How much sump would a sump pump pump if a sump pump could pump sump?

The title of this post has been in my head for years. I think it came from a comic strip years ago…For Better or For Worse, maybe….

Anyway, let’s talk sump pumps.

Well, not quite. It’s more a drainage thing.

When we moved into this house, the sump pumps on both sides of the duplex needed replacing, and we got it done. At the time there was a back-up sump system that was battery powered, but the guy who replaced the main pumps switched out that system with a back-up called SumpJet, which is powered by the municipal water supply. Both pumps reside in the pit, with the main electrical pump doing its thing periodically as normal. But if the main pump doesn’t work–usually because of a power outage–a float attached to the back-up pump rises, and when it gets high enough, it opens a valve which allows municipal water to flow through a dedicated line, and as that stream passes the pump, the speed of the water moving through a valve creates a pressure differential that the pump uses to suck water up and out of the pit.

No, I do not entirely understand the physics there. It’s called a Venturi Effect, I think.

But we had a problem with drainage.

The plumber back then (whom we don’t use anymore, because he re-focused his business) actually dug up and replaced all of our storm drain lines, and he connected the main sump pump directly to that storm drain, so that water just goes all the way away. The back-up, unfortunately, he set up to simply discharge right outside the house. This, it turns out, was the wrong thing to do; if you discharge your sump water right by the side of your house, the water sinks right down the side of the foundation to find its way right back to the sump pit. Not only is this bad for your foundation, but rather than evacuating water completely, the back-up pump ends up running continuously as it is now actually recirculating water, not removing it.

That recirculating did result in a minor bit of basement flooding one time, when the power was out long enough that the pit accumulated more water than the back-ups could vacate. Eventually we got the back-up pump on my parents’ side connected to the storm drain on their side, but the one on our side still discharges incorrectly.

That is, until now!

Here’s the discharge set-up in a kinda-sorta “before” shot. I say “kinda-sorta” because I didn’t think to take a photo before I cut the drain pipe. The piece lying on the ground was a part of that truncated pipe, and you can see here that the water discharged right there, just inches from the foundation.

What I did was pretty simple: I cut the pipe and then I used a flexible coupling to attach a ten-foot length of PVC to the discharge, so now if the back-up pump operates, the water will be dumped ten feet from the house. Here’s the new set-up:

I really hope this works. I don’t want to have a power outage to find out, but…well, the weather report seems to indicate that this is a particular weekend where I really want to have this particular repair in the rear-view mirror. We’ll get this fixed “correctly” some day, probably in spring or summer, but for now I’m hoping this leads to some peace of mind.

(What’s funny about sump pumps is that I never thought of them at all until we lived in a house that has one. I swear sump pumps were invented by a cruel sadist.)


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