Robert Lamoureux has 40 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]

Robert Lamoureux: More trouble with the pumps

Question No. 1 

Hi Robert, 

I’m a new board of directors member with some construction experience, but none in plumbing. I was in our subterranean garage and saw these two little green sump pumps inside a massive pit that just doesn’t look right to me, though I’m not a plumber.

This was recently put in by a handyman and I’m thinking that he may have been in over his head. Given the garage size and layout, I’m thinking that these may be way too small to handle the job that will be required come the heavy rains.

The president of the board of directors tends to be “frugal,” and directed this handyman to install these, but I’m guessing it’s not enough. Can you speak on this, with your experience? 

Steve G. 

Answer No. 1 

Steve, 

The description of sump pump you’re using leads me to believe they may be Zholer or Barnes pumps. The pit you’re describing as massive — that alone tells me that large pumps are needed.

There will generally be a primary and a secondary pump. This allows for one to do all of the work, but in the event that it can’t quite keep up, the secondary pump fires up and assists. The setup is that the secondary would be a bit higher, so that it will only kick in when/if the primary is unable to keep up with the demand, so when the water level rises, the secondary pump begins. 

Another setup would be a float system, where each pump has a float but both are set at different heights to sense the water.

Both setups are good, but it is important that either are done properly for a good function and care of the pumps. I would get with this handyman and ensure that the sizing of the pumps was done correctly, and that the maintenance has been done on it.

The sizing is a calculation that involves the volume of water it will be moving, and the rise and run, which are the vertical and horizontal height/distances that the pumps need to push the water to its exit point. If this isn’t all considered and the right size pump(s) for the job, you’ll just have the same issue as though there is no pump at all. They just won’t be strong enough to get the water out of the garage.

The pump company or a plumber can do these calculations for you if provided the proper information, so I recommend you get with either to ensure that what was installed was sized properly. The sludge and debris that collects within the pit needs to be cleaned out and pumps tested prior to the rainy season, to ensure proper function when needed.

Skipping maintenance could lead to massive flooding, depending on the configuration of your property and where volumes of water would travel to. The debris that is collected needs to be disposed of properly, and if this handyman is working on these things, he should be fully aware of the protocol. If he is not, I recommend you get someone knowledgeable to do this, because improper disposal could lead to heavy fines. We are closer to the upcoming rainy season than not, so I would make this a priority or the homeowners association could be liable for water damages/repairs. 

Good luck to you.

Robert

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