04/08/2022 Spring Sump Pump Tips

As winter transitions to spring, your sump pump will be working to remove excess water from around your home’s foundation. Tom Scherer, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer, joins Sound Ag Advice to discuss ways to keep your sump pump working properly.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Agriculture Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Tom Scherer, NDSU Extension Agricultural Engineer

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson and I'm joined today by Tom Scherer, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer. For many homeowners, a sump pump is the first line of defense to prevent water from seeping into their basement. So, Tom, what should people know about the proper operation of their sump pump as we move from winter into spring?

Tom: Sure, Kelli, typically, many new homeowners or people have just moved into a home, if you go into the basement, sometimes usually in the utility room, there will be a plastic cover or a hole in there with something in it and many people are sometimes befuddled as to what that is, it's a sump pump. The hole itself is called a sump. Many houses have tile around the foundation, which is below.
So if you get a temporary high water table, anything that intercepts that water and directs it into the hole, and there's a pump in there and you have to lift that water out and discharge it outside. Otherwise, you'll just fill up that sump and seep into the basement.

Kelli: For some people, their sump pump might have not run for a whole year. So, what are some things they can do to check to see if their sump pump is in good operating condition?

Tom: First, I would say that you go outside and just look at the discharge hose. You'd never know it might be plugged or something covering it. Go into the basement, if there is a lid on it, take it off, just look inside, make sure there's not things in the sump that can plug up the pump. A lot of them have small rocks down the bottom, I don't think you have to worry too much about them. You can reach in there and just move the floats up and down because all these pumps have a float on it which when the water level rises so high in the spring, it'll turn the pump on and then drop so low it'll shut it off. And then just to see if it's been working okay, just pour some water into the sump, usually only takes five to 10 gallons maximum, you can run a garden hose or your five-gallon bucket and listen to the operation. If the pump squeals, then the bushings or the bearings might be getting rusted. It's always good to have a spare one on hand. A lot of people have one a whole setup that they can switch in and out pretty quickly in case the old one goes bad. I would do that least twice, just to listen to it and make sure it discharges okay. It's just a matter of operating it to hear it and see that's operating okay.

Kelli: What are some tips that a homeowner can do to help a sump pump do its job?

Tom: That's a really great question because we talked about the sump pump being the first line of defense, but actually the homeowner has some options open to them this time of the year in the spring.
A lot of the gutters on houses are filled with leaves or blown debris from over the winter. If the gutter is plugged, any rain you get will fill up the gutter and the overflow dumps that water right next to the house. First off is make sure you got clean gutters and that should be done twice a year usually in the spring and in the fall.

Second thing is to make sure the downspouts are discharging the water away from the house at least four or five feet. Next thing is just to check the elevation and condition of your window wells. We find that a lot of people have excess water in their basement because the window wells can separate from the foundation and create cracks. Usually in the bottom of the window well is a gravel layer that goes down to the tile, if that's full of leaves and other debris than is just going to hold water. You want to make sure those are cleaned out. Another major one is make sure the soil actually slopes away from the foundation of the house. So it's not sloping towards it or that there's low spots. The last thing is just make sure that the discharge in the sump pump gets away from the house and flows away from it.

Kelli: Thanks for joining us today Tom. For more information on operating your home's sump pump search for "NDSU Extension sump pump tips." This has been Sound Ag Advice a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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