What some homebuilders often fail to do may be a financial and moral victory for basement waterproofing contractors who understand this simple principle: An excellent sump pump is invaluable to a homeowner – if it is installed before a basement flood destroys expensive renovations and priceless belongings.
The decision to cut costs by installing a cheap, ineffective sump system is obviously short-sighted. Yet in these tough economic times, it is happening more than ever. Some builders believe homeowners simply won’t pay the extra cost for a first-rate sump pit and pump that keeps people and pets safe from poisonous gas migration, as well as destructive floods and deep moisture damage. Rob Farrell, who owns and operates the Massachusetts-based Basement Solutions of New England, knows better.
“There is nothing worse than going down the basement stairs and seeing the couch float by. I can’t tell you how many ruined basements we see in a year. What’s amazing to me is they could have avoided it if they had had their sump pumps checked, or had a battery backup system for primary pump failure – or had done it right the first time,” he says, adding, “A lot of times the homeowner is frustrated with the builder, and we hear about it when we’re on site.”
Basement waterproofing contractors would do well to watch for accidents waiting to happen. By counseling homeowners about the dangers of inadequate pumps, contractors may gain new clients and expand revenue. For example, Farrell says some builders provide only a one-year guarantee on the sump pump. This means they may have taken a “band-aid” approach to sump installation. Such a technique may get the builder past the warranty deadline, but such methods fail to live up to the moral dimension of the contract: “do the right thing” is a motto that builds trust and self-respect.
The nightmare Farrell regularly encounters is faulty, amateurish work. Sometimes the culprit is the homeowner – yes, the same person who just spent $250,000 for a beautiful home – or it is a plumber whose skill set does not include sump pump installation. Or it is both: the homeowner hires a plumber not realizing the sump pit is not necessarily a plumbing issue. The result is what Farrell calls The Handy Man Special: an open-top, five-gallon bucket that houses a pump.
“With the Handy Man Special you’re creating two ugly issues. The open top means moisture is still coming through the house. Moisture causes mold spores that can create awful respiratory problems for the people who live there. But you’ve also got radon gas coming through. The gas can be deadly. It’s ludicrous to install an open sump pit. You’re doing a disservice to the home owner or potential buyer.”
Farrell tells contractors to find a sump pit that is reliable and stick with it. The price for quality is easy to justify, he says, when compared to the financial and emotional distress caused by a basement flood. His own preference is a rectangular sump pit. With a unique rectangular design, modular sump pits are an improvement over traditional round sump pits because they can be tucked into a basement corner.
The rectangular space-saving shape also makes it easy for contractors to install up to three pumps in the pit. Additional pumps mean more horsepower and capacity for large basements and regions with a history of seasonal floods. Most rectangular sump pits can hold more water per inch of height than round designs. They can also come with a bolted-down clear polycarbonate lid with an airtight gasket that assures no radon will infiltrate the living space. It is virtually indestructible and allows for visual inspection without lid removal.
“They are very easy to use. They’re reliable and they save a lot of time with installation,” says Farrell, adding, unlike a round bucket-style design, the un-assembled state stacks neatly for storage and shipping.
Since a sump pit can undermine the footing, Farrell sees advantages with the rectangular design, many of which are available with or without holes or a combination of the two.
The best defense against water damage is a unit that has two sides with holes and two sides without. The holes allow water to enter the pit. The two solid sides face the foundation walls, to prevent undermining of the footing. Builders who install cheap sumps are opening themselves up to a lawsuit. It’s the classic case of penny wise and pound foolish.