How to determine if a sump pump will work in my basement.
October 25, 2007 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Would a sump pump help?

The first couple of years I lived in my house, my basement was dry. The past 3 years, however, water makes its way into the basement once a year - early spring. The melting snow, combined with some ridiculous amount of rain, results in the water table rising higher than my basement floor. The water creeps in from everywhere. There is this creepy whistling/seeping sound, and it just starts pouring in.

When this happens, I spend 2 to 3 days in the basement with a utility pump and a wet vac. It never gets deeper than 2 inches - mostly because I will not wait to see if it would get deeper. The 2 to 3 days is physically and emotionally exhausting because I have to go down there to work on it every 45 minutes to hour to work on it.

Anyway, my question is: if I install a sump pump, will it keep water out of my basement? I can't imagine that a submerged little pump would have a chance against the ground water level, but who knows. Is this the type of scenario that would call for a sump pump?

If the above answer is "yes, stupid - get a damn pump", then I have a few more questions:
- Does the fact that a house has a sump pump negatively affect the value of a house?
- Since I don't have public sewer hookup, I'm assuming the only option is to run an ugly tube across my yard. How far from the house do these things need to be?
- Would it be stupid to attempt to install something like this myself (rent a jack hammer, etc)?

posted by tom_g to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Yes, they can keep up, if sized correctly, so:
far away. 50 feet, at least. run it in a shallow groove.
Go for it. Have some friends over.
posted by notsnot at 6:17 PM on October 25, 2007

Here in deepest New Jersey, we would all float away if not for sump pumps. Even the feeblest sump pump could easily keep up with ground water you describe. This spring, we had 6 inches of rain in 24 hours, and no depth of water in the basement--just some wetness.

I would not chop thru a celler floor myself. Do you know how thick it is, what's under it (if there's a gravel layer, the water moves through it easily and your basement will be much drier that if these is the gloppy clay I live with). The well should be about a meter deep (you may need to reach into it to remove debris that is preventing the switch from working--isn't house-owning fun?)

There are saws that do a neater job of cutting concrete than jackhammers--they look like big circular saws and need two people to run--one sprays onto the saw as it cuts. There is probably yet more tech on this that I don't know, hence the this-is-not-do-it-yourself suspicion.

As for the value of the house--I have no idea, since all houses here have them.
posted by hexatron at 6:34 PM on October 25, 2007

How well this works isn't so much a question of whether the pump can keep up, which shouldn't be a problem, but how well the water gets into the sump so it can be pumped out. You could do your best to put the sump in a low spot of the floor so that water that does find itself above floor level drains into it. That will save you from ever having a measurable depth of water in the basement, but you'll still have wet areas. Actually keeping the basement dry would probably require more extensive (and expensive) work that starts with tearing out the concrete floor.

I think 50' of pipe outside the house is a little overkill in most situations. Mine goes out the wall and about 10' down a slight incline that runs away from the house.
posted by jon1270 at 6:38 PM on October 25, 2007

It won't keep the water out of the basement but once the water gets in it will pump it out

I suppose there is the off chance that it could negatively impact the value of your house, but much less so than the statement of "In the early spring, I spend 2 to 3 days in the basement..." made to potential home buyers would.

The distance from the house the hose will have to be will usually be governed by local building codes, but you'll be able to bury the hose.

"Would it be stupid to attempt to install something like this myself?"

How confident are you with electrical wiring diagrams? Because if it doesn't work, you may end up with 2 inches of electrified water in your basement.
posted by 517 at 6:43 PM on October 25, 2007

From current experience:

A sump pump will collect and transport some of the subterranean water away from the house so it will help some. Supposedly it works by reducing hydrostatic pressure on the foundation. But in my house it makes the difference on the side of the basement where the pump is located. That's the big problem area for me so it's a serious help. But I still get some water from other areas.

To answer your questions (to the best of my knowledge):

I don't know if it would affect home value. I can tell you that it was evident to our house inspector, when we bought our place, that there the basement was getting water in it.

How far away to run outflow away from the house depends on the grade away from the house. Generally same as your gutter downspouts, 3-4 feet. I am actually contending with the ugly tube myself. I've seen a lot of people submerge the tube so there is just a small exposure at the outlet. I've also been wondering if I could run it underground into a long enough French drain but I'm not sure if that's a good idea.

I sure wouldn't attempt a self-install, but you might give some idea about what level of home-improvement projects you've tackled before and maybe someone more experienced could suggest whether this would be in your range.

Things that helped in my case: Cleaning the gutters before rainy seasons. If they get clogged, in heavy rains they fill up and water just pours over the side. I thought that it was just the ground water level too but it actually helped a lot. Also, I bought extenders for my downspouts - look like giant bendy straws. They are ugly and I just don't care. The other exterior cures for flooding are regrading and french drains, which you could look up an consider.

My folks had a procedure done - there are several varieties of it, you might look around at "basement waterproofing" - where basically drainage was installed (like physically dug in) under the floor level around the perimeter which channels to a sump pump, then the floor was resurfaced. That cost a few thousand but it eliminated water entirely. I'll definitely go that way if we ever decide to fully finish the basement.
posted by nanojath at 6:44 PM on October 25, 2007

Fifty feet! ten feet! four feet! I guess that answer may depend on your lot. I live on a teeny inner city lot and if I ran it 50 feet it would be across the street and into the neighbors yard...
posted by nanojath at 6:49 PM on October 25, 2007

Yes it will work. a good sump pump can pump an awful lot of water. If you will rely on this pump to protect the house you need a backup though, either in a generator ($$$ because a sump pump requires a big generator, but it can perhaps power some other stuff in the house) or a boat battery backup sump pump (only if you don't get too much water over time). How far from the house? That is determined by slope. If the land slopes away from the house, a foot or two. If it slopes toward the house, infinity. Can you install it yourself? I put in the backup sump pump with little effort other than punching that hole through the wall (that will make you a little nervous but is actually pretty simple). Digging the sump is a bigger issue and they work best if you have a French drain to go with it and that is a really big job. Without the French drain the pump only addresses the local issue. If you don't know what these things entail, hire someone, if you do then you decide.
posted by caddis at 6:52 PM on October 25, 2007

I bought the cheapest sump pump that Home Depot had. The box says it moves 3480 gallons per hour. I suspect that's more capacity than your current method (and if it isn't, there is a sump pump that does have greater capacity than your current method). ISTM that everything else about it is better than your current method too (e.g. I don't have to do anything to make it go).

For property value, I think that it's the lack of a sump pump that would be a red flag (the fact that the basement is likely to flood is not going to be a secret to someone who knows how houses work).
posted by winston at 6:55 PM on October 25, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses.

Replacing a lightbulb is usually a big chore for me, so I'll probably look to hire someone. My wife will kill me if this is done in a way that destroys the yard by running a white pipe across it. I'll have to figure out a way to bury the pipe across the grass, and have it dump out in the trees on the lowest part of my lot.
posted by tom_g at 3:50 AM on October 26, 2007

I know a fellow who had a similar problem involving too much water flow toward the house causing basement flooding. He dug a french drain to cause the water to flow elsewhere and his problem was solved.

In his instance it was more water flowing through the basement than into the basement, though, so it was relatively easy to make it bypass the basement.
posted by wierdo at 6:12 AM on October 26, 2007

They're really not that expensive to have put in. I had a handyman quote me $150 to install a sump pump in my neck of the woods last winter.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:35 PM on October 26, 2007

« Older Doctor screwed up, now what?   |   DIY Filter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.