Many older homes were designed with inadequate basement waterproofing, this makes them more susceptible to flooding. Installing a sump pump is a good method for homeowners to protect themselves against damaging basement floods.
Sump pumps automatically switch on when the water level rises and pumps the unwanted water outside. If you consistently have water in your basement then the most practical solution might be to install a sump pump. This article will take you step-by-step through the process, but if you're not interested in tackling the task yourself, you may want to consider hiring a professional.
Do You Need a Sump Pump?
If the water in your basement is the result of poor outdoor drainage, then the problem is not with your basement's construction. But before installing a sump pump, you should check for for other issues that could be causing the problem.
- Check your gutters for clogs. Specifically in and around the downspouts. If water isn't able to flow freely it'll spill over your gutters and build-up around the edge of your basement. The most common cause of gutter issues, and also very easy to fix, is an abundance of leaves that build-up and prevent water to flow through your gutters and downspouts.
- Even if your downspouts aren't clogged, they still may be causing a problem. Check to make sure that the downspout is depositing the water 4 to 5 feet away from your foundation. In addition, check that the water isn't flowing back towards your home.
- Check the land surrounding your home. Make sure that the soil that surrounds your home (within 3 feet of the basement) slopes away from the house.
Once you've checked the outside of your home and feel confident that none of the above issues are causing the problem, then it's most likely that the leaking issue is due to the local groudwater level being too high.
When the groudwater level is too high it forces the water upward through the cracks in the foundation and into your basement. Couple this with poor basement waterproofing, and your best option is to install a sump pump.
How to Install a Sump Pump
Installing a sump pump isn't for everybody. You'll need to use some equipment such as a jack hammer to break through your basement floor. But if you enjoy DIY projects, these six steps can guide you through the process. However, you may prefer to hire a professional to do the job for you.
Step 1 - Before installing a sump pump you'll need to determine if it’s possible to do so on your land. Most of the homes built over the last 30 years were constructed on top of gravel, but you'll want to be sure (or as sure as you can be) before digging a sump pit in your basement.
If possible, you can get in contact with the builder of the home, or simply ask neighbors with homes built roughly the same time as yours. Unfortunately, in some cases, you won’t know what lies beneath your basement until you start digging your sump pit.
Another consideration when to dig the sump pit. Do not dig the sump pit during or shortly after the raining season. During this time the groundwater level is higher than normal. Digging a hole through the concrete foundation may cause water to rush into your basement without any resistance. Therefore, you'll want to install the sump pump during a dry season when the groundwater level is relatively low.
Next, you’ll need to determine the location for your sump pit. The ideal location is about 8” away from the basement wall in an area where you can punch a hole through a rim joist to get through the floor. Make sure the sump pit is well clear of the sewer line.
Some homes also have water lines running underneath the basement floor, which will present another obstacle. Most water lines that are under the floor enter from the street, typically 4 to 6 feet from the sewer pipe. If you’re at all unsure about where these lines are located, check the building codes in your area or employ the services of a surveyor.
Once you've determined the best location for your sump pump you can use the sump basin to trace an outline on the floor. This will guide you on how big the hole needs to be. A good rule of thumb is to leave a 3 to 4 inch gap around the basin when tracing to ensure the hole will be big enough. You can fill this gap with gravel and concrete once the sump basin is placed into position.
Removing the Concrete
Step 2 - The next step is to break through the concrete foundation. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use an electric jackhammer. Cut the concrete into manageable square pieces, about 8 – 12 inches in diameter, and then move the jackhammer at an angle to pry them up and carry them away in a bucket. Try to avoid shredding the concrete, as this will make clean-up a bigger job.
If you’re unable to get access to an electric jackhammer, you can make do with a hammer drill rigged with a masonry bit, a good sledgehammer, and a masonry chisel. Use the masonry bit to make holes every few inches in the concrete, then use the hammer and chisel to crack the concrete between the holes. As with the jackhammer, you'll want to cut the concrete into manageable pieces that can be removed.
Some floors may have a steel mesh installed in it, which will require a pair of heavy wire cutters or a metal grinder to cut through the mesh.
Digging the Sump Pit
Step 3 - Once the concrete has been removed, you can begin digging the sump pit. You’ll want to dig the pit 12 inches deeper than the sump basin, then fill the bottom of the hole with coarse gravel (use gravel with an aggregate of 3/8 to ½ inches) to promote good drainage. Make sure there's enough gravel in the hole so that the line sits flush with the basement floor.
It might be necessary to drill some holes in the sump basin to allow water to get inside and be pumped out. Make sure the diameter of these holes is smaller than the size of the gravel so that no gravel will enter the sump liner.
Insert the sump basin into the hole and place coarse gravel around the edges, leaving 6 inches between the gravel and the floor. Once the basin is in place, pour a 6-inch layer of concrete over top of the gravel. Mix one part cement, two parts sand and three parts gravel, and then add water. Use a trowel to smooth out the top so it’s flush with the floor and the liner.
Wait until the concrete has set (at least 8 hours) before moving onto the next step.
Installing the Sump Pump
Step 4 - Most sump pumps have a 1-½ inch diameter threaded discharge port, but refer to your pump’s instruction manual to be sure. Start by threading a 1-½ inch PVC male adapter into the port. Tighten it with pliers until it feels snug. Next, use PVC cement to glue a schedule-40 PVC riser to the adapter. The length of the riser will depend on the height of the pit liner you’ve installed. The top of the riser should be just above the top of the liner.
Place the sump pump inside the liner. Once the sump pump is in place you’ll need to set-up the check valve. The check valve is used to expel the water left in the tube after the pump turns off, which prevents the motor from burning out. The valve should come with rubber couplings and hose clamps. Be sure to position the valve with the arrow pointing up and then tighten the lower coupling over the riser with a screwdriver.
Step 5 - Create a path to feed the PVC from your basement to the outside of your house. The easiest way to do this is to bore a hole through the rim joist. Use a hole saw to cut a hole through your siding and rim joist. To make sure you drill in the right spot start by drilling a ¼ inch hole through the rim joist and siding from the inside. Find the hole outside and then use a 2 inch bit to drill the finished hole from the outside.
Next, assemble the PVC piping from the check valve to the hole you’ve created. Be sure to dry-fit the piping before gluing anything. Complete the seals with a caulking agent on both the inside and outside contact points. Once the pipe is outside, cut it so only ½ an inch is poking out. Then, glue a 90-degree elbow to the end of the pipe so it points downward. Connect a hose to the piping outside to take the water away from your home.
Test Your Pump
Step 6 - Finally, pour some water into the sump pit and test out your set-up. Check for leaks in the piping and make sure the water is being deposited away house and not flowing back towards your house.