A little background...
I bought my house with a full finished basement in 2004. A sump pump is located
in the boiler room
and is there for the toilet, sink and shower in the basement bathroom We never
used that bathroom,
except for a few months back in 2008 when we were remodeling the main floor
bathroom. It always
worked fine and would kick on when we showered. I havent used it since. A while
back, I wanted to
hear it work so I ran the sink, shower, flushed a few times and it never went
on. I thought that
maybe the level was so low from non use that it didnt fill high enough to turn
I am now selling my house and an engineer was here today and told me the sump
pump does not work.
The pump has two wires coming from the big round base. It was plugged into the
wall by one of the
plugs, and the other plug was connected to the back of that plug so that it only
used one outlet.
After he left, I decided to put each plug into its own outlet and it went on. I
heard the pump and
the water. The problem is that it never stops, even after 5 hours. I hear a loud
hum coming from the
ground and it sounds like a washer machine with water being swished around. Does
anyone have any
idea what it is doing? I know absolutely nothing about these things. Thanks.
Here is a link to a picture in case that helps:
I have a little sump pump problem. I plan on calling in help, but
first I would like to get a little familiar with what I have.
The link below shows a picture of my system. I am wondering about the
pipe with the clear connection that is circled in red.
Is this pipe usually out going or incoming water?
The clear plastic coupling is leaking. I am wondering why that pipe
would be filled right now, as we have had a pretty dry spring here in
the Chicago area.
Is it normal for this pipe to have water in it all the time?
The plug with the male and female ends on it is hooked to the float switch
in the pit. This is what cycles the pump. The one with the male ends is
hooked directly to the pump. When you plugged them both into individual
outlets, it negated the switch and powered the pump full time. It will never
turn off in this configuration. If it ran for 5 hours, it is possible that
you have done damage to the pump as I am sure it was running dry. It needs
the water in the sump pit to cool the pump. I would check the pump out by
putting water in the pit and see if it pumps it out. You will have to take
the cover off to see. Sounds like maybe the float switch has gone bad. You
may have to get a new float switch. If the pump runs when you plug it in and
pumps water, then it sounds like the switch has gone bad. You will have to
open the pit up and replace it.
Thanks for the reply. That makes sense. I might have exagerrated a tad about the
5 hours part. It
may have been two hours or so. It sounds like water is swishing around.
Since I have never even looked under that cover, what should I expect? Is it a
well full of water?
How far down do you think the float switch is? Is there a way to tell if it is
bad? Sorry for all of
the questions but this is all a new frontier to me.
I'd say bad float switch.
First, it's a waste water pump, not a sump pump, at least as I understand
the terms. A sump is often an open pit that is dug into the floor to pump
out groundwater and floodwater. Your pump does much the same but it's a
closed system because human waste can't sit in an open-to-the-air sump for
obvious reasons. The two wires you see are this:
One powers the pump motor and that's the one you have now (very
erroneously!!!) plugged into the wall outlet for five hours.:
The other wire is to the float switch. It ends in that dual plug/outlet
fitting and the pump plugs into it. When the tank fills, the float switch
closes and allows current to flow into the piggyback outlet to allow the
pump to turn on until the waste is pumped out. They can only work properly
I would guess that the float switch is either frozen by congealed muck or
has leaked and failed. It's actually a pretty cheap fix provided you didn't
burn out the motor by running it dry for so long. You should have noticed
something backing up by now - have you?
As I said, we do not use this bathroom. It is only an issue because we are
selling the house. I
immediately unplugged the unit after I got another response. I told the other
poster that I may have
exaggerated and only really had it plugged in for two hours. I guess I still
could have caused more
damage but I wont know until I pull that top off. The engineer called it a sump
pump and so has
everyone else whoever saw it. As far as backing up, the engineer told me to fix
the sump pump
because he flushed the toilet so many times, it was up at the rim of seat. It
eventually went down
to normal on it's own without the pump kicking in. What is under that cover? I'm
afraid to look. I
do know that no one crapped in that bowl since 2008 so that shouldnt be in there.
I forget if that was before or after the hours that the sump pump ran.
Probably before. You should definitely fix the sump pump, or any pump
there. What's the point of having a broken pump?
How far below grade is your basement floor. Or how high are your
basement windows. My basement floor is 7 feet below grade, but it's
still higher than the sewer near the street. The only reason you
would need a waste-water pump is if your sewer is higher than your
toilet, which is rare, even for people with basements. (The people who
planned the sewers knew that the homes would have basements.)
