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Sump pumps provide peace of mind to residential and commercial property owners. Most of the time sump pumps do the job they’re intended to do, which is to prevent a basement from flooding by removing water that collects in the sump basin and extracting it through a hose to an exterior location. But when a sump pump fails, the results can be disastrous. A flood in your home or business due to a sump pump failure can be devastating. It can cause extensive permanent damage to your property and disruption to your home life and business operations if not cleaned and remediated right away. Not only that but if the water damage is not completely treated and dried, you could also find yourself with a secondary problem from mold and mildew.
What is a Sump Pump?
A sump pump is a submersible pump that sits at the bottom of a sump pit, which is typically installed at the lowest point in your basement or crawl space. Ground water surrounding your home’s foundation is channeled into a perimeter drain system installed at the base of the foundation. Water finds its way into the perforated drainpipes and is quickly diverted to the sump pit. The sump pump, which is triggered by a float switch, removes the water by pumping it to the nearest storm drain, dry well or detention pond. A sump pump turns on only when water inside the sump pit reaches a pre-determined level. Most new homes are equipped with sump pumps but older homes can be retrofitted with a sump system to prevent basement flooding.
Types of Sump Pumps
There are 3 types of sump pumps. The pedestal pump, submersible pump, and ejector pump.
If your pump sits on a pedestal and stands about 30 inches tall with a hose or pipe connected to the motor and extends down into a “sump pit,” you have a pedestal pump. This is a very common style of pump. The motor on a pedestal pump is not intended to be in the water. As the water level rises, it activates a “float switch” which activates the pump. Then, the water is pumped out through a pipe or hose out and away from the building.
If your pump actually sits on the bottom of the sump pit, you have a submersible pump. This pump is much smaller than the pedestal variety, usually standing about 12 inches high. Usually, there is a 4 inch rod extending up from the pump with a float device attached. When the water reaches the float it activates the pump. The water is sucked down through the bottom of the pump. A screen at the bottom of the pump stops gravel from being sucked in.
Most commonly found in crawlspaces, ejector pumps consist of pea gravel, this type of pump is able to handle small debris being sucked into the pump without damaging the impeller or other mechanisms within the pump.
Picking a Sump Pump
Manual vs. Automatic: In nearly all circumstances, an automatic sump pump is superior. The additional cost is minimal and the peace of mind is invaluable. Manual sump pumps are typically only used for catastrophic events such as river flooding. Of course, just because a sump pump is “automatic” doesn’t mean it will always work. The water sensing mechanism can easily malfunction due to clogging and render the unit useless.
Single vs. Primary W/ Backup: Recently, many homeowners have began installing sump pumps with a secondary backup unit. These two stage units were designed to address the fairly common occurrence of a mechanical failure. Unlike other household appliances, if a sump pump fails, it will usually lead to an extremely expensive flooding event. Thus, spending an extra couple hundred bucks on a backup unit is cheap insurance.
Normal vs. Battery Backup: What happens when the same storm that threatens to flood your basement also knocked out power to your home? Unless a battery backup is in place, the sump pump will fail. This is a fairly rare event of course, and many home owners elect to forego the extra protection. Base your decision on the likelihood of power outages. In the Pacific Northwest, where trees straddle every power line, power failures are common. However, in many locations, these are rare enough events to skip the battery backup.
Sewer vs. Storm Drain: In the past, sump pumps were just piped into the existing sewer line running out from the house. This worked well until the local water treatment plants ran out of capacity. In response, many municipalities created laws banning sump pumps from directing water into sewer lines. Why does this matter? Often, it is much more difficult to tie into a storm drain that a sewer line.
Why do Sump Pumps fail?
Sump pumps can fail for any number of reasons, including a power outage, lack of maintenance, mechanical failure, or improper installation. In some cases, a property owner may install a pump that is too small to adequately pump out the volume of water that enters the basin. While proper maintenance is key to keeping your sump pump in good working order, an extreme weather event can cause the pump to work overtime and either burn the unit out or overwhelm it with excess water.
Sump Pump Maintenance
Test your sump pump regularly to make sure it will operate when the next big downpour occurs. Test it by pouring a bucket of water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on, remove the water from the pit and shut itself off in a matter of seconds. Ensure that the float and the check valve move freely.
To clean your sump pit, remove any dirt, sand, gravel and other debris to increase the pump’s efficiency and prolong its life. Ensure that the discharge line opening is free of obstructions so that water can be pumped through the line and out of your basement or crawlspace.
