected. Here’s what you need to know about sump pump issues and failure (and what you should do about it when it strikes).
Causes of Sump Pump Failure (and how to Recognize Them)
There are many potential reasons as to why your property’s sump pump may be failing to activate, deactivate, or drain water from your home at the appropriate rate. These issues range from relatively simple and straightforward to incredibly severe. However, most can be dealt with without having to replace the sump pump as a whole. The most common causes of sump pump failure or inefficiency in Ohio are:
Clogs and Blockages
When it comes to failure and inefficiency in a sump pump, it’s usually because of some form of clog or blockage in the sump pit, the pump itself, or even the discharge line. This issue is the easiest to fix, of course, because it only requires you to dislodge the blockage or buildup that is preventing the sump pump from doing its job. However, it is also the hardest issue to identify with any speed because there are so many areas in which a clog could be found. The average sump pump is a complex machine, after all.
You will be able to recognize a clogged sump pump by the fact that it activates and operates as normal, but either fails to drain the sump pit or drains it very slowly. You may also notice a change in the sound that your pump makes if the clog is in the intake pipe or pump itself.
If the blockage is in the discharge line, there is not likely to be a change in sound at all. If you suspect there is a clog, you should act quickly. Your basement could flood very quickly if you do not.
Floating Switch Malfunction or Damage
The floating switch that automatically activates and deactivates a sump pump is one of the most delicate parts of the appliance. As a result, it is often the first thing to break, start malfunctioning, or become jammed. One of the most common causes of floating switch malfunction is debris in the sump pit. Some kinds of debris can wrap around the floating arm and cause it to jam in the on or off position.
This will either result in it failing to activate (thereby causing flooding) or running dry (which will damage the pump). Unless the water in your sump pit is murky, however, you should be able to see the floating switch and identify whether it has become attached to debris. If you cannot see any obvious reason it has jammed, try activating or deactivating it manually. If this works, the issue is with the floating switch rather than the pump as a whole.
Internal Damage or Deterioration
Even the best sump pump has a lifespan and certain areas of weakness. If you use your sump pump infrequently, it is not suitable for the amount of water you need to drain from your home, or small pieces of debris regularly make their way into the pump, some of its more delicate components can become damaged or worn. The impeller, for example, is placed on a rotating shaft and balanced to ensure it does not wobble. If it is impacted by debris or becomes worn through overuse, it can start to wobble. This will cause noise, shaking, and over time, damage to the pump as a whole.
You will be able to recognize internal damage and wear and tear to your sump pump through:
- Changes in the sound it produces
- Changes to the level of vibration it produces
- A general deterioration in efficiency
- Sudden and total failures
Power failure is a common cause of sump pump breakdown or inefficiency. Depending on what’s causing your pump to receive no power, it can either be very easy to fix or the death knell for your sump pump. For example, sump pumps that are connected to the main power supply are most likely to receive no power because of a blackout or a break in the connection. Battery-powered sump pumps, however, are more likely to fail because their battery has worn out.
In the first case, power will be restored when the blackout ends, and a battery-powered sump pump can be returned to functionality by replacing the battery. If the connection between the power supply and the sump pump has been disrupted, however, you will find it far more difficult to fix. Whatever the case, you will recognize a sump pump that is being affected by power failure because of its complete non-responsiveness.
There are other issues that can impact your property’s sump pump, of course, and there can often be more than one issue at work when it comes to sump pump failure. As such, it is important to contact a professional to ensure that the problem is property assessed.
General Basement Problem Signs
If your sump pump is still working but working a little slowly, your basement’s level of relative humidity will begin to rise slowly but steadily. This can lead to a general air of dampness and other complications in your home. If you see any of these signs, you should call a professional to investigate. Your sump pump could be damaged, but there could also be other issues causing dampness in your home.
