Many homeowners who have basements or crawl spaces that suffer water infiltration opt to install sump pumps. They’re not cheap, but they’re cheaper than the water damage that can result from a flooded basement. As you’re conducting a home inspection, do you know what to look for with a sump pump inspection? ICA has a few tips for you to help when testing sump pumps.
The Sump Pump Connection
The connection is key! Do you know where the water is being discharged to? Some sump pumps are connected to the home’s foundation drains. According to Inspectapedia this is a bad idea. Foundation drains are more prone to clogging with age, and if this happens, the water just backs up because it has nowhere else to go. That creates damage in a different spot.
Some sump pumps are connected to municipal sewers. Before you inspect, understand the local laws, bylaws, and ordinances because this is illegal in some areas.
Unexpected additions to the municipal sewer can cause overload, which can result in sewage discharge. The best practice for a sump pump installation should be connecting a sump pump to a storm drain because they can handle the water and safely discharge it.
The Condition of the Pit
Sump pumps are installed in pits at the lowest part of the structure so that water flow is directed toward the pit. Pits in crawl spaces especially are prone to dirt infiltration. This is less common in basements since the floors are usually made of concrete. Sump pumps should be located in a basin specially designed for the purpose or in a pit of gravel that helps filter dirt out of the water.
Some sump pumps are equipped with filters of their own. A pump that is not installed in a basin or gravel and has no filter is in danger of clogging and breaking down earlier than expected.
Sump Pump Functionality
In order to test the functionality during inspection, reach into the pit and lift up the float valve to see if the pump kicks on and begins pumping water out of the bottom of the pit. If it doesn’t, it needs repair. Some sump pumps are loud, but a pump that is extraordinarily loud or one that makes screeching or other unusual noises should be flagged for inspection by a licensed plumber.
While this feature may not be required by municipal codes, it is useful to have as extra insurance in case of a clogged line or other problem. Further, the absence of a check valve can mean water left in the pipe flows back into the pit each time the pump shuts off, possibly triggering it to restart. This repeated stopping and starting puts unnecessary wear and tear on the pump.
Sump Pump Safety
Sump pumps should have covers, and this is especially true of pumps located in basements. Check to ensure a sump pump has a cover because a child could fall into an uncovered pit and be seriously injured or even drown. Additionally, if an electric sump pump is used, make sure that it’s plugged into a GFCI receptacle. If it’s not, your report should include replacing an old outlet.
Sump Pump Alarm
What happens if a sump pump stops working? While many sump pumps are equipped with an alarm that sounds if the pump is not working, that may not always be the case. This is an important backup feature that can prevent flooding and expensive damage. Alarms can be connected to a battery so that they can sound even in the event of power failure. Some alarms can also be connected to a light that comes on and some can even place a call to a security company. While not usually required by code, these alarms are useful in preventing damage in the case of pump failure.
Get Your Home Inspection Certification
If you’re not already a certified home inspector, ICA School’s home inspection training teaches you what you need to know to get your home inspection certification. You’ll learn about all the major home systems in our online home inspection training course, including everything you need to know about sump pumps.. Learn more about your state’s home inspection requirements and start your career as a home inspector with the right training for the job!