Sump Pump Replacement and Repair
Like any equipment with moving parts, sump pumps will wear out over time and will need to be replaced. There is no general rule on how often a sump pump should be replaced since it depends on how often the pump operates.
When is a mold remediation professional necessary for a sump pump issue?
When a sump pump fails, mold growth often occurs as well. If this is the case, a certified mold professional is recommended. The necessity of a mold expert depends largely on the location of the sump pump. If it is located in a finished basement, and carpeting, drywall and contents are saturated, a mold professional is critical. If the sump pump is located in the crawlspace and the excess water simply pooled on the soil, an expert may not be called for.
by: Michael Allen
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Winter Weather and Water Damage
It is that time of the year again – Winter. This season brings cold weather and days when low temperatures lead to freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Freezing weather brings a different type of mitigation need – the kind where ice is the major culprit. Ice mitigation occurs more frequently and creates greater damage than is commonly thought. Unless we are talking about falling, many people view ice as somewhat innocuous. But it is not. When water freezes, its volume increases by approximately eleven percent (11%). This expansion exerts tremendous force, force sufficient to break concrete or even steel. As important as the initial damage, this is also an area where until the initial problem is repaired, damage will continue to accrue, and compound damages to property.
Winter water damage occurs most frequently where you would expect – plumbing. Pipes are especially vulnerable to the damage caused by expanding water found as trapped water freezes. The result of the freezing and expansion many times leads to the breaking of that line whether it is metal or plastic. The water lines that freeze first are usually those directly exposed to severe cold, such as outdoor hose bibs and water sprinkler lines. The second most common would be any plumbing located in unheated interior areas of properties such as in the crawl spaces, attics, and garages. Lastly, would be the areas of the home that have plumbing within the property, but located on the outside walls such as inside kitchen cabinets or bathroom walls and cabinets. Older homes are especially vulnerable to this type of loss in extreme cold weather because of lack of insulation and older plumbing.
back on the winter of 2015, much of our country, including the Northeastern United States, experienced one of the coldest winters on record. With temperatures hovering in the teens for days at a time and wind chills taking the temperatures below zero, property water lines were continually freezing and breaking, causing extensive water and ice damage. Some of these claims could have been avoided with proper preventative steps such as:
- Make sure all outside water hoses are disconnected from the hose bibs and properly stored away for next Spring.
- Maintain your home or business’s air temperature at no less than 55 degrees.
- If your heating system malfunctions or a winter storm causes power outages and it is not to maintain the indoor temperature as in #2, turn off the main water valve and drain the water out of all fresh water lines. If water lines sag or bow, it may be necessary to call a plumber to make certain all of the water is out of the system, especially if the building will be without heat for a lengthy period of time. A plumbing professional may even find it necessary to use compressed air to clear the system of water.
- If the property has been damaged by wind, inspect the damaged area for exposed pipes and cover them with insulation until the damage can be repaired.
Another common problem property owners can suffer in bitter cold weather is that of “ice dams.” It is extremely important during the winter months to monitor roofs during freezing rain, sleet, and snow.
When freezing rain, sleet, and/or snow accumulates on a roof, a cycle of melting and freezing occurs. In a perfect world, the snow and ice would melt, flow off the roof into the gutters, and then drain harmlessly to the ground. However, two key factors can interact with this cycle and cause problems: the outside air temperature and the temperature inside your attic.
Under the right conditions, the interaction of these two temperatures can result in a “perfect storm” of conditions leading to property damage. The warmer the attic, the more melting will occur. Normally, as stated above, this runoff would harmlessly drain to the ground. However, when the outside air temperature is very low, the temperature at the edge of the roof stays below freezing, causing the water runoff to freeze when it reaches that point. The resulting ice then forms a line, or “ice dam,” at the edge of the roof. As more snow melts, more water reaches the ice dam, where it also freezes, compounding the original ice dam. This cycle continues and the dam continues to increase in size, until the ice dam gets large enough to cause the melting snow to pool up behind. As this pool thaws and refreezes, it can force its way back under the roof shingles, causing them to distort, lift, and possibly tear. The ice which forces its way between and under shingles will then begin melting into the property’s attic. Ice dams are insidious in that not only do they damage your roof and attic with ice, but as the ice comes into contact with the warmer attic air, interior ice melts, causing water damage to the attic, insulation, and ceilings below.
