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sump pump

Although many older homes in California do not have basements, they are becoming more common throughout the Golden State. If you’re one of the lucky Californians to have a basement, you may have a sump pump to protect your basement from flooding (and if you don’t have a sump pump, it’s something to consider investing in). In this blog, we’ll look at the history of basements in California, the specifics of sump pumps, and how to clean a sump pump.

Basements in California Homes

California homes with basements are rare, but why? Following World War II, there was a major housing boom in California that necessitated quick development. In order to speed up construction, developers would forgo basements, although some homes have what are known as “California basements” – small ones just big enough to house a water heater, HVAC systems, circuit breakers, and so on.  

Another reason basements are rare is that earthquakes are common in California. Today, we know that basements are a safe place to get out of harm’s way in the event of an earthquake, but builders did not know that back in the day. So, if you own or buy a west coast home built between 1945 and 1980, chances are it will not have a basement, or simply have a small one. 

Today, basements that are made for dwelling, relaxing, or perhaps a “man cave” are being added to new developments. These basements must be built in accordance with the International Residential Code (IRC) and the amendments made by the state of California (Sections R401 & R402). If these basements are built to code, there’s no reason to consider them unsafe when there is seismic activity. And, in these homes with basements, you’ll want to have a sump pump.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a system designed to remove water from your basement caused by storm runoff, a broken pipe, or other flooding factors. It consists of a sump, which is a pit dug at the lowest point of the room it’s protecting, a drainage tank where water can safely accumulate, and the pump itself.

So how does a sump pump work? As water enters the room, it flows downwards into the sump. Once the sump has collected enough water, the system activates and pumps the collected water away from the foundation of your home.

Types of Sump Pumps

Sump pumps come in pedestal and submersible versions. The motor for the pedestal type sits on top of the tank, making it easier to service but visible. The submersible motor is mounted inside of the tank, making it more difficult to service but keeping it hidden from view.

In addition, sump pumps can be electric or manual. Electric sump pumps automatically activate once the water reaches a certain level (be sure to also have a battery backup sump pump). Manual sump pumps have to be turned on when you want water removed, which doesn’t do you much good if the damage occurs while you’re away from the house.

How to Clean a Sump Pump

Have a smelly sump pump? First, be sure it’s not raining or expected to rain; you don’t want any water coming into the area while you’re cleaning the sump pump. Then, gather all the items you’ll need:

  • Tarp or plastic sheeting
  • Scraping tool
  • Large bucket
  • Garden hose
  • Wet/dry vac

Now, let’s get cleaning! The task should be performed yearly and ideally, before the rainy season. Thankfully, it can be accomplished in just 7 simple steps.

  1. Unplug the sump pump or turn off the circuit breaker. Sump pump repair or cleaning, while it’s connected, is very dangerous.
  2. Wrap the pump in the plastic tarp/sheeting and put it in an area that will allow you to access all sides for easy cleaning.
  3. Spray the pump with the garden hose to remove loose residue.
  4. Use the scraping tool to remove stubborn stuck-on debris and then rinse it off.
  5. Drain the check valve, catching any water in your bucket. 
  6. Use the wet/dry vac to remove standing water from the sump pit. 
  7. Reconnect the sump pump and place it in the sump as it was before you began cleaning. Reconnect the sump pump to the power source, and voila! You have a clean sump pump.

Need Sump Pump Repair or Sump Pump Installation?

Regularly cleaning your sump pump should help keep it functional for the long term. Of course, things happen. If you need sump pump repair – or if you don’t have one and are looking for sump pump installation – contact the professionals at Express Sewer & Drain. Our Sacramento plumbers have always got you covered for both residential and commercial plumbing needs!

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Topics: Home Plumbing