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Basement Flooding – Stories from the Front Line
Hello and again welcome to theplumbinginfo.com. Because so many parts of the country have basement flooding issues and the situations are so varied we like to keep you updated when something new and interesting comes our way. Here is a story of home with extreme water issues and after we tell the story we think you will agree. So pull up a chair and read away, we have some pictures to show you the finished product as well.
So a local plumbing contractor has a good customer that they have served for more than 5 years. They’ve put in plumbing fixtures, faucets, dishwashers and sump pumps, that is plural by the way. This customer’s house was built in 1993 and shortly after the family moved in they noticed the sump pump discharging more than normal. Once every 15-30 minutes, however when there was a heavy rain the sump pump ran continuously. Thankfully the sump pump never failed, it happened to be a Zoeller pump. Over the years they noticed the pump going off more and more often. That brings us to about 2005 when our contractor was called into replace the sump pump. Although the plumbing contractor thought the water coming in was excessive there was no flooding so they replaced the pump. A couple of years and quite a few unrelated service calls later the homeowner wanted some peace of mind and asked that a battery back-up sump pump system be installed. So in went the battery back-up and the problems were over……right?
A Sump Pump and Battery Back-up Should be Enough to Protect the Basement
The customer called rather frantically one night during a torrential downpour and told the plumbing contractor that the basement was taking water and both the sump and battery back-up were pumping functioning. Let me give you an example of how the conversation went:
Contractor : Hello, who is this?
Customer: It’s Sally blah, blah and our basement is flooding.
Contractor : What? We just put in the battery back-up, how long has the power been out?
Customer : It’s not out
Contractor : Both pumps failed? That is really odd, we put in some pretty nice pumps.
Customer : I don’t think the pumps failed, I can hear them and the water in the pit goes down a little.
Contractor: You think the pumps are working? You mean the water is coming in so fast it’s overwhelming both pumps?
Customer : I can’t tell you that for certain but the pumps sound like they are working.
Contractor : We will be there within the hour.
The plumbing contractor went to the customer’s home in the middle of the night and the water was indeed overwhelming both pumps. The service contractor left their customer’s house early in the morning and the water had gone down to “normal” levels with the help of another sump pump. It was after this call that the plumbing contractor decided that a permanent solution was the only solution.
This is probably a good time to inform everyone how sump pump switches are rated. They are rated by the amount of cycles the switch performs or how many times the switch is engaged. A normal sump pump switch is rated at between 100,000 and 300,000 cycles. We know that one manufacturer stops their test at 300,000 but the switch is rated for 1,000,000 cycles, that is for the life of the pump. After the water subsided and things got back to normal the plumber timed the pump and it was at two (2) cycles per minute, that is 120 cycles per hour, or 2,880 cycles per day times 365 days per year for a whopping 1,051,200 cycles in one year. Those numbers are staggering and real. The cycling does slow down a bit with prolonged dryness but not by much and it certain does not offset the near constant cycling when there is some precipitation.
Have You Checked the Drain Tile and Grading as a Cause for Flooding?
The answer to that question is yes. The plumbing contractor checked the drain tile system for functionality, the grade of the lot does appear to be angling toward the house. However, the lot is an acre and a half so regrading, re-landscaping and re-sodding was cost prohibitive.
After much debate and drawing up possible solutions the contractor decided that the most logical and cost affective way to solve this problem would be to dig a much larger pit very close to the existing pit. They would then connect the two pits with drain tile and use the existing pit for run off in case of emergency.
OK, so the plumbing contractor has a way to collect the water. Having a much larger pit means that it will take longer for the pit to fill thereby decreasing the amount of cycles by the pump. There is one catch, none of the plumbing professionals involved thought that a regular domestic sump pump would be a long term solution. Even if you cut down the cycles by 2/3rd you are still at the high end of normal in the first year. So the company decided to bring in a pump package designer.
Bringing in a Plumbing Pump Professional
After reviewing the situation, the pump designer suggested that a duplex sump pump system be used. A duplex system is one that has two pumps instead of just one. This system would not only have two pumps but a set of floats and controls normally installed on a commercial system. OK so what controls were installed? Two tethered floats connected to an alternator to alternate from one pump to the other to lessen the wear and tear on one pump. The switch is located outside the pit because if the switch ever fails the plumber can repair it without removing the pumps from the pit. Next the pump system was installed with a high water alarm, if the pit is ever deluged with water and one pump can’t handle the water, both pumps will turn on simultaneously to evacuate the pit.
They weren’t done yet. To add another layer of redundancy the battery back-up system was reinstalled in the original pit in case all else fails. They also replaced all discharge piping from the new pumps and up-sized it to 2”.
Is There a Happy Ending to this Basement Flooding Story?
You will be happy to know that according to the plumbing contractor the system is working flawlessly.
Thank you for reading, we hope it helps in trouble shooting your own basement or helps a contractor looking for a solution if they run into a similar situation. Please do not hesitate to comment or give suggestions.