Water buildup in the basement is a fairly common problem. Sometimes disaster strikes and the home is inundated with water. Usually, however, the problem is a slow drip-drip of seepage, perhaps entering via cracks in the foundation. If too much water collects around the foundation, the homeowner may suffer thousands of dollars in damage.

The solution is installing a basement sump pump system. This consists of an electric pump (usually 1/3 or 1/2 horsepower) and a basin or sump pit, which is a container with 15-25 gallons capacity. The pump runs on electricity and may have a battery backup. Backup power is important to keep the basin from overflowing in case the power goes out. Some systems include monitoring functionality that trigger an audible alarm when a pumping problem occurs or when maintenance is required.

Sump pumps sometimes discharge (directly or indirectly) into the sewage system. This may be against the ordinances of your municipality. Some sump pumps discharge through a hose exiting the house; during winter, problems may arise if the discharge hose freezes.

You can choose a pedestal type or submersible type system. Mounted above the sump, the pedestal’s motor is easier to service — but is highly visible and radiates heat. The pump of the submersible type is mounted inside and is cooled by the surrounding water; short circuits are prevented by tight, special sealing. Pedestal systems, when properly installed and cleaned regularly, can last 25-30 years or more. Submersible systems usually only last 5-15 years and cost more to install.

Sump systems require maintenance. Equipment should be examined yearly, or more frequently in areas with rainy weather and a higher water table. Sump pumps are mechanical devices; they will eventually fail. System redundancy such as secondary pumps can help avoid the expense of repairing a swamped basement. Sand, dirt and other debris can accumulate, possibly shortening the pump’s life or allowing the basin to overflow. Float switches, check valves and discharge lines are all points of failure to be mindful of.

Any homeowner with a basement that has no sump pump should constantly be wary of water buildup. According to Accurate Basement Repair, a Milwaukee basement waterproofing company, signs of seepage include peeling paint or discoloration, mold and mildew or a musty odor, and efflorescence (chalky white stuff), which occurs when seeped water evaporates.