Trained Eye

 
 
 

Cracks in Sump Pit

Question:

I read your column in the Free Press on Sundays with enthusiasm.

I have a problem with my sump pit that I need some advise on. I just bought a 1400 square foot bungalow in Whyte Ridge in July 05. The sump pump would go off several times per day which was not too concerning until recently. It has eventually gotten worse. When the temperature got below freezing I took off my hose, which was discharging the water onto the street and put a 5-foot-long 3" pipe on it, which is discharging the water into my backyard. The pump was now going off almost every 1/2 hour. I put another extension of 3" pipe on it to make it 10 feet away from my house. This has alleviated the frequency of the pump going off to about once per hour.

With the help of a shop vac I took out all the water from my pit one day and the cause of the water is 2 small cracks in the bottom of the pit. These cracks are allowing ground water to seep into the pit from below. The pipes coming from the weeping tiles are dry.

I inquired with a plumber, a manufacturer of sump pits, and an installer of sump pits. They all said they have never heard of this cracking of the pit. They all said it was a good thing though because it is getting excess water from under the slab. They all did not know of a product with which to "patch" the pit. And all suggested I leave it as is unless I wanted to install a whole new pit system for about $1600-$2000.

My concern is in the spring thaw. And the amount of water I am putting into my back yard. I would like to try and patch the bottom of the pit to seal it off but am unsure what product I could use and do not think it would be 100% successful anyway.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I understand this is more of a nuisance issue at this point but the root of the problem will not go away and must be dealt with in the future at some point.

Thank you.

Answer:

Despite the fact that your sump pump is engaging frequently and causing excess water in your yard, it is working as designed and I agree that little should be done to fix or change the pit. In my opinion, the cracks in the pit are not much of an issue, but location of discharge of the water may very well be a concern.

Sump pits in newer homes (mid 80’s and newer in Winnipeg) function to allow excess ground moisture, drained through a plastic weeping tile system from around the foundation, to collect inside the home. A sump pump is installed in the bottom of the pit connected to a discharge pipe that recycles this water back outside the home. This system replaces the catch basin, in older homes, that drained this excess moisture directly into the municipal sewer system. The main reason this old method was replaced was to prevent overloading of the sewers, during spring thaws and heavy rainstorms, and eliminate potential sewer backups. Like any mechanical system in the home, it will only function at its optimum with regular inspection and maintenance.

Small cracks in the bottom of the plastic pit beneath your basement floor slab may be the cause of the excess water in the pit, but I agree that this may be a positive rather than a negative thing. Some sump pits are intentionally installed with small holes drilled in the sides to purposely let ground water below the floor slab drain. The cracks may be performing this same function, by accident. This will help collect excess moisture, which left un-drained, could cause excessive heaving and cracking of your concrete slab, which is very common in newer homes. I would not attempt repairs unless the pit is badly damaged and in danger of collapse or buckled inward excessively.

The real issue is the draining of the water from the discharge pipe on the exterior of your home. You are correct to disconnect the small flexible hose in the fall to prevent freezing, but this may allow moisture to collect directly outside your foundation. You have found another creative way to drain this water, with a larger diameter pipe loosely connected and easily removed, but the location of termination may be flawed.

In most new areas without back lanes, the grading of the lot is toward the front street. There should be a swale created between your home and the one next door by this grading and a typical sloping of soil away from the homes. If this swale slopes to the front street, then your temporary drain hose should be extended into this swale. You can extend it to empty into the front yard section of the swale, rather than the street, and this will allow better drainage. You may still have a partially frozen puddle in your front yard, but this water should not run toward the house. If you discharge this water into your back yard, draining toward the foundation is a possibility and one that should be avoided.

The good news is that as the ground freezes, with colder winter temperatures, the sump pump discharge should slow to a minimum or stop completely until a thaw occurs. When this slowdown happens, the temporary hose can be removed, and one or two infrequent discharges next to the house will cause little problem. In the Spring, the small diameter hose can be reconnected and drained onto the front yard lawn.

 

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