Sump Pits & Pumps
by Steve Vacha
A wet basement can create a lot of problems and quickly lead to thousands of dollars in damage. A basement that lets in moisture from the exterior can also provide conditions for mold growth, creating health and breathing concerns. To address this concern many homes have sump pits.
A sump pit is installed in the lowest part of the basement. They are designed to work with perforated pipe that is laid in the soil/sand below the house prior to pouring the basement floor. Any water that gathers under the floor of the house finds its way to those pipes and drains over to the pit, instead of percolating up into the house. If enough water drains into the pit, a sump pump is installed to pump the water to the exterior of the home. These pits were installed in many homes beginning in the 80’s and are now generally required in new construction homes.
The above would be the normal sump pit found in most homes. Several items are important to note: The evacuation pipe should have a check valve at the pump end to keep the water from flowing back into the pit. An electrical outlet should be near the pit, (4-5 feet) and in new construction this outlet should be a designated. Finally, most cities’ requirements call for these sump drains to drain to the exterior of the home. Draining to the city sewer is normally not allowed.
There is another type of sump pit which acts as a reservoir to catch drainage from the plumbing system and/or condensate from the furnace. These pits are needed because the main drain for the home is at a level higher than the drainage from plumbing in the basement, requiring the drainage be pumped up to the main drain. Most of these are called grinder lift stations.
Waste from toilets, bathtubs, washing machines flows though the plumbing system into the grinder station pit or tank. These pits must be sealed and have the special pumps to handle the job. Once the wastewater reaches a certain level the pump will turn on, grind the waste into fine slurry, and pump it to the central sewer system.
I recently inspected a flipped house that needed a grinder station, but only had a normal sump pump with an unsealed pit. This would have caused problems for the new buyer, had it not been properly addressed, because of the obvious health hazards.
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