A sump pump primer


A sump pump is designed to keep your basement dry by draining groundwater away from your home.

Dear David: how do I know if I need a sump pump? – HIGH AND DRY

DEAR H & D: A sump pump is designed to keep your basement dry by draining groundwater away from your home. If your basement is prone to moisture or smells musty, this is essential equipment. Much like a smoke detector, it’s something you hope you’ll never need, but it can save you from catastrophe — especially if you have a finished basement.

The vast majority of local homes are equipped with a sump pump. These may run constantly or hardly at all, depending on the depth of the basement, the slope of the soil around the house, and where the home sits in relation to the water table. Sump pumps have been required by the Ontario Building Code since 2017, so they’re standard in all new homes (and necessary in many older ones).

Typically, a sump pump drains through a discharge pipe that diverts water away from the foundation. Prior to the early 1980s, many of these were designed to drain directly into the underground sewer system. This has been outlawed for a number of reasons, one of which is its tendency to create backups during major rainstorms. If you’re unsure of where your pump drains, a plumber can determine this for you.

If you are considering the installation of a sump pump, you’ll need professional help. The process will involve some demolition, along with plumbing and concrete skills, which tend to be far beyond the scope of the average homeowner. A poorly installed sump pump increases the potential for water damage and mold development, and could even cause foundation issues for you or your neighbours.

Once installed, your sump pump will need to be maintained. For the most part, this means taking a quick look at it during and after heavy rainstorms to ensure all is well. I suggest cleaning the filter trap a few times each year and while you’re at it, pour a bit of water into the pump to test whether it’s draining properly.

Like any other piece of equipment, a sump pump will fail eventually. Depending on the style of pump and how often it runs, you can likely expect it to last between 15 and 20 years, though I suggest keeping an eye on a unit that’s more than a decade old.

PRO TIP: Equip your sump pump with a backup battery system and an alarm that will sound if it stops working. A sump pump runs on electricity. Without these safety measures, it could shut off during a storm or power outage when you need it most. #AskDavid #Advice

David Schooley is partnering with 570 News host Mike Farwell and the “Farwell4Hire” Campaign in support of Cystic Fibrosis research. Now through May 30, David will donate $1000 to Farwell4Hire for every home his clients buy or sell. To reach David, call or text 519-577-1212.