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Old 11-28-2012, 06:40 PM   #1
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Dry basement but water not going to sump pump

I have lived in my house for 4 yrs and never heard sump pump come on. I have also never had water in the basement despite some seriously bad rain storms and Hurricane Sandy. What is puzzling is that I have a walk up basement with a parameter drain. A contractor recently tried to get the pump to come on and dumped nearly 40 gallons of water in drain, yet it didn't come on. He couldn't open the sump pit because it is sealed by the radon system and he wasn't allowed to crack it. He did however use a camera in the drain and said the pipe wAs good. So what gives!? My wife and I are scared that this is costly. Where is the water going!? Is it harming anything? It isn't entering the basement. It's bone dry. I am going to get someone out who can troubleshoot but I'm looking for advice in the meantime. Thanks all!


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Old 11-28-2012, 07:04 PM   #2
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Sounds like the soil around the house has good drainage. If that's the case, and you have a perimeter drain, you'd have to dump quite a bit of water in there to get the pump to kick on. If the foundation is (guestimating) 40' x 25', that's a perimeter of 130 feet. Every 18" of 4" pipe will hold one gallon of water. So you'd have to dump at least 87 gallons of water in just to fill the perimeter drain pipe before the water even starts to rise in the sump pit.


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Old 11-28-2012, 07:16 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply. I think I should clarify since I don't know what I'm talking about... The drain I'm calling a "parameter" drain is just a drain at the bottom of my steps. It doesn't go around the house or at least I'm assuming it doesn't. I'm assuming it is a straight shot from drain to pump which would be about 24 feet. I have other drains too one in each window well. Maybe these are all connected daisy chain like or are they all straight shots? Thanks again for your help
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Old 11-28-2012, 07:22 PM   #4
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Your pump will only come on if the groundwater level rises to the point where the float is set to turn on. Just because you have a pump and a sump pit does not mean you need one, it could have been installed as a precaution. The type of drain that runs around the house is called a perimeter drain, it sounds like perhaps you have an area drain, which is designed to drain a small area. As to why the area drain would be connected to a sump pit which cannot be opened, that is totally mysterious.

If you cannot open the sump pit, you could never verify that the pump was working, you could not adjust the floats, and you certainly could not replace the pump if it failed. Pretty strange system if you ask me. Are you sure the sump is intended to have a pump in it? Sounds like it could be for the radon system. A few pictures might help to understand what you have.
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Old 11-29-2012, 06:16 AM   #5
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I am pretty sure it is meant to be a sump pump. It has a drain pipe that leads to the outside and my neighbors have one. I suspect the previous owners found that radon levels were high and had a radon company install a radon mitigation system which leverages the sump pump pit. The contractor who was here said the same things you did and wondered how this is a good design for home owners! So what I'm going to do is have someone qualified to find out what the deal is. But my my main concern is about where the water is going...

Could it be causing damage to my foundation? We have horrible thoughts that it is moving dirt and making things unstable.....

Last edited by Grettman; 11-29-2012 at 06:33 AM.
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Old 11-29-2012, 07:32 AM   #6
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All perimeter drain systems will soak the water into the ground immediately underneath during dry conditions. The ground should be stable enough while the water table rises and falls and this is usually true for parts of the ground undisturbed on day one when the foundation was put in, and for parts of the ground adequately compacted during construction.

The purpose of the system is to allow the water, should the water table rise far enough, to be taken away (using the sump pump) before it comes up onto the basement floor.

A perimeter drain system is also an excellent way to collect and exhaust radon gas if it can be sealed. But it should be easy to remove the pit lid as needed for inspection (and reseal it).

Originally Posted by Daniel Holzman
As to why the area drain would be connected to a sump pit which cannot be opened, that is totally mysterious.
Area drains constructed like French drains (with perforated collection pipes) must also be able to get the water someplace away from the area, possibly with the help of a sump pump. If the ground in the area can absorb the water without any seeping up onto the basement floor, then that is okay and a sump pump does not have to kick on yet.

A thick layer of gravel on the surface around a building (actually a degenerate form of the beginnings of a French drain) is really not a good idea unless there is provision for draining away any rain water that collects there.
The good conscientious technician or serviceperson will carry extra oils and lubricants in case the new pump did not come with oil or the oil was accidentally spilled, so the service call can be completed without an extra visit.

Last edited by AllanJ; 11-29-2012 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 11-29-2012, 07:58 AM   #7
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To remove the cover, it should just be a couple of bolts and then the lid lifts off. Did you check the outlet that the pump is plugged into, to make sure it has power (ie press the reset button on the gfci & plug in a light to see if the light comes on)?


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