Otherwise you have a sump pump.
Do you have neigbhors? Ask them what they have and ask to see their
basement bathrooms. Note how high their basement windows are.
People should rely on their neighbors more, at least for little things
like this. It also helps to build friendships. People like you more
when they do favors for you than when you do favors for them. And
they probably know more about your system than we do, especially if
all your houses look alike, or were built in the same time period.
Demons. Don't look. They'll ruin your face.
The water in your toilet trap will evenually evaporate if you never
use the toilet, I'm told. 3 years might be enough???? Then you will
smell sewer gases, and wonder why.
More below all the way to the bottom.
So when did the toilet fill almost to overflowing?
As they said, the pump is running because you bypassed the switch in
the combo male/female thing it had been plugged into.
I'll admit I've never seen a waste-water pump, but that looks to me
like a sump pump, with a smaller pipe for venting any radon. (Do they
actually have to find radon before putting in those covers now? I'll
bet they do it regardless. How old is your house.
Seems to me if you had a waste-water pump, you're toilet would look
different from other toilets. Am I right, guys? Does it look
different from your other toilets? Anything written on it? What did
the seller say?
Except for what kind of pump it is, about which I am not certain, I
agree with this whole post.
I'm glad you stopped top-posting. Thanks.
I'm no plumber, but it's conceivable you have a leak in the drain from
the shower, sink, and toilet, and that's why it goes on when you use
them, even though it is a sump pump.
It's also possible, the water table is low enough that the pump never
comes on, even though it is a sump pump. It's also quite possible
it's been on when you were't around and so you don't know about it.
Frankly, I don't think the sump pump swtich woudl have broken if it
had been used so little, unless it wore out mostly under the previous
It's also possible that the code where you live requires a sump pump
even for dry basements. That's the law in Baltimore County, for
basements sufficiently below grade. (I don't know the distance, but
if one side of the basement is level with the ground, there's no
requirement for a sump pump.
There are pedestal pumps and submersible pumps. Wney you take off the
cover, you can see what you've got. You will probably see the float,
the size of a baseball or softball. Lift it up and let it fall down a
couple times. Then*** plug in the pump the way it was originally,
and see if it goes on. Maybe the float was stuck and will never
stick again, or maybe it was stuck and you can remove what was making
it stick. A dead mouse maybe, not that I've ever seen that, but one
did keep my refrigerator fan from turning.
You can see the water level. It might be empty or there could be
water in there for years without the pump going on if the level never
gets too high.
***If there is water in the sump, plug the pump in the way you had it,
wrong, for a 50 seconds and let the pump pump out the water. Watch
how fast new water tries to fill the sump. It's good info to know.
But if it only fills it below the level the float/switch is set for,
the pump will not go on.
You can go to a hardware store and see on the boxes a better view of
That's just plain wrong. It's very typical for the sewer line to be
than the discharge would be from a basement toilet or shower. Every
home I've owned the sewer line has been 5 feet or more above the
basement floor as has every friends house that I've been in around
here in NJ. I know there are some that are below the basement
floor, but it's most definitely not unusual to find them well above
floor and I'd say it's in fact far more common. That's why ejector
pumps are needed.
While they may exist, I've never seen a sump pump that used
that type of dual plug approach.
It looks exactly like an ejector pump, which is what he is
describing. The line with the check valve connects to
the normal house sewer system. The other line is a
vent line that gets vented like any other waste line vent.
Waste water/sewage enters into the side of the holding
tank beneath the concrete floor.
It would have to be one hell of a leak to instantly trigger a sump
pump that has no direct connection to the sink.
He has an ejector pump with a stuck or bad float switch.
Repairing that would be a cheap job, except for the
possibility that he ruined the pump by letting it run for
many hours dry. Why anyone would sit there and let
it do that is beyond me. Given the skill level here and
that a house sale is on the line, it might be time to
call in a plumber.
On Thu, 16 Jun 2011 05:52:24 -0700 (PDT), " email@example.com"
Here on Long Island, I never saw a sewer line that was below the basement
level.It does not even
apply since I am in Suffolk and there are no sewers anywhere near where I live.
