3 Easy Steps to Test your Sump Pump

With all the rain we’ve been having in the Edmonton area lately, our lawns are looking greener, our flowers are looking brighter and the skies are looking a little less sunny.  But have you ever wondered what happens to all that water that’s landing right beside your house and soaking into the ground?  Most people don’t give it a second thought as they assume that their house was built to withstand rain (and melting snow, too – but let’s not talk about snow in July!).   And in most cases that’s true…until it isn’t, and you have a mess in your basement.  And when the water starts rising in your basement, that’s when you think to yourself “Shouldn’t the builder have installed something in my house to protect me from this?”

Well, guess what? They did! Sump pumps became mandatory in Edmonton new home builds in 1988.  Some homes built prior to 1988 had sump pumps installed if the builder or the owner wanted it done, but it wasn’t a requirement.

First, it helps to understand how the sump pump works. Around the foundation of a house is weeping tile, which actually isn’t tile at all.  It’s a pipe with holes drilled into the top. Rainwater seeps down through the ground, through the holes in the pipe and is directed by the pipe into a sump basin. The sump basin is a hole in your basement floor and it’s the lowest point in your house. At the bottom of the basin is a pump which pumps the water out of the basin and discharges it outside your home.

Most pumps are fairly quiet, especially since they’re submerged in water. You’ll likely never hear it running unless you’re in the room when it turns on. It’s also usually only on for a few seconds while it pumps the water out then shuts off until enough water accumulates to turn it back on again. Most people never even give a second thought…until the water starts rising.

So now that you know what it is and how it works, here are 3 easy steps to check yours.

1.  Locate your sump basin

The sum basin is a hole in your basement about 2 feet in diameter. It’s usually covered by a square piece of white plastic - although I've seen some where the plastic lid broke and the homeowner used a piece of wood. Usually it’s in the water heater area or under the stairs. I have seen it covered by carpet by a homeowner who didn’t know what it was, so if your basement is finished and you can’t find it, look for a weak spot in your flooring where you don’t feel solid concrete underneath. That may be a good indicator.

2. Remove the basin cover

picture of a sump pump cover

The cover is held in place by 4 screws. Remove the screws and pull off the cover.

3.  Test the pump

Here’s a picture of what you’re looking at inside:

picture of sump pump

You’ve got a pump (orange), and attached to it is a float (black) hanging down. To test your pump, lift up the float. You’ll hear the pump start up. Drop the float as soon as the pump activates; you don’t want to run it dry for too long or you’ll damage the motor.

If the sump basin is too deep for you to reach the float, the pump can also be tested by plugging the pump's electrical cord directly into the wall outlet.

That’s it! Replace the cover and you can rest easy knowing that your pump is operational.  If, however, the pump doesn’t activate when the float is lifted up, then check the power cord. If it’s plugged in and the receptacle has power to it, then there’s a problem with your pump. I suggest calling a plumber to have the pump replaced.

This is a super easy process to follow that only requires a screwdriver. Anyone can do it and it’ll give you peace of mind knowing that your basement is protected.

Copyright © Fortified Home Inspections Ltd. 2016

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