TL;DR; I’m a home owner. I had to replace the sump pump after my basement flooded. It was cold yucky and things went wrong before the went right.

I’m very lucky. We own our home. I grew up in a family that moved from place to place but my parents always owned, where ever they lived.

When I left University I dreamed of owning my own home. After a few years I bought my first home. And lost it when I got divorced and all of my income went to lawyers, child support and living in a shit place to stay near my children.

I blame it on the divorce, but it was my fault.

Years later my wife and I worked with another couple and we bought a beautiful farm. House, barn, detached garage. 125 acres with about 100 of that in forest. It was my dream home.

When the other couple decided that I had to go we were bought out for pennies on the dollar. Seems that all the money that we were contributing went to “household expenses” while all of the, significantly less, money that they brought in went to paying down the principal on the mortgage. So according to the books they had all the equity.

We bought this house. I love our house. It needs work. It always needs work.

We bought it from the bank at about half the assessed value just as the housing bubble burst. One of the first things we had to do was replace the hot water heater and furnace and much of the copper piping.

Luckily for us, most of the copper was in exposed areas so easy to get to and replace. For those areas that were not accessible the pipes passed pressure tests. They were good.

Seems that when the bank took ownership of the house the first thing they did was turn off the water and power.

They didn’t winterize the house. This caused the water to freeze and burst pipes.

While our house sits on the top of a hill, when it was built they built it with a sump pump design. This means that water is routed around the foundation to a single opening in the foundation. From there the water flows in to the sump from which it is then pumped out of the sump.

When the bank turned off the power, they turned of the power to the sump pump.

About a month later a neighbor called the realtor and told them water was coming out of the basement windows.

The water lines in our basement are at the bottom of the windows. The basement flooded.

The bank took care of the sump and getting the water out and making sure it didn’t flood again.

But that pump was old. And when we moved in it failed. We would check for water and I’d go get that pump running.

It would run fine for a year or so until the wife would move the discharge pipe because it was in the way or knock something into the sump and not fish it out.

Last summer it died and I replaced it.

The new pump was cheap. Amazon purchase. I got it installed and it was amazing. Kept the basement dry. Noisy as hell though.

It was cheap chinesium. It didn’t like to pump water to begin with, but always did in the end. Sometimes it wouldn’t shut off. But it worked. I was happier.

But because it wasn’t right I bought a much better replacement pump.

Friday was a not fun night.

My lady and daughter were reporting a “burning plastic smell” which they could not identify. They checked every outlet in the house and couldn’t find anything.

I through they checked the basement as well.

It was date night so I took wife out for some very good Indian food.

When we got home the smell was obvious. I started checking upstairs and sent the kids to check if they could find the smell in the basement.

Smells are sometimes and issue in our house. It is a rural type area and we have had more than a few mice die and we find out when they start to smell and we have to find and remove the rotting bodies.

So the kids head down to the basement. Access is via a set of outside storm doors. I hear them open the door and start laughing.

Daughter comes up and tells me there is water in the basement.

Which is my cue.

I take of my socks. Put on my shoes and head out and down to the basement. I roll up my pants legs to over my knees and walk down the steps into the basement and water.

Somewhere between 8 and 12 inches of very very cold water. This is water from melted snow that has flowed off the roof and yard and into the basement through that damn opening.

I make my way through the floating storage boxes to the sump. I get there and plunge my hand into that icy water, find the float and wiggle it.

The pump turns on. A few minutes later it sounds like it is ejecting water.

It took about an hour or two to drain the basement but then the pump didn’t turn off.

Back I went. Pulled the pump up to check it.

The float will not dip far enough to turn off the sump nor is it coming up enough to turn on the sump pump.

The float is attached to the pump by a plastic tube that carries the wires to the float valve. In the float valve there are two contact points, one on the bottom and one on the top. When the float is hanging down it makes contact with a solid click and the pump stops. If the float is high enough the the contact swings/rolls/moves to contact the switch at the top which turns on the pump. Easy stuff.

You adjust when the pump turns off or on by adjusting the length of the arm attached to the float.

When we installed the pump it was warm. Everything worked wonderfully.

But that plastic tube becomes stiff when the temperature goes down. Like sitting in a sump filled with snow runoff.

When it is stiff, it doesn’t move up and down so the sump doesn’t turn on or off.

This was the root cause.

I stayed down there to make sure it turned back on. It didn’t want to. I did the magic to make it work. Made plans to replace it today.

Once the sump was empty I wiggled the pump and it turned off. I went upstairs to get ready for the night, knowing that I would awake up to a flooded basement, again.

Well I didn’t. The pump turned on but refused to turn off. I decided I would rather the damn thing burn itself out over night than to come down to a flooded basement.

