There are lots of old sayings that are part of the collective wisdom: “Haste makes waste,” “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” and, of course, the one that has puzzled everyone since Benjamin Franklin first uttered it, “A stitch in time saves nine.”
These expressions may have grains of truth, both large and small, at their core but there is one that means exactly what it says and is pretty difficult to argue with: “You get what you pay for.”
Advocating quality is not necessarily a prescription for lavish spending but sound advice to consider the longer term when buying a product. Nowhere is that truer than in the area of home repairs and improvement and that can be summed up quite nicely when we consider the sump pump.
Cheap Sump Pump = Expensive Mistake
The sump pump is often described as being the “heart” of a basement waterproofing system. This is an apt metaphor not only because both are used to move fluids but because the sump pump is the key element in keeping a basement healthy and preventing water damage. Like the heart, when it fails you’re done for.
The basic function of a sump pump is to remove water from a basement and discharge it up and out of the house. In some instances, a sump pump functions alone when installed at a low point in the basement that would otherwise be a point of entry for ground water.
Most often, however, the sump pump is part of a system of drain tile. Drain tile is a network of perforated plastic piping that lies next to the foundation footings either inside or outside the foundation wall. Interior drain tile is installed under the basement floor where it alleviates hydrostatic pressure and carries away water that would otherwise enter the basement through cracks in the floor or the cove joint between floor and wall.
On the exterior, drain tile alleviates pressure caused by the expansion of oversaturated soil. In either case, the drain tile piping is connected to a sump basin at both ends (or just one in a partial installation) where it drains. When the water reaches a pre-set level, the sump pump removes it from the basin.
Primary sump pumps can be purchased in many places, from neighborhood hardware stores to big-box general merchandisers and from basement waterproofing professionals. The price range is also pretty broad, extending from a plastic pump for less than $100 at one major retailer to several thousand for a sophisticated dual-power, dual-pump back-up system from a professional.
So, what’s the difference? That cheap sump pump from the big box store has to be made with inexpensive parts to maintain that price, so switches are more likely to stick, motors burn out and impellers jam and break. A high-quality sump pump will be have a cast-iron casing, heavy-duty motor and an encased float switch that won’t get caught against wires or the side of the sump basin.
In short, you may need to buy two or three of the cheap sump pumps to equal the lifespan of the high-quality one. In the meantime, of course, you’ll suffer the consequences of a failed sump pump.
And what are those consequences? When a sump pump fails, ground water continues to accumulate in the sump basin until it reaches the top and overflows. During a heavy thunderstorm or period of snowmelt that water can ruin a finished basement, destroying flooring, furniture and anything else in its reach. Even an unfinished basement suffers because what homeowner doesn’t use his or her basement for storage? A failed sump can mean throwing out and replacing lawn furniture, holiday decorations or, even worse, power tools and washers and dryers.
So, what do you do? You could buy the most expensive sump pump you can find and hope for the best but a better idea would be to consult a basement waterproofing professional. At U.S Waterproofing, we use only Zoeller pumps, the industry’s finest, in our primary sump pump installations and the BOSS series of battery back-up sump pumps when extra protection is desired. We’ve installed sump pumps for thousands of homeowners in the Chicagoland area among the more than 300,000 satisfied customers we’ve served since 1957. Why not ask for our free advice?