When do most homeowners find out that their sump pump has failed? When it is too late! It is raining cats and dogs, rain water is contributing to the ground water and the water table is rising quickly. As the ground water level reaches the float activation set point. Regularly the sump pump will kick on and keep the water level below the basement slab, thereby alleviating the hydrostatic pressure below the basement floor.
Sadly, many homeowners find out the hard way that their sump pump is not working properly. The water table rises beyond a controllable level and hydrostatic pressure begins forcing water through floor cracks and floor/wall joints. The outcome is increased moisture levels inside the basement, which can lead to poor indoor air quality conditions, and in severe cases can lead to standing water filling up inside the basement causing havoc and misery.
The most important thing homeowners with basement waterproofing systems (sump pumps, basement drainage, etc.) can do is complete regular factory recommended maintenance procedures included in the manual that came with the sump pump. If a basement waterproofing company or local contractor/plumber installed the system they should have given you the original product manual. Many waterproofing companies offer annual maintenance to assist you in the maintenance of your sump pump(s) and waterproofing systems. It is highly recommended that if you decide to go forward with contracted maintenance that you ask lots of questions about how the company will service the system.
Regular maintenance should include removal of debris and obstructions from the sump liner and any cleaning of filters or screens that are attached to the sump pump. It is recommended that drains and sump pump systems are flushed with hot water regularly. This ensures that any debris or iron bacteria colonies do not build up and become obstructions to the flow of water. Do not run any type of hazardous cleaning chemicals (bleach, ammonia, detergents, etc.) through any drain or sump pump systems.
If your sump pump has a removable screen (usually at the base) most waterproofing professionals should remove them and use a wire brush to clean the impeller of the pump. Proper maintenance should also include testing of the sump pumps operation and the float switch (if applicable). Water discharge lines should also be checked to ensure that the water being pumped out is flowing freely and to an area that will not allow the water to seep back into the basement.
If open drains are part of your basement waterproofing system (bulkhead trenches, garage trenches, etc.) be sure to test them for efficiency frequently. If your basement waterproofing system includes a battery back-up, it should also be tested and maintained. Any open-cell batteries should be filled to factory recommended levels with distilled water.
As mentioned earlier in this posting, always follow the factory recommended maintenance procedures. It is recommended that you have maintenance completed at least twice a year. The most important times to maintain your waterproofing systems are after prolonged dormant times and before typical heavy usage times. Every area is different but experience with Massachusetts weather patterns has proven that February (Winter thaw) and September bring the most sump pump failure complaints.