There are two PVC
pipes. One comes from the bathroom and the other goes out to the line out of the
I can do this myself. I just never did this before. I let it run for awhile
because I thought it was
emptying out any water that collected over the past 3 years. Usually, it was the
sink running or
something but it hasnt triggered in three years. It sounded like it was swishing
and doing it's
thing. It just never stopped.
That said, I removed the top cover and I dont really know what I am looking at.
Please look at this
pic and tell me where the float switch is. That would help a great deal.
The float is that black plastic bulbous thing at the bottom of the pit.
It's cable has to be taped to the PVC pipe, such that it can swing up
and down as the water rises and falls, without getting hung up on anything.
Tony, if you're ambitious, you can do this yourself.
First run some water to bring the level up a bit and plug in the pump
to see if it's still working.
You can clean the sump up a bit by running clean water through it.
You can also use a garden hose to spay things down.
If you loosen the hose clamp on the sleeve under the check valve you
should be able to wiggle it loose.
Connect some line to the overhead first so you can tie off what will
If you see a ring or other tie-off point on the pump, use a line to
haul it up. Otherwise haul the pump out with the PVC pipe.
The PVC pipe screws out of the pump.
Get plenty of rags on the floor first.
If you can ID the pump with a plate, get a replacement at the plumbing
store. Shop around for price.
Otherwise you can take it to a plumbing supply store and get a
replacement. Just clean it enough for basic decency, then wrap it in
rags well. The sludge on it is full of rust and will stain forever
whatever it touches.
I have what looks to be a similar pump in a deeper sump, but my sump
is for ground water and foundation tiles.
On mine the level switch is that bump on the side of the pump, with
the same electric cable set-up. There's a rubber membrane over it, no
float. You will see the float if you have that setup.
My switch failed and I didn't see a way to fix it.
I left it in there on a Y (but upside down) and put a new pump on the
other leg of the Y, both with check valves.
When we get the 100 year rains, every 5 years or so, I can plug the
old pump in with the pump cord. But that's unrelated to your deal.
I don't know what the pump head difference is between a "macerator"
and regular sump pump, so make sure you're getting the right pump.
If you DIY, then the main thing to watch out for pump height, so the
existing PVC still fits. Be ready to get a longer piece, or cut the
You also may find the pump is sitting on bricks or a cinder block.
That provides some height adjustment and keeps the pump intake
off the bottom.
Another option is just get it priced by a plumber.
Up to you.
Given the experience and skill set so far, I'd recommend calling
a plumber. If he can't indentify the float, as a buyer I wouldn't
want him fooling around with AC in the house I'm buying. Also,
give what the pump looks like, I'd say replacing the whole thing
is in order.
OK. Here is the story. I put a few buckets of water into the "well" until the
float raised up a few
inches (it looked like the float in my toilet tank). I plugged the piggyback
plugs into the wall and
NOTHING. I then plugged the pump directly and I watched it shoot the water out
up into the pipes.
So, I think I can conclude that the pump does work and it is the level switch
like so many of you
suggested. Thank goodness I didnt damage the pump. The question is, where the
heck is this switch? I
have no idea what I am looking at. I am so close to fixing this. I really
appreciate the help guys.
Just to keep it real, you ain't even close.
I don't know anything about these float switches.
As I said, I just bought a new pump with the membrane type pressure
switch, and kept the old pump in there as a manually plugged in
Maybe somebody here can guide you further.
The switch is inside the float. You don't replace the switch, you
replace the entire assembly. For the switch to operate, it's cord needs
to be attached to the pump pipe. Floating doesn't close the switch, it
has to be turned upright. If you buy a new piggy back float switch, you
can plug a lamp into it, then move it upside down and right side up, to
see how it operates. Then it should be clear, how it has to be attached
in the pit
Here's a link about the types of sump pump switches:
Yours appears to be type "3", a tethered float switch. The actual switch
mechanism is located inside the float.
Here's a link to one you can buy at Home Depot:
My guess is that since you are planning on selling your house, all you need
to do is buy one of these and use it to replace the bad switch that you have
I"m not sure how many inches is a few or if it went high enough.
RBM says it has to be turned upright.
Maybe put on a rubber glove and lift it as high as it goes. You don't
even need more water. If it ran for two hours empty it can run for 5
seconds more. (Well, the two aren't really related.)
Could anything in the way, that needn't be there, have been stopping
it from going that high in your previous test. That's probably the
only other thing it could be now, besides a bad switch.
41 dollars is not much, but maybe it will hard to get the old swtich
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