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How to Maintain Your Sump Pump

April 04, 1993|GARY ABRAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Abrams is a general contractor who writes on home improvement topics for The Times.

One of the least discussed but most important maintenance jobs for some Southland homeowners is the cleaning and care of sump pumps.

A sump pump is an electrically operated device that automatically removes rain and ground water that would otherwise collect at a low point of a home or building. They are commonly used in garages, basements and yard areas that do not drain by gravity.

They protect literally hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and machinery from water damage here in the Southland alone. (Many of the flooded condo garages we saw this winter resulted from failed sump pumps).

Failure to maintain the pump system not only puts your property at risk of flood damage but can cause costly problems with the pump itself. If you live in a home or building where you rely upon a sump pump to remove water, you should have the pump and the sump pit inspected and cleaned at least three times a year.

Most reputable plumbers will be able to assist with this project, but it is an easy do-it-yourself job. Here's how:

1--Unplug the pump cord from the receptacle and remove the grate or cover panel from the sump pit.

2--With an adjustable or socket wrench loosen the sleeve clamp that connects the vertical pipe from the pump to the exit drain pipe. Slip the clamp up or down to free the pump. Lift it out.

3--Check all electrical and plumbing connections for cracks, severe corrosion or leaks and replace any questionable parts.

4--Use a hand shovel, plastic cup, bucket or anything else you can find to remove dirt and debris from the bottom of the sump pit. The cleaner it is, the less likely the pump impeller is to clog, causing damage or pump failure. Also, clean the screen at the bottom of the pump.

5--Replace the pump into the pit and re-secure the pipes with the sleeve clamp. Plug the pump back into the receptacle. Replace grate or cover.

6--If it is not already there, place a piece of steel "hardware cloth" mesh with 1/4-inch squares under the grate. This will greatly reduce the amount of debris that falls into the sump pit. (Buy this material at most building supply stores.) Cut it 1/4 inch smaller than the grate and place it into the grate receptacle before laying the grate back into place.

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