Musty Basement Smells
If your property’s basement starts to take on a strong, musty odor, it is very likely that you have issues with dampness and humidity in your home. These smells can be caused by stagnant water pooling in your sump pit, rotting wood or drywall, pest infestation, or the formation of mold.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew go hand in hand with dampness, and they can have serious, long-term consequences for your home and your health. Certain species of mold will take root in your HVAC vents and ducts, while others may eat away at wood, and some can even cause skin irritation and respiratory problems when exposure is prolonged.
If your sump pit is full of standing water more often than not, or you see small pools of water around your basement floor, it is very likely that you have problems with your property’s sump pump or drainage systems. You should act quickly when you see this because water damage is sure to follow. In fact, it could even lead to basement flooding.
Spreading cracks are a sign that your property is under immense pressure of some kind. This is a warning sign for many serious issues but can also be a cause of dampness and humidity in your home. After all, when your foundation or basement walls are cracked, water from the soil beyond is able to seep into your home.
Rusty, corroding pipes or pipes that have lots of condensation on them are a huge red flag. If you do not already have issues with water damage in your home, you could see some soon as a result of a plumbing flood.
If you notice any of these problems in your home, you should take the time to investigate. This will help you to prevent avoidable damage and nip serious issues in the bud before they snowball. As such, it is important that you move quickly.
Sump Pump Issues
While sump pumps are relatively complex pieces of machinery, they serve a very simple purpose and function in a very straightforward manner. Understanding how your sump pump works, however, can help you to spot when something is not quite right.
Detecting Water and Taking It In
First and foremost, your sump pump is responsible for detecting the presence of water in your basement. This is generally an automatic process that is achieved via a floating switch or sensor that detects the level of water in the sump pit. As the water level rises, the floating switch arm is pushed upward until it causes the pump to activate. This process also works in reverse, with the pump automatically deactivating when water levels drop once more.
Once the floating switch has activated the sump pump, it will start to draw water in via the sump pit. The pump will then process and discard the water outside of your home. This is a generally autonomous process that is designed to prevent the pump from running dry and will not require your input or oversight (which is a huge benefit for many homeowners). However, there may be cases in which you need to manually activate or deactivate your sump pump.
Removing and Directing Water Appropriately
Once water has entered your sump pit, it will generally be filtered through an intake pipe. This is designed to prevent large pieces of debris from entering the pump or discharge line and causing a blockage. Once it has been filtered, it will be pushed into the discharge line and removed from your basement. Most sump pump models use an electric motor to do this, but there are other models on the market too.
Your property’s sump pump should remove water from your property and dump it away from the perimeter, angling it toward the street drainage. One of the most common issues sump pumps have is a short or inadequate discharge line. This leads to water pooling around a property’s perimeter rather than directing it away from a home and can cause foundation drainage.
We always recommend that you get a backup sump pump to ensure your home will be protected no matter what happens, inside or outside of your property’s walls.
Sump Pump Failure
If something happens to your sump pump to cause it to break down, jam, or drain inefficiently, a backup sump pump will be able to step in and keep your home dry until it is fixed. In some cases, the backup pump will be triggered automatically, giving a seamless experience, and preventing water damage entirely. However, this is not always the case when it comes to mechanical failure or damage.
If the backup sump pump does not activate automatically, you will have to activate the backup yourself. Nonetheless, having a backup in place will help you to manage the situation if your main pump should fail during heavy rainfall or a seasonal storm. Even if it is not as effective as your main pump, a backup pump should prevent full-scale flooding in your basement.
One of the biggest weaknesses with electrically powered sump pumps is their reliance on a property’s power supply. When a huge storm capable of causing a blackout rolls in, this is when a sump pump is most needed. Ironically, this is when your sump pump is most likely to fail as a result of a lack of power reaching it. If you experience a blackout during a heavy rainstorm, you could end up with a flooded basement.
Having a backup sump pump that is powered by a battery or attached to a backup generator, however, will prevent flooding and ensure that your home is protected, even when the power has failed. Unlike mechanical failures and issues, power outages can be planned for in a way that causes the backup pump to activate automatically. This means that you get seamless protection no matter what.
