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The no-nonsense guide to sump pump problems

It’s officially spring in the Quad Cities – a season that brings rain along with thawing snow and ice. 

That means water - and lots of it.

For many homeowners in the Quad Cities, now is the time to ensure your home is ready to face the challenges that water can bring. That may begin with your sump pump.

Throughout the spring and summer, sump pump failure is on the rise. At Werner, that means this time of year is also one of the busiest for the Water Division.

But you can arm yourself with knowledge to protect your home from sump pump failure and water damage. Here are a few things you should know.

How sump pumps work

Sump pumps are very common in homes in the Quad Cities. But while many homeowners rely on sump pumps to keep their basements dry, they also may not truly understand how they work.

Sump pumps are typically installed in basement pits. When water flows into the sump pit, a float triggers a switch to pump water out and away from the home. This is designed to keep the basement dry.

“Anytime there’s a lot of water in the ground, it causes the sump pump to run more,” explains Doug Petersen, a water mitigation project manager with 14 years of experience. And spring and summer are typically when sump pump usage begins to rise.

Why sump pumps fail

According to Doug, there are three different scenarios that lead to sump pump problems:

  1. Sump pump failure, due to failure of mechanical parts and pieces.
  2. So much saturation and water that the sump pump can’t keep up.
  3. Power outage with no backup battery, meaning the sump pump isn’t running at all.

No matter what the underlying issue, sump pump failure can lead to plenty of problems. While water can damage your home and furnishings, if it’s not properly dried and cleaned, there’s also a chance that it could lead to long-term problems like mold. 

(Related: What to do right now when you have water in your basement) 

Some sump pump issues are simply unavoidable. But Doug does recommend a few ways to help keep your home safe and your sump pump running smoothly.

Invest in a backup

If there isn’t power to your sump pump, it simply won’t run.

Never unplug your sump pump to use the outlet for other devices. (It’s just too easy to forget to plug it back in. 

And if you often lose power, you may want to invest in a battery backup sump pump. Or use a generator to supply power to your sump pump when the power goes out. 

Check your sump pump regularly.

In some homes, your sump pump rarely runs. But that also means it’s sitting idle for months at a time.

Just as it’s recommended to check the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, it’s important to regularly check that your sump pump is functioning properly. Here’s how:

  • Manually fill the pit with water and confirm that the float triggers the switch in the sump pump.
  • Confirm that the breaker is on and the outlet providing power to the sump pump is in good condition and working order.

Doug recommends doing this every few months throughout the year. This means that if you do discover a problem, you’ll be able to fix it before water is filling your basement.

“Unfortunately, the sump pump is something that will eventually need to be replaced,” Doug explains. “So while it may have always been working before, it won’t necessarily be forever.”

The bottom line

Don’t wait to check your sump pump until it’s too late. Now’s the time to ensure your home is ready for the increased water that spring and summer can bring.

If you do find yourself facing sump pump failure and water in your basement, don’t go at it alone. Learn more about the water mitigation process

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