Major Restoration Services
In the event a home disaster such as fire, water, or biohazard loss should occur, it is important for property owners to know where to turn. There are specific actions they can take in order to mitigate the damages to their property and we are there to advise them every step of the way.
Major Restoration Services is a full service mitigation and remediation firm. We specialize in mitigation and property remediation when a building is damaged by fire, smoke, and the resulting water loss. Our technicians are IICRC certified. We know what to do, what not to do, and how to take care of all of your clients’ needs. We can compassionately guide your customer through this extremely trying time.
Remember, regardless of who your customer chooses to mitigate their disaster, it is extremely important they seek immediate help from a professional licensed firm such as ours. The quicker a property is stabilized, the less damage they will suffer to their home and personal property, in the long run.
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Many of you know Doug Bowles from attending our Continuing Education courses. Doug is an expert in all things mitigation. Please enjoy his advice regarding hoarding and its mitigation.
As always, thanks for all you do.
Michael L. Allen
The Holidays are a wonderful and stressful time of year for many of us! Here is some information on how to make it a little less stressful and keep us all a little more prepared!
There are many different disasters that could hinder your family fun at this jolly time. However, Major Restoration Services is here to teach you some tips on how to prevent anything from happening in your hectic schedule this season.
The most common holiday hindrances we experience are house fires. It is easy to get wrapped up in other tasks while preparing a nice holiday dinner maybe leaving those lights on a little too long because they make your home look cozy and sparkly, but watch out! We don’t want the beautiful masterpiece you created to go up in flames! Nearly 47,000 fires happen over the winter holidays. The American Red Cross gives us some great tips on how to prevent these things from happening. Make sure you place Christmas trees, candles, and other holiday decorations at least three feet away from heat sources like fireplaces, portable heaters, radiators, heat vents, and candles. If you do have a Christmas tree be sure to purchase flame retardant metallic or artificial trees. If you do purchase a real tree make sure that it has fresh, green needles that aren’t easily broken. Keep live trees as moist as possible by giving them plenty of water. Make sure that light strings and other holiday decorations are in good condition. Do not use anything with frayed electrical cords and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Always unplug tree and holiday lights before leaving home or going to bed. Also blow out any candles you might have lit! Use only sturdy tree stands designed not to tip over. Train your pets and children to stay away from your decorations that could be tipped over like trees or Menorahs. An average of 40 home fires per day, over the holidays, are caused by children and pets playing near decorations! Keep anything that can catch fire – pot holders, oven mitts, wooden utensils, paper or plastic bags, food packaging, towels, or curtains – away from your stove top while making all that wonderful food! Designate one person to walk around your home/yard to make sure all candles and smoking materials have been properly extinguished after your guests leave. Make sure you test all smoke alarms before the big parties! Smoke alarms save lives! 
The weather plays a huge factor in our winter/holiday fun. Living in the Northeast like we do our winters tend to be a little unpredictable to and a little crazy. Luckily the CDC has some great tips on how to protect yourself and your loved ones during this blustery time of year! Install a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector. You never know when your power might go out and with all of us being indoors so much over the cold months carbon monoxide poisoning peaks. Make sure to water proof your home! This includes fixing any leaks in the ceiling and making sure your pipes are well insulated. Nothing is worse than having a frozen pipe burst right as your cutting into holiday dinner! Check your emergency supplies. You should have:
- Clean water
- Portable cell phone charger
- Extra Batteries
- Even having a small generator wouldn’t hurt!
Don’t forget to bring your pets inside! They are part of the family also! Watch out for snow. Make sure you are keeping an eye out on the snow that accumulates over the winter season. Not just on sidewalks but on your rooftops also! If it gets too heavy it could collapse! Trim all the trees with branches that hang over your house. They get heavy and frozen over the winter. You never know when one might snap off and cause roof or chimney damage. 
Preparing you for the Holidays
It is important to not only protect your home but to also protect yourself during the holiday season. Don’t take on too many tasks at once and stress yourself out! You want to be calm and coherent so you can keep everything in your home safe and you can stay in control. See if you can take some short cuts or find some easy new recipes for you and your loved ones to try together.
If you or anyone you know is struggling make sure you give them the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. Just showing that you care could make a difference. They are there 24/7 to take calls and save lives 1 (800) 273-8255. Have a safe and happy holiday season!
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