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Foundation drains are pipes that are installed under your foundation or basement floor to collect water and move it off-site to prevent your basement from filling with water.
If your home was built after 1920 it likely has a network of pipes under the basement floor called foundation drains that are supposed to pick up groundwater before it can seep into your basement. If your house was built before 1954 (approximate date), your foundation drain is likely directly connected to the sanitary sewer near your floor drain through a fixture called a palmer valve.
Foundation drains that are directly connected to the sanitary sewer work well and require no maintenance, but they also add a lot of clear water to the sewer which greatly increases the chances of a basement backup for you and your neighbors. Houses built after 1954 are required to have the foundation drains directed to a sump pump that sends the water to your lawn or to the storm sewer.
If you do have a sump pump, there are a few things that you can do to minimize the chance of water in your basement and keep your pump functioning efficiently and reliably.
Doing so can significantly increase the risk of basement backups for you and your neighbors during heavy rain by slamming a lot of excess water into the sanitary sewer system when it's at or near capacity.
Always make sure the discharge pipe from your sump pump is at least six to ten feet away from your house. Your discharge pipe may go into another pipe underground that usually drains into a storm sewer. If you are not sure if the discharge pipe from your home is connected properly, call the plumbing inspector for your city or village.
To learn more about MMSD’s private property program to help homeowners rehab private laterals.
Test your sump regularly, spring is a good time to test this before the snow melts.
1. Remove the cover
2. Is the basin dry?
If the basin is dry and you have no problems with basement water seepage, congratulations! You have a dry location and not much to worry about. (You should still finish the sump pump test)
If the basin is dry and you have basement seepage, your foundation drains may be clogged. Contact a plumber to inspect.
The basin typically will have some water in it and you will likely see water trickling in through the connected foundation drains.
3. Pour water in the basin. The pump should turn on by the time the water covers the pump completely and before the basin is completely full.
*NOTE: If you have standing water in your basement or pooled water around your sump pump and / or electrical fixtures, DO NOT TRY TO DO ANYTHING! CALL A PROFESSIONAL PLUMBER!
4. Sump pump doesn’t turn on?
If you can’t determine why the pump is not working, call a professional (plumber or electrician).
REMEMBER TO PLUG THE SUMP PUMP BACK IN AND REPLACE THE COVER!
If you already have a sump pump, it's a good idea to have some type of backup system installed in case you lose power during a storm. There are several to chose from with a wide range in price.
Most battery backup systems are equipped with alarms to notify you if the main power goes out and the backup system is operating. Battery backup systems are not designed to run for long periods of time, but they may buy you enough time to borrow a portable generator or for the electric company to restore power to your home.
When you lose power at home, your sump pump will not run without a backup system. Unfortunately, the water will keep flowing into the basin and the most likely time for a power outage is during a storm. You have three options for providing backup for your sump pump.