So today’s fun was the replacement of that pump.

First thing is that NONE of the fittings from the old pump(s) fit. In addition, I had to disconnect two barb fittings. And they would not come apart.

The issue was that the black plastic pipe doesn’t deform worth shit when it is cold. Which it was.

I ended up cutting the pipe to get everything out. Then once I had all the fittings apart I could figure out what I needed.

And while I’m doing this, the sump is filling.

Off to the hardware store. They have all the parts I need plus they are willing to sell me a four foot length of 1″ black plastic piping to replace the piping I cut. I didn’t have to buy an entire roll. Thank goodness.

I get some water to boiling and by dunking the pipe end into the boiling water I made it soft enough to push in the barb. Things are going better.

Back into the basement to get things put together with the new pump.

And the fittings don’t match. So I take the copper riser pipe and its nasty crusty pipe out to the shop where I can use some serious persuasion. I get the fittings off the pipe. I go to put the new fittings back on and realize that the iron coupler needs some work.

I put it in the lathe and get it cleaned up to reuse.

Back to the basement to put everything together.

And my son has misunderstood his task. He’s pulled the exhaust pipe out of the wall, including breaking the bracketts holding it inplace.


And he hasn’t accomplished what I actually needed him to do.

He is retasked and daughter and I start putting the new pump in place. Water is out of the sump and about 1″ deep at the sump. Most of the basement is still damp from the night before but not yet flooded.

We get everything done but son is still not done. Send daughter up to check on him. He’s messed it up. He decided that he couldn’t get the elbow into the pot of boiling water. So instead he just poured the boiling water over the elbow and onto the ground. Which half did the job but now he doesn’t have any more boiling water.

Daughter takes care of that by getting more boiling water and showing him that he can pour the water over the elbow into another pot and back again until the pipe is soft enough to take apart.

So after 30 minutes of letting him work the problem with his sisters assistance, They finally bring the piping back to me.

Water is now about 1.5 inches deep at the sump. I quickly get my pipes into the boiling water that daughter has brought down. With the black pipe soft I’m able to get the elbow in place. All of the hose clamps have been snugged down and the pump goes into the sump.

I plug it in.

No sounds. I can almost feel a slight hum from under my feets.

I send son out to check for water coming out the exhaust pipe.

He reports back that there is water flowing well.

The new pump is faster and very quiet. It just works. The difference between a $79 cheap but it works and a $300 cast iron 15 year plus warranty pump.

Basement is drying. Daughter took care of the few items that were water damaged. Been here, done this. We are slow learners but we do. Everything that is stored in the basement is in Rubbermaid bins that are water tight.

I’ve heard/felt the pump do its thing a couple of times. It is right under my offce.

Oh, yes, we have water sensors in the basement.

My wife didn’t know what they were so moved them up and out of the way so they wouldn’t get wet if the basement started to flood again.

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By awa

5 thoughts on “Being a home owner”
  1. I have to say that the entire story was interesting, but the last sentence REALLY brought it home. Congratulations and commiserations.

  2. Yikes!
    We’ve certainly had some interesting issues with our new-to-us-in-2019 home, which was built, somewhat ineptly, by the previous owners… but at least we don’t get much water in the basement, and basement drainage is passive. Being on high ground is good. (An awful lot of people live below road level around here, and I kinda assume they have Drainage Issues.)
    Water-control project for the coming Spring: get a landscaper out here to fix the grading so water will consistently drain away from the dwelling, and during the process add buried pipes to carry water away from the downspouts (the latter applies to both house and barn).

  3. I do not rely on the float attached to the sump pump. I always get an external switch. Something like this:
    You plug it in then plug the pump into the “piggyback” plug. And, you disable the sump pump float, lash it into the on position.
    The external/piggyback float is basically a metal ball that closes the switch. When it is hanging down, no power flows to the pump, floating at more than a 90 degree angle, and the pump goes on.
    The most important feature is of the float ever gets stuck or fails, you just plug the pump in directly and it will run until you unplug it. I have never had to try to unstick a float from freezing cold water, and am very happy I haven’t had to. Well worth the additional $20 to $50.

  4. Got a check valve in the pump outflow line?
    My first home was a new home but the builder went cheap where it wouldn’t be seen. (Not unusual, I suppose.) I also had sump pump issues.
    Eventually I would up installing a better pump, plus a backup pump that would run on batteries. Not as high a pumping speed as the main pump, but it would buy some time when we lost power (happened not infrequently during storms when the sump pump was needed).

  5. Home ownership is an adventure as is doing and learning to do things like this for yourself. I got a good chuckle and just want to say bless your hearts hope you dont have to have that much fun again any time soon.

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