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Winter Sump Pump Maintenance

Geoff Burke | Watermark Plumbing Services Inc.

Winter Sump Pump Maintenance

Geoff Burke | Watermark Plumbing Services Inc.

Our resident plumbing expert, Geoff Burke, wants to help you avoid an unnecessary house call from a plumber. He’s here to share some tips for caring for your sump pump during the winter months.

How NOT to call the plumber 
Hi everyone, welcome to this month’s instalment of “How NOT to Call the Plumber”. With all the snow we’ve had recently, we’ve seen a common issue arise for our clients. One that has the potential to cause thousands of dollars in damage if left untouched. For an unlucky few, it already has!

Perhaps you’ve read my previous post about sump pump maintenance. In it, I outlined the options are for protecting your home from rising groundwater. Today’s topic is in the same vein, but this is something we haven’t spoken about before. Many of us believe our sump pumps lay dormant during the winter months. That they spring into action in time for the thaw. While spring is the time of year when your sump pump works overtime, it’s important to ensure that it’s functioning properly all year round.

The potential issue I want to highlight doesn’t have to do with the pump itself, but with the discharge pipe.
So what is the discharge pipe anyway? It’s the pipe that transports groundwater from inside your home to the outside. With all the snow this year, we’ve seen more discharge pipes get blocked and then freeze. As you may have guessed, this isn’t good news.

A frozen discharge pipe presents two issues.
The most obvious is that rising groundwater inside your home will have nowhere to go. Over time, this will lead to the water overflowing the sump pit and finding its way to your basement floor.
The other problem is that your pump doesn’t know there’s a blockage. It will continue to try pumping water out and eventually, your pump will break down.

So, how do you avoid a freezing discharge pipe? Figure out where your discharge pipe drains and ensure that the opening is clear of snow. While you’re out there, make sure the pipe hasn’t bowed in the middle in a way that would allow water to sit in it and freeze. Next, go down to the basement check the pump itself. Is it humming or warm? If it is, it’s likely working double-time to pump water out to no avail.
As best as you can, try to identify where the ice blockage could be, and attempt to break it up. If you can’t get it, unfortunately, it may be time to call the plumber.

What can we do to stop this from happening again? There are two steps that can be taken.

1. A frozen discharge pipe indicates your pipe wasn’t installed correctly in the first place. If not corrected, the issue will reoccur year after year. Unfortunately, the only permanent solution is to hire a plumber to re-lay the pipe to direct the groundwater to a more desirable drainage area. Many of my customers opt to have this drainage area underground. This helps avoid ice build-up in the future.

2. Install a backup system. This is a great investment for a few reasons. Not only will a backup system save the day in the event of a power outage or pump failure, but they come equipped with an alarm to tell you when something isn’t quite right. When the water level rises to a set level, the alarm will go off. Giving you time to get things sorted before disaster strikes.

I hope this advice will save at least a few of you from a flood. We’ll see you next time.

Still need a Plumber?

Reach out to Geoff at Watermark Plumbing Services Inc.

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