If your sump pump is breaking down repeatedly and you can find no obvious cause for this, it is likely that there is a deeper issue at work. Either there are serious problems in the inner workings of the pump, or it has simply passed its useful lifespan. Whatever the case, we urge you to contact a professional.
DIY Doesn’t Work
While we understand the urge to save money by trying to address issues within your home alone, and we know that many DIY enthusiasts are very skilled and knowledgeable people, we do not recommend that you try to fix a sump pump without professional help. Sump pumps are incredibly complex (and often quite delicate) appliances that can easily be rendered inoperable by bad or inappropriate repair work or modifications.
In fact, even overzealous inspection and exploration can seriously damage some of the more delicate moving parts. The floating switch, for example, is notoriously easy to damage and can become stuck or jammed. There is also the difficulty of properly diagnosing the damage to a sump pump. If you do not know what is wrong with your pump, you will not be able to identify the proper solution, let alone implement it.
Professionals Know What They Are Doing
Professional help may seem like an unnecessary expense when you are on a tight budget, but there are actually many benefits that outweigh the cost (and make the real cost of repair lower in the long term). First, you can count on a professional to not cause more damage to your property while undertaking work on your sump pump. Likewise, they will have access to replacement parts, even if they are hard to find.
This means that you can expect a higher standard of repairs and more durable results than if you were to try to implement a DIY repair. If, however, your sump pump is not eligible for repair, a professional will be able to help you choose a new sump pump that meets both your budget and your property’s performance needs. This will ensure you get the best value for your money and that your home is protected in the future.
What To Do When Your Sump Pump Is Broken
If you suspect that your sump pump may be broken or starting to fail, it is important that you call a professional as quickly as possible. While you can perform a preliminary investigation on your own, it is unlikely that you will be able to identify all the underlying causes and connected issues without experienced help and advice.
Calling in a professional has many benefits, namely the efficiency and durability of the solution that is provided. Professionals will also be able to address any structural problems that might be at work in your home. This is important because while an enthusiastic amateur may be able to perform minor mechanical repairs, there is really no safe way to undertake foundation repair safely and effectively as a non-professional.
If you have a backup sump pump of any kind that is not automatically triggered, you should consider switching to this pump while you wait for someone to assess and repair your main pump. This will ensure that your home is protected from flooding and dampness in the meantime and will prevent the problem from getting worse as a result of continued use and strain.
Choose a Foundation and Basement Specialist
Depending on the nature of the damage and how long the problem was going on before it was caught, the issues you need to deal with could either be entirely centered on the sump pump or spread through your basement. This should inform who you hire to investigate and repair.
While a mechanical handyman or repairman could help you to deal with problems that are localized to your sump pump, we recommend that you bring in someone who is also versed in structural repair. This will ensure the health of your home as a whole is assessed and considered by someone who knows all the signs of damage and decay are.
This also means that you will be able to arrange for any structural repairs that are needed quickly and seamlessly, without having to explain the situation and your needs to a new person. The result of this will be a more efficient, effective, and stress-free process from beginning to end. While the up-front cost may seem daunting, this will lower the overall cost of your repairs in the long run when you consider the durability and quality of the work and the products that are used.
Call Ohio Basement Authority for Sump Pump Repair
If you have started to notice dampness and humidity around your property, there is a musty smell in your basement, or your sump pump is showing obvious signs of damage and deterioration, do not hesitate to call Ohio Basement Authority. We have been helping homeowners across Cincinnati and Columbus, OH, to take care of their homes since 2009. As basement and foundation repair specialists, we have seen it all. No matter what problems are at work in your home, our team is on hand to help. We offer free inspection and assessment appointments to all homeowners in our service area. These appointments come with a written estimate for the costs associated with our recommended repairs and absolutely no obligation to book repairs through us. Once your appointment is complete, we will leave you to consider the best route for you and your home in peace. As such, there is no reason to delay—place a call today.