The last week of March brought torrential rain to Maplewood, NJ, so much rain in fact, that at one point on Saturday, our one sump pump burned out.
Earlier in the morning, Gary was in basement doing laundry and by mid-afternoon, a good two inches of water flooded the laundry room and the back half of the basement. It happened in a blink of an eye!
Basco Maliqi of Instant Plumbing & Heating in Springfield, NJ was eating lunch when I texted him. “Give me 20 minutes and I’ll be right over.” Phew. Meanwhile, Gary was en route to the Home Depot to rent a shop vac that could suck up water. Basco told me to get him back home – there would be no need for that. He would be able to take care of clean up. Phew.
Let’s talk about sump pumps, French drains, and everything in between.
So what is a sump pump? In a nutshell, from deluge to dampness, it can keep your basement dry. If you live in a wet climate or have a basement prone to wetness, you need one. It can prevent a flooding disaster. In some drier climates, such as Southern Arizona, it’s not necessary. Even during the very wet monsoon season, water tends to drain quickly because of the terrain.
There are two types of sump pumps: submersible and pedestal. The submersible is more common as they can be installed while a house in under construction. They are also much more powerful than a pedestal. That said, they don’t last as long, which makes sense for a product that is submersed in water.
A submersible can also be armed with an alarm that alerts a homeowner when a pump is not working. It can also be outfitted with water-powered backup system that prevents flooding due to sump pump failure or power outages. A back-up battery can also help in the event of a power outage. They typically last for 12 hours, so it’s best to have extras.
A backflow preventer valve can be attached to the submersible sump pump’s discharge line to prevent discharged water from flowing back into the sump pit.
Most sump pumps come with a three year warranty. A submersible can last over 12 years according to Basco, while a pedestal can last over 30! Even so, it’s still a good idea to test it. In fact, the American Society of Home Inspectors recommends testing your pump once a month citing that, “most people don’t know it’s failed until it is too late.”
Think about it, if you live in a wet climate or go through periods of significantly snow and or ice melt, your pump will work hard and one day just burn out. This is exactly what happened to us. Depending on the size of your basement, you may need two or more installed. Your plumber and home inspector will be able to help you assess appropriately.
Be sure to keep it free of debris by covering it. Basco recommends plastic as wood warps and can grow mold and bacteria.
What about an Interior French Drain? It’s a perfect compliment to your sump pump, particularly if you have or are planning on finishing your basement.
Straight up, if you are getting water in your basement or if you live in a hilly area that produces water run-off, like South Orange and Maplewood, NJ, get a French drain.
It involves a significant amount of manual work in that dirt and gravel must be excavated from the perimeter of the basement and hauled into a dumpster. A perforated pipe is installed all the way around the basement. Water flows into a tank submersed in the floor and your sump pump or pumps sends it on it’s merry way! It is a major expense and can cost between $5,000 to $8,000.