The issue of sump pumps has been source of great confusion in Stapleton. Sump pumps are important in securing the integrity of your foundation, but the source of the water, discharge frequency, and discharge location are important to your pump’s long-term functionality. Based on some of the information gathered by SUN, we have put together a FAQ (to the best of our knowledge) to help you understand your sump-pump and what you can do if you suspect there might be problems. This is for information only. SUN is not responsible for sump pump or homeowner water issues. Homeowners should take all of these types of issues directly to their builder—SUN’s role is to facilitate information sharing and communication among residents. We are happy to add/amend this information as necessary, so if you have advice that you think homeowners (or potential homeowners) in Stapleton would benefit from, please send that information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have a sump pump? And if so, what does it do?
Most homes in Stapleton with a basement (finished or not) will have a sump pump. A sump pump is designed to discharge water that might accumulate around the foundation of the house. Builders place a network of perforated pipes around the house foundation that collect water (from rain, snow, sprinklers, etc). This water is then routed to a sump pit in your basement (probably in the utility closet), and when the water level in the pit reaches a certain level, it activates the pump to discharge the water outside the house (probably into the yard).
Can I see my sump pump?
If you go into your utility closet (most likely), you can see a (round) cover on the ground (the top of your sump pit). You probably can’t see through the cover (although some are made of transparent material like plastic), but if you remove this cover, you will find something resembling a bucket. Look into the bucket and you see the drainpipe from the network of pipes that were installed along the foundation of the house. You will also see the discharge pipe which routes the water out of the pump.
How do I know if my sump pump is working properly?
An easy way to determine if your pump is functioning properly would be to place some dirt below the pump outlet pipe (it usually comes out of your basement wall and extends about a foot) and check it daily to see if you have any signs of a discharge. You may also hear it operate in your basement if you remove the cover of your sump pit.
How do I know if my sump pump is working overtime? And if so, should I be concerned?
Since Denver is an arid region, sump pumps are unlikely to discharge more than a few times a year. Keep in mind, the level of water accumulation (for ex: heavy precipitation or excessive sprinkler use) will cause the sump pump to activate more regularly. If your sump pump is working overtime, and the water is being discharged just a few feet from your house, it is likely that the ejected water is settling on the saturated soil and filtering right back towards your foundation, thus causing your sump pit to fill again and activate the pump (a closed-loop system). Continued water presence may eventually compromise the integrity of your foundation. If there has been no rain for a few days, try turning off your sprinklers and check to see if the pump is discharging water. If so, your house may be in this closed loop.
If my sump pump is working overtime, is it because I have a high water table?
Not necessarily. The water table in Stapleton varies from block-to-block and neighborhood-to-neighborhood. At the time your home was built, a report should’ve been prepared to determine the distance between the top of the water table and your basement slab. The only way to know for sure is to have a ground water engineering company determine your water table level.
What happens if my sump pump breaks?
Pump failure will prevent the discharging of water out of the pit causing the pit to overflow and flood the basement. Alarms can be purchased that will notify you (with a local alarm in your house, or even a text message for more advanced devices) before the pit begins to overflow. Hardware stores and home improvement retailers carry a variety of alarms, with even more options online.
If the pump is discharging on your property, here is what you can do.
To ‘open’ the loop, you will want the discharge pipe to extend away from the house so that the water leaves the property. One way is to arrange a conduit of PVC piping (downhill and away from the house) so that the discharged water finds its way into the storm sewer (via the street, sidewalk, or alley). For people who do not have a driveway, an alternative discharge destination should be found, but each situation will be unique.
What is the deal with calcite?
Calcite (calcium carbonate) is a material found in the natural environment but it is also used to make concrete. When the Stapleton community was built, the old airport runways were ground up and recycled as a base (subsurface) below the asphalt pavement for the roads.
Does calcite impact my sump pump? And if so, how?
In the fall of 2013, it was successfully litigated that the calcite below the streets mixed with the natural ground water flow. As the water migrated though the soil, some of the water (now containing calcite) was intercepted by the network of pipes around the house foundation. When the calcite got into the pipes, it solidified. Eventually the calcite clogged the pipes (and/or the perforations), preventing the pipes from capturing and discharging the water, resulting in excessive buildup of water around the house foundation.
Do I have calcite build-up in the pipes around my foundation?
The only way to know for sure is to have your system tested by an engineering company, but you can also remove the cap on your sump pit and examine the drainpipe. According to a photograph presented by the engineering experts, calcite accumulation might appear at the end of the pipe and it would look like a roux (when you mix butter and flour on your stove-top).
Sean Tierney is a SUN board member investigating sump pump concerns in Stapleton.