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Sump pumps are devices that help keep properties safe from damage by removing excess water from around a building's foundation. It is vital, however, to test and maintain sump pumps regularly to ensure they are working properly when you need them. Sump pumps should be inspected and tested 2 – 4 times per year, including once in the fall prior to the ground freezing and again early in the spring. This should be accompanied by cleaning out your backwater valve.


Testing your sump pump

Step #1: Locate your sump pump discharge pipe, which drains water from the pump to outside the building. Inspect it to ensure it is not clogged with dirt or debris, and to verify it is directing water a minimum of two metres (6.5 feet) away from the property's foundation.

Step #2: Locate your sump pump. It is typically installed in the basement or crawlspace near the walls of the foundation. Remove the sump pump lid.

Step #3: Look inside and find the float valve that toggles the sump pump to start. Lift the float valve. You should hear a humming noise, which means your sump pump has started. If it doesn't kick on, check the circuit breaker. If the sump pump has power but is failing to start, contact a licensed plumber.

Step #4: Fill a five-gallon pail of water and dump it in the sump pit. It may require more than one bucket to activate your sump pump. If the sump pump correctly turns on, you should be able to see the water level decrease.

Step #5: Check outside to verify water is flowing out of the discharge. This will indicate whether you have a clog in the line that needs to be removed.

Sump pump maintenance

Longevity: Sump pumps reliably last between 7 – 10 years. Regular testing and maintenance can extend their lifespan and keep your basement dry.

Battery backup: During a powerful storm, it is not uncommon for properties to lose electricity. Unfortunately, this is also typically accompanied by periods of heavy rain when you need a sump pump most. A battery backup unit can provide temporary power to your sump pump to keep it running during outages. Although run-times vary by battery size and usage, most fully charged batteries will last roughly 5 – 7 hours of continuous pumping and 1  – 3 days of intermittent pumping.

Preventing harmful debris: Sump pumps should sit on a solid, steady surface, such as a flat brick — not on gravel or silt, which can be sucked into the pump and damage the motor. The sump base should also be encircled with a filter fabric.

Keep it visible: Avoid piling items on top of or in front of a sump pit. The sump pump should be kept rapidly accessible at all times. 

Avoid frozen lines: If a sump pump pipe is frozen, a portable heater can be used to thaw it. Never use a blow torch or pour anti-freeze into the pump. If you are unsure how to thaw the line correctly, contact a professional contractor for help.

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