Spring is in the air, or at least we want it to be and with the Spring comes Spring runoff. Those crazy groundhogs predicted 6 more weeks of winter which means we still have several weeks left. Now is the time to start inspecting your home’s drainage systems and sump pump to make sure you don’t have any issues with water damage this spring. We want to enjoy the change in temperature and the spring blooms and not worry about replacing or repairing damage.


In many homes a sump pump is your saving grace. These are pumps installed in a “sump pit” in your basement or crawl space which help water to drain away from your home’s foundation and save you the horrible job of cleaning up after a flood.


It is imperative to test these pumps regularly to ensure they are working as intended. Some manufacturers recommend once a year while others recommend every two to three months. The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR) recommends as often as every month or two, particularly in areas where water tables are high.

Testing your pump generally involves a simple three step process:

  1. Ensure power is running to the pump. Simply listen to the pump to ensure that it turns on and off and doesn’t make any improper sounds.
  2. Pour enough water into the sump pit to trigger the float or diaphragm. This may require using a hose or a bucket and filing the pit until the pump is triggered. Ensure the water raises the float or triggers the diaphragm and turns the pump on. This should also be done for any secondary or back up pumps.
  3. Check the pump discharge line. Go outside to where the pipe exits the foundation to ensure that water is flowing out of the home. Make sure there is no blockage from snow, ice, or any foreign objects. (leaves and debris etc.)

Figure 8: Where a sump pump system is rarely or only occasionally needed, a primary and
secondary pump configuration will likely suