Sump Pump Maintenance Check

Water damage is one of the worst problems the average homeowner will have to deal with. Irreplaceable possessions can be completely destroyed, cleanup is difficult and expensive, and the musty smell can linger for weeks. And in the battle against water damage, your home’s sump pump is the often unsung hero keeping disaster at bay.

If you’re a new homeowner who is just learning the ropes of home maintenance, you might not know if your home has a sump pump or where it’s located. But it’s important to get to know this device and how to take care of it throughout the year because it’s your most important defense against basement flooding.

What is a Sump Pump?

In a home with a basement, a sump pump typically sits in a small sump “pit” at the lowest point of the basement floor. The job of the sump pump is to catch groundwater that seeps in through a foundation drainage system and pump it away from the home, either into a storm drain or a nearby area that drains naturally. During rainy seasons, flooding events and even plumbing-related floods, a working sump pump can evacuate hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water per hour.

Types of Sump Pumps

Residential sump pumps fall into two broad categories: submersible and pedestal.

  • Submersible pumps sit in the wet sump pit all the time, which makes maintenance a messier job and adds a lot of wear and tear. They are, however, much quieter than pedestal pumps.
  • Pedestal pumps are cheaper, longer-lasting and easier to maintain, but the noise they produce during pumping may make them impractical for many homes, especially those with finished basements.

Sump Pump Backup Systems

Beyond the basic choice of submersible vs. pedestal, you have more choices when it comes to backup pumps. Though not all sump pumps have accompanying backup systems, it is very important to choose one that has this feature — if the main pump fails for any reason, including a power outage, the backup pump should save the day.

Many sump pumps have a fully integrated battery backup system that self-charges while the power is on so that it can operate even when the power is off. Other models may require you to supply your own battery, often a car or boat battery. Another type of backup system connects to your home’s plumbing and uses water pressure to keep groundwater moving when the electricity is off.

Whichever type you own, you should familiarize yourself with the maintenance and replacement schedules that are specific to your model. Maintenance steps can vary, especially when it comes to taking care of those ever-important backup batteries.

Sump Pump Annual Maintenance Checklist

Keeping your sump pump in tip-top shape is a small job — so small it’s easy to overlook. Since the consequences of sump pump failure can be huge, it’s recommended that you maintain your sump pump at least once per year, ideally during spring cleaning, when seasonal rains really put the pump to work.

Here’s your essential sump pump maintenance checklist:

  1. Make sure your primary pump is connected to power and turned on. If your pump is plugged into an outlet rather than hard-wired, make sure the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) on the outlet has not been tripped.
  2. Test your pump for functionality by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on automatically and pump the water away in seconds. Sump pumps use a float to detect water, and this float can become stuck due to dirt and sediment. So if your pump is powered on but doesn’t start pumping during the test, try to loosen the float before calling for service.
  3. Disconnect and clean the pump. Disconnect the pump from its power source and discharge line. Remove the pump from the pit and carefully clean all accessible parts of dirt, sediment and small stones. If possible, remove the grate at the bottom of the pump and clean it separately. If the sump pit is messy, clean up the area while you have the pump removed. Model-specific instructions on how to clean a sump pump may be helpful, but most pumps can be safely cleaned with a garden hose, paper towels and a stiff-bristle brush.
  4. Check the pump’s discharge line for obstructions. Small particles usually flow through, but sometimes small rocks get wedged in the pump, grate or discharge line where they can inhibit the flow of water.
  5. Perform model-specific maintenance to the battery backup system as needed.

In addition to annual maintenance, it’s worth testing your sump pump with a bucket of water at least once per month, especially during the rainy season. If something goes wrong with your pump, it’s better to find out during a controlled test than during a heavy rainstorm.

To help make a plan for replacement, check your sump pump’s original documentation (or find it online by searching for your model number) to see what replacement interval the manufacturer recommends. It may also be helpful to schedule an annual visit from a licensed plumber to inspect and maintain both your sump pump and water heater. Just be sure to remind your plumber of your sump pump’s age and ask for a professional opinion about when replacement is warranted.

When to Replace Your Sump Pump

No sump pump lasts forever, and your pump could fail due to old age in the middle of a major rain event. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to estimate your pump’s lifespan and replace it proactively.

As a general rule, submersible pumps last 5 to 15 years and pedestal pumps last 20 to 30 years. Frequency of use plays a large role in the lifespan of a pump, so if you live in a wet area with a high water table, expect your pumps to wear out on the lower end of that spectrum.

To help make a plan for replacement, check your sump pump’s original documentation (or find it online by searching for your model number) to see what replacement interval the manufacturer recommends. It may also be helpful to schedule an annual visit from a licensed plumber to inspect and maintain both your sump pump and water heater. Just be sure to remind your plumber of your sump pump’s age and ask for a professional opinion about when replacement is warranted.

Source:
https://www.directenergy.com/blog/how-to-maintain-your-sump-pump/

Snow Removal is Everyone’s Responsibility – Mike Holmes

Canadian weather can seem a bit unpredictable. One minute it’s sunshine and warm weather. Next thing you know we’re hit with a snowstorm. Don’t let the occasional spring-like day fool you — we are still in the middle of winter. And when you consider that insurance claims for damages related to winter storms can run into the thousands, knowing how to deal with ice and snow around your house is just smart.

One of the first things I tell homeowners is to keep snow away from foundation walls. The moisture from snow melting can slowly seep in. Remember, concrete is porous. So when you shovel your driveway, walkways and sidewalks, shovel snow away from the perimeter of your home. And make sure fire hydrants, gas meters and dryer vents aren’t covered by snow.

Enough snow on the wrong roof could cause it to collapse. The funny thing is that you want your roof to have snow. If the snow doesn’t melt, your attic insulation is doing its job. But if there’s too much snow and ice the roof can collapse. Flat roofs are especially vulnerable. Some municipalities even ask homeowners to remove snow from flat rooftops, overhangs and gutters — especially if the area has been hit with a few snow and ice storms.

Some homeowner will use roof snow shovels to remove the snow. These shovels are designed reach the roof from the ground so you’re not climbing up on the roof and risking a fall. But shovelling your roof from the ground also has its risks: One, you could damage your shingles. And two, the snow could come down on top of you.

If you need to remove snow or an ice dam from your roof call a professional contractor who regularly deals with these kinds of problems.

Most people worry about injuries happening on their property — and they should. You’re responsible for taking the proper precautions, because if someone gets hurt as a result of your negligence, you’re in trouble. That includes injuries caused by falling icicles, slips and falls. These are so common that there’s even an insurance category called “slip and fall” cases.

And if you think you’re off the hook because you’re a renter — you’re not. In some Canadian jurisdictions there’s legislation that includes “duty of care.” What that means is that the occupier of a home — it doesn’t matter if they’re just renting — needs to make sure the property is safe for anyone who has to enter it, such as the mailman or utility service reps.

Snow and ice are slipping hazards — everyone knows this. But shovelling might not be enough. You also need to think ahead. If the temperature drops below freezing or you know a storm is headed your way, apply a de-icer on your driveway, walkway and sidewalk. Spread as much as your property’s size requires. After the storm, apply more, along with some sand to add traction.

The most common de-icer is sodium chloride — what many people call road or rock salt. It’s the most inexpensive. But there’s also calcium chloride, urea, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride. Calcium chloride and magnesium chloride melt ice faster than salt, but they cost more. And calcium chloride is corrosive; it destroys grass roots. Urea and potassium chloride can be found in fertilizer, so they’re safe for your lawn. The problem is that urea can be corrosive, and potassium chloride damages concrete. And that’s not good.

I’m not a big fan of salt, and there are a number of reasons. One, it destroys your grass. Have you ever seen brown patches of grass at the end of driveways and along the sides? That’s because melted snow with salt in it got into the soil. Two, it can make your pet sick. When I take my dog Charlie out for a walk, sometimes he gets salt on his paws. Then when he’s back inside he starts licking them. The next day he’s throwing up.

The third reason is that salt works best only when the ground temperature is above -9C (15F). We’ve certainly seen temperatures lower than -9C this past week. Plus, salt is sensitive to temperature changes. The colder the ground temperature, the less effective it is.

And fourth, salt eats away at brick mortar. I’ve seen brick homes where every year the salt eats away more at the mortar, the voids climbing up from the ground with every passing winter.

I’d rather use sand or gravel over salt because they’re safer natural alternatives. But no matter what de-icer you decide to go with, make sure you read the package and follow instructions.

If you think about the risks, taking care of ice and snow is a no-brainer. Save yourself the trouble and stop any potential injuries Old Man Winter might bring to your doorstep.

