Is Your Sump Pump Frozen?



Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s episode of “How NOT to Call the Plumber!”. I hope you can take 3 minutes to read today’s post - with all of the snow we’ve had, we’ve been seeing a common issue over the past couple of weeks that has the potential to cause thousands of dollars in damage if left untouched. For a couple of unlucky customers, it already has!


I’m sure many of you have read my previous posts about sump pump maintenance and what your different options are for protecting your home from rising groundwater, however this is something we haven’t spoken about before! Many of us think that our sump pumps are something that hibernate in the winter, just to awaken again in time for the spring thaw. While that time of year puts a major load on your sump pump (and don’t worry, I’ll be back to nag you to take a look and make sure all is working properly in a couple of months), the sump pump in your home is something that needs to be properly functioning all year round.


What we’ve been seeing over the last two weeks isn’t necessarily an issue with the pump itself, but with the pipe that transports that groundwater to the outside of your home. With all of the recent snow and freezing temperatures, we’ve seen the discharge pipes (called the “force mains”) becoming blocked subsequently freezing. As you may have guessed, this isn’t good news.


This poses two issues. The most obvious is that the rising groundwater inside your home has nowhere to go as the discharge pipe is blocked. Eventually, this will lead to the water overflowing the sump pit and finding it’s way to your basement floor. The other problem is that the pump is going to continually try to pump this water out, eventually burning out the pump altogether. Now you don’t have a functional discharge pipe OR pump!


So, what do I need you to do? This weekend, make the trek into the snowy backyard (or wherever your sump pump discharges), and make sure that the discharge pipe is clear of snow. Also, check that the pipe has not bowed in the middle in a way that would allow water to sit in it and freeze. Next, go down to the basement and give the sump pump a check – is it humming or warm? If it is, it’s likely that it’s trying it’s best to pump the water out, to no avail. As best as you can, try to identify where there could be an ice blockage and break it up to allow free flow of water again. If you can’t get it, unfortunately it may be time to call the plumber!


Lastly, what can we do to stop this from happening again? There are two steps we should take:


First, the major issue here is that the discharge piping is done incorrectly in the first place. If not corrected, this will happen year after year until it is fixed. For a permanent solution, unfortunately the only way to do things properly is to have the piping redone in a way that will work as intended! This usually involves re-piping the discharge pipe in a way that will allow the groundwater to flow away from the house and into some sort of drainage area (also removing any potential for ice blockage). Customers often opt to have this drainage area underground so that they do not have to worry about ice buildup, etc.


Secondly, we’ve spoken before about backup systems for your sump pump. These are an extremely good investment for a couple of reasons - not only will they save the day in the event of a power outage or pump failure, but they also come equipped with an alarm to tell you something isn’t right. When the water level rises to a set level, the alarm will go off to notify you that something isn’t right. This gives you some time to get things sorted before disaster strikes!


That’s all for this weekend! I hope this was valuable to you and potentially saved a few of you from flooding! We’ll see you next time 😊.

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