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SUMP PUMP

 

Now while a sump pump is really not necessary in this house because it didn't look like it was ever flooded (due to weather a basement "sump pump" is a good thing to have in case a pipe breaks while you're not home. If you have furniture or electronics in the basement, it's a good idea to have a sump pump . This house came with one, but it was only partially installed, and the hole that it was in was full of rocks and sand (the plastic liner didn't have a bottom). What happens when a sump pump starts up and it's surrounded by rocks and debris? It tears itself apart in short order; that's what happens!

The first order of business was to get the debris out of the hole. After that, I dug up (vacuumed up) approximately a cubic yard of rocks and sand until I discovered that the sump-pump liner didn't have a plastic bottom. I knew this when the corrugated plastic sides ended, and dirt was all that was there.

The solution was to install a cement "floor" for the liner.... but how does one make a level "floor" 3 feet in a hole? You can't use a trowel to make the cement level because you can't get a trowel down that far, you have no point of reference (nobody's depth perception is that accurate) and the angle is wrong, and nobody's wrists bend backwards 90 degrees.

Aha! most people don't know this, but my late father taught me well.... cement "dries" under water. That's because cement is not "glue"; what "sets" it is a chemical reaction, not air evaporating the water. Cement doesn't "dry"; it cures. So, I went to Lowe's and got a 50-pound bag of Quick-setting cement. When I got back home, I poured the entire bag (dry) into the hole, which gave me about 4 inches all around. I then filled the hole with an equal volume of water, and stirred it for a few minutes with a long stick. Then to mix the cement really well, I used the exhaust hose on my wet / dry vacuum cleaner to "stir-the-turd" so-to-speak; blowing cement bubbles and splashing cement all over the sides of the liner. I ended up with a very "loose" mixture of cement, which, I figured, should settle evenly and level with the bottom of the hole. If it wasn't for the 4-foot deep hole, I would have had to jump in the shower immediately; as you can see the plastic liner is completely covered in cement. This will come off with a garden hose once it's dry.

After I "blew bubbles" into the cement mix with the vacuum cleaner exhaust, there was enough water on top of the cement so that anything that didn't get wet, would eventually get wet by seepage.  By using the Shop Vac exhaust to mix the cement and water, the cement became thoroughly mixed with the underlying layer of rocks and sand that were loose, and flowed into all the cracks and crevices between the liner and the dirt floor. There was approximately an inch of water sitting on top of the cement after I "stirred" it with the vacuum cleaner exhaust. Now, I waited.

After about an hour or so, the cement had leveled-out by itself, and set. The surface of it was smooth and level. Good foundation for the sump pump.

Diagram shows the difference between liners that have plastic bottoms, and those that are merely corrugated plastic tubes.

The diagram at the left shows the difference between a sump pump liner that has a plastic "bottom", and one that doesn't. Functionally, they're identical, but the one that has no bottom is cheaper and easier to install. If the sump pump liner is merely a corrugated plastic tube, as was the case in the house I just bought, the pump would be sitting on a layer of dirt. This poses two problems:

1) The pump is not sitting on a stable base, and erosion of the dirt bottom could possibly cause the pump to tip on its side.

2) Every time the pump activates, it would be pumping mud from the floor of the sump pump hole, and could possibly be damaged by small rocks and abrasive debris.

Four-foot lined sump-pump hole did not have a bottom to the liner. So I filled the bottom with quick-setting cement.

This is the sump pump hole in my house after I dug out all the loose rocks and debris, which amounted to about a cubic yard before I was able to see that the liner had no bottom.

Lying on the bottom in the photo is 50 pounds of quick-setting cement, poured in dry, and wet with an equal volume of water. It was "mixed" by initially stirring with a long stick, then "bubbled" using the exhaust-end of a Shop-Vac. The sides of the liner are spattered with loose cement from the "blow-mixing" process.

A layer of water on top of the cement after I got through mixing and stirring it with the exhaust end of a shop vac.

As the water seeps into the ground below the cement, the cement seeks its "level", distributing itself evenly across the bottom of the liner. Since the mixture is loose, the cement will seek to fill any small cracks in the liner, and will conform itself perfectly to the un-even surface ("floor") of sand and rocks it is sitting on. It will cure perfectly level if the mixture had enough water in it to be very loose when it was "mixed" in place.

Loosely-mixed cement will cure just as well as cement that is mixed in the conventional manner, so long as the components of the mixture are not permitted to wash away. In this case, there is nowhere for the lighter components of the cement mixture to go, and so the cement will cure perfectly level without anyone doing any fancy "trowel-work".

The photo shows the pump installed on a dry cement floor inside the "bilge hole".

The pump should be placed off-center as much as possible (yellow arrow) in order to allow the float switch (green arrow) full movement from the floor of the sump to its fully extended (floating) position. If the float switch gets "hung-up" in either direction, the pump will not work properly. If it gets caught on the side of the hole as the hole fills, the pump might not turn on when the sump is full. If the float switch gets caught as the water is being pumped out, the pump might never turn off (run continuously). The former scenario is a lot worse than the latter if you should have a leak or a flood.

There is a check valve (red arrow) right at the pump outlet. This valve allows water to flow only one way; away from the pump. This means that the output hose will always be full of water once the pump is activated.

Photo shows the pump just after it finished pumping out the entire sump ‒ which was filled to within 6 inches of the top. Some residual water always remains in a sump-pump system. it will seep into the concrete floor and evaporate.

The red arrow shows an adapter that was originally installed on the pump. In order not to misplace it, I used a tie-wrap to secure it to the pump handle; just in case it is needed later.

 

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Last modified: 05/29/15

 

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