Moisture Problems – Sump Pumps and Drain Tile (Part 11)

Many homebuyers and real estate agents have the perception that a sump pump and drain tile indicate a problematic house, something they should walk away from…nothing could be further from the truth. When this system is installed properly it will really work. Soil conditions will impact the exact type of installation and the elevation of the water table on how often it will need to operate, but when these two factors are considered this method of water control is very reliable.

Why is it that so many people continue to have this uneasiness about sumps?

Sumps and pumps have evolved over the years. Old drain tile systems are made with clay tiles and placed directly in the dirt. Because of the brittle material and open joints, they are prone to becoming damaged or plugged with silt. It’s not uncommon for this condition to exist in many homes today. In addition, countless con artists have designed cheaper “quick and easy” water control methods for homeowner installation. Commonly called beaver systems, these systems failed miserably and most of these people ended up in jail for fraud. Both of these systems are concealed, either below the basement floor or behind finished walls. So…using our “see thru wall’ home inspector eyes, how could a buyer or agent tell if either of these risky conditions existed?

It’s simple – find the basement floor drain. Most drains are on the surface of the floor, but sometimes they are below a wood or metal cover plate that you must lift up. These old systems will drain directly into a plumbing floor drain which indicates that problem home.

But newer drain tile systems are embedded in gravel and made with a continuous plastic pipe with holes. These pipes are more durable and are covered with a silt screen fabric that keeps them from becoming plugged. The sump pump will be discharged into the yard and in some instances there will be an additional battery backup pump. These systems are very reliable and should put the homeowner, buyer or the real estate agent at ease.

How would you recognize this type of dependable installation? Do all sumps have drainage pipes that go around the perimeter of the foundation? Next week let’s listen to what the house and this MN home inspector have to say about these matters.