How to install a sump pump

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A home do-it-yourselfer can install a sump pump. Selecting, installing and testing your sump pump can...

A home do-it-yourselfer can install a sump pump. Selecting, installing and testing your sump pump can be managed by one person, with minimal plumbing skills required.

Does your home need a sump pump?

First, you must decide if and why you need a sump pump in your home. Sump pumps primarily help with moisture entering your home through the floor. This is usually an issue when the foundation of your home is below the local water table. To determine whether this is the case in your basement, try a plastic sheet test. By taping plastic sheeting to your floor and checking it for moisture in a few days, you'll see if and where moisture is coming in through your floor. Sump pumps pump water out of your basement when hydrostatic pressure causes the high water table to seep through walls and floors. A float switch, similiar to the one in your toilet tank, tells the sump when to pump.

So, now what? Step one in ridding your basement of moisture is to run a dehumidifier. Now, during this process, check your downspouts. Are the spouts releasing water closer than six feet to your basement walls? If so, correct the spouts to release water further than six feet from your foundation, and repeat the plastic sheet test.

If your basement fails the second test, you may need a sump pump. If not, explore Kudzu's plumbing articles for more home plumbing maintenance information.

Choosing your sump pump

There are many varieties of sump pumps on the market, so you'll need to make a few decisions before purchasing your pump. A pedestal pump's motor is mounted above the sump, where it is more easily maintained, while a submersible may look more discrete.

Manual pumps may be cheaper, but if you pay a bit more for an automatic pump, you may find it more convenient. For horsepower considerations, go back to your plastic sheet test. Is there a lot of water coming in your home or just a minute amount of moisture? If you don't have a huge flooding problem, the most common 1/3 horsepower motor will suit your needs.

You'll also want to consider cord length. Depending on the distance of your desired location to the outlet, you'll need a certain cord length. It is not recommended to plug your pump into an extension cord; it should be plugged directly into a Ground Fault Interrupter Outlet (GFCI). Voltage and battery back-ups are additional options. The common home pump runs at 110 volts; 220-volt pumps are available for industrial use. If you feel it's necessary, purchase a pump with battery backup or alarms unexpected for shut-off.

Installing the sump pump

  • Find a proper location where the water collects. The location to install a sump pump needs to be near the GFCI. If you don't have a plug near the site, you'll need to have a certified electrician install one.
  • If there isn't an existing sump pit, cut through concrete floor and measure the hole to allow a depth to set the basin flush with the floor. It will usually be about 6 inches deeper and 10 inches wider than the pump. Wrap the sump basin with filter fabric and add about 3 inches of gravel to the pit.
  • Cover and set the pump on top.
  • Connect the check valve and PVC pipe to pump, and run a pipe up a nearby wall.
  • Make a weep hole into the discharge pipe 6 inches above the pump. (This allows water to flow back into the pump to keep it primed.)
  • Attach the pump's electrical cord to the discharge pipe using wire ties, and install a check valve on the discharge pipe at the open end.
  • Drill a hole through the house wall.
  • Continue the PVC pipe through the wall and extend to the outdoors, applying sealant to the hole around the pipe.
  • Fill in around the basin top with concrete.
  • Plug in the pump, and then test it by filling the basin with water.

Pump pricing varies widely, but you can probably expect $100 to $600 for the do-it-yourself sump pump, while contractors may charge between $200 and $900, plus labor. However, if you don't have an existing sump pit and it has to be dug, that may run you close to $2,000.

Sump pump maintenance

Once your pump is installed, you'll need to maintain it regularly in order to keep your basement moisture-free. Sump pumps can last up to 20 years if properly maintained. And if it is, you won't need to go through this entire process again in a few years. Either keep a contractor on call to check your system annually or learn to check it yourself.

You'll need to make sure debris isn't clogging the grates and that the float can still move freely. Periodically dump in a bucket of water to make sure the sump pump is still pumping out excess water.

If you find an issue and can't do the maintenance yourself, call either the original contractor or a certified sump pump contractor in Atlanta.

If your sump fails, never walk through standing water in your basement! Be sure to cut your main power switch off before attempting any maintenance in a flooded area.

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