Sump pump brings peace of mind

by Marc LaBossiere . Mar 30 2019
Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free PressInstalling a sump pump barely takes up any space in a basement, but it can save homeowners a lot of money and grief.

Photos by Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

Installing a sump pump barely takes up any space in a basement, but it can save homeowners a lot of money and grief.

This time of year, many Manitobans anxiously await the ramifications of the spring melt. And with a higher than normal flooding potential, the impending situation can cause much anxiety and undue stress. When water finds its way into the basement, the ensuing effects can cost you time and money. A small investment as a last line of defence may help ease you into spring.

The basement and foundation of my home are in pretty good condition.

Other than the odd crack along the concrete floor, and a few minor ones near the base of the foundation walls here and there, this basement has fared quite well since the house was built in 1984.

That being said, it is not unusual for trickles of water to meander along my basement floor once the snow begins to melt more quickly under a warmer spring sun, or even after a heavy rainfall later into summer. It’s just something I’d learned to live with, and hasn’t really caused me any real concern... until now.

Once the step-down dining room would be checked off my to-do list, finishing the basement was next on the agenda.

This reno will include new framing to quarantine a rec-room area, laundry room, three-piece bathroom, utility room and storage/freezer room. Once the entire lower level has been rewired and plumbed, drywalled and painted, and the suspended ceiling hung, the floor will be addressed — likely a vinyl laminate, although I have not yet made a final decision.

The ongoing threat of water breaching the space had halted any flooring decisions, until the introduction of a sump pump — the last line of defence against a rising water table that wants to enter my home.

Under a rusty access panel that reveals where the weeping tiles converge, it was always easy to examine the water level below my basement foundation.

Any time water began to trickle in through one of the minor cracks in the foundation, lifting the access panel would quickly reveal water sitting just below the surface, almost level with the concrete floor elevation. I called my good friend Robert Bruneau at RMB Plumbing & Heating to schedule the installation of a sump pump.

Once installed, a float which activates a switch that powers a water pump set within a tank below the concrete floor will evacuate excess water to the exterior, through a two-inch drain. Basically, the sump pump keeps the water level in check and greatly decreases, if not eliminates the potential of water breaching any of the small cracks in the concrete floor — the float senses the water level is getting too high, and the pump will continue to operate until the float settles back into a position that deactivates the switch, turning off the pump.

The RMB crew showed up early in the morning, and basically worked all day until the job was completed.

Firstly, an area that was most convenient for the sump pump placement was chosen in the utility room area.

The old rusty access panel was removed, and the floor surrounding the access cavity was broken with a jack hammer to create a hole large enough to house the sump tank.

The weeping tiles were channeled into the sump tank through a series of holes along the tank’s cylinder wall. The tank was lowered into the hole and levelled with the grade of the floor. Rocks were packed along the tank’s exterior to roughly six inches below grade. Fresh concrete was mixed, and poured into the gap between the tank and the rough edge of the old concrete floor.

It was then smoothed and levelled to the existing height of the floor. After the concrete had set for about an hour, the sump pump was fitted within the tank.

A two-inch ABS drain pipe fitted with a check valve just above the top of the tank’s cover was run vertically to the ceiling joists, and horizontally out through a hole that had been augured through the foundation wall into the backyard.

Additional ABS lengths continue roughly 25 feet from the house and into the yard, to ensure the water has been ejected far enough away from the house. The pump was then plugged-in and tested.

The rate at which the water is pumped was quite impressive — within a matter of minutes, the elevated level of water within the tank had completely dissipated. With the sump pump now installed, my basement reno plans could proceed with a higher degree of confidence.

As long as the system remains plugged in, the float would activate the pump when required. The only additional guidance I received is based on our climate — “unplug the sump pump once the exterior temperatures dip consistently below freezing.” Otherwise, the drainage pipe will become blocked or plugged due to water freezing with the lines. As such, the pump could run continuously, which may cause it to burn out.

The introduction of a sump pump is a very messy undertaking. The RMB crew did an amazing job of confining the mess to a localized area near the chosen sump location. What was not used as backfill during the sump tank installation step, was carefully removed from my premises. The sump tank and drainage pipes barely infringe on any space within the utility room, an extremely small price to pay for the peace of mind this system provides.

The most important thing to remember — because it’s unplugged for winter — is to plug it back in for spring! Reminders have been set in my smartphone, just in case.

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Concrete is mixed and poured into the gap between the old concrete floor and the sump tank, smoothed and leveled with the existing floor.

Concrete is mixed and poured into the gap between the old concrete floor and the sump tank, smoothed and leveled with the existing floor.