Source: https://nationalpost.com/life/homes/mike-holmes-removing-snow-ice-is-everyones-responsibility

Winter Driving Tips

Winter driving can sometimes be a daunting task, especially when conditions are snowy or icy. If road conditions are dangerous, consider making alternate travel arrangements or postponing your trip until conditions improve.

Follow these steps to keep yourself safe and collision free during the next few blustery winter months.

Step 1: Make sure that your vehicle is prepared for winter driving.

  • Winter tires are a good option, as they will provide greater traction under snowy or icy conditions.
  • Keep a snow brush/scraper in your car, along with possible emergency items such as a lightweight shovel, battery jumper cables, and a flashlight.
  • Make sure that mirrors, all windows, and the top of your vehicle, are free of snow or frost before getting onto the road.

Step 2: Drive smoothly and slowly

  • Don’t make any abrupt turns or stops when driving. Doing so will often cause your vehicle to lose control and skid.
  • Driving too quickly is the main cause of winter collisions. Be sure to drive slowly and carefully on snow and ice covered roads.

Step 3: Don’t tailgate.

  • Tailgating becomes much worse in winter weather. Stopping takes much longer on snowy and icy roads than on dry pavement, so be sure to leave enough room between your vehicle and the one in front of you.

Step 4: Brake before making turns.

  • Brake slowly to reduce speed before entering turns. Once you have rounded the corner you can accelerate again.

Step 5: Learn how to control skids.

  • When skidding, you actually need to go against your natural instincts and turn into the skid and accelerate. Doing so transfers your vehicle’s weight from the front to the rear and often helps vehicles to regain control.

Step 6: Lights On.

  • Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

Step 7: No Cruise Control.

  • Never use cruise control if conditions are snowy, icy, or wet, because if your car hydroplanes, your car will try to accelerate and you may lose control of your vehicle.

Step 8: Don’t “pump” the brakes.

  • If your vehicle is equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), do not “pump” the brakes. Apply constant pressure and let the system do its work.

Step 9: Pay attention.

  • Manoeuvres are more difficult to make in the snow. Be sure to anticipate what your next move is going to be to give yourself lots of room for turns and stopping.

Source: https://canadasafetycouncil.org/winter-driving-tips/

How to get your house — and yard — ready for cooler weather.

The nights will soon get colder and the days, noticeably shorter. The kids will be back at school, and the leaves will start to show signs of fall colour. Before that happens, there are a few things you

Do a fall cleaning. While it’s still warm enough to keep the windows open, shampoo your carpets and give your home the once over. If you’re planning on painting or doing any minor renovations that will create dust, try to do it now. Indoor air quality is the worst in winter so a good scrub will help you breathe easy.

It’s a good time to do a little landscaping. Grass and tree roots are burrowing deeper to get ready for the big sleep, so now is a great time to seed and fertilize. Trim trees and bushes away from the house, as well as any larger limbs that could potentially break under heavy snow and cause expensive damage. Ensure that the grading will direct excess water away from your foundation — it’s an important step that will prepare you for the spring thaw and avoid costly foundation or basement damage.

Spring and fall are perfect times to poke your head into the attic. Make sure animals haven’t taken up residence and inspect the insulation. Make sure the soffits aren’t covered and that you have good airflow into the attic to avoid ice dams. Ice dams occur when warm moist air rising from your home causes ice and snow on the roof to melt, where it runs down and refreezes above the unheated areas (soffits) of the roof. The end result is water backing up under your shingles, causing damage to them and the roof framing.

As we head into colder weather, we tend to batten down the hatches and crank up the heat. It’s a good idea to have an HVAC professional come by to shut down the air conditioner and check the furnace to make sure everything’s in working order. You’ll want to change all of your air filters and clean any dust and debris out of your ducts.

Chances are your windows will be closed for six or seven months in the colder seasons, which means indoor air quality will suffer unless you have an HRV and secondary air filters in your system. If you have a humidifier built into your system, you’ll want to clean and test it — you want about 40 per cent humidity in your home in the winter to reduce condensation on windows and other cold surfaces, and to keep you healthy.

If you have a fireplace (specifically a wood-burning fireplace), inspect the damper and ensure you have a good seal to stop heat loss when it’s not in use. Have a professional check and clean the chimney if necessary, to avoid excess creosote build-up — a dangerous fire hazard.

Source: http://homeownership.ca/homeownership/fall-home-maintenance-tips/