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6 Tips for Sump Pump Inspections

Sump pump.

Sump pumps are a standard part of many homes with drainage issues.

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.

What should you look for when inspecting homes with sump pumps?

  1. The connection — Where is the water being discharged? Some sump pumps are connected to the home’s foundation drains. Inspectapedia says this is a bad idea. These drains are more prone to clogging with age, and if this happens, the water just backs up and does damage in a different spot.Some sump pumps are connected to municipal sewers, but this is illegal in some areas. Check your local bylaws. Unexpected additions to the municipal sewer can cause overload, which can result in sewage discharge.A sump pump should connect to a storm drain, which can handle the water and safely discharge it.
  2. 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 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.
  3. Functionality — 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.

    Pipe extending from a building outside.

    The water from this sump pump is being directed through this pipe. Check to make sure the end is located in a safe discharge area.

  4. Backflow preventer — 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.
  5. Safety — Sump pumps should have covers, and this is especially true of pumps located in basements. A child could fall into an uncovered pit and be seriously injured or even drown.
  6. Alarm — Many sump pumps are equipped with an alarm that sounds if the pump is not working. 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.

ICA School’s home inspection training teaches you what you need to know to become a certified home inspector. Learn about all the major home systems, including sump pumps, in our online home inspection training course. Enroll now and start your career as a home inspector with the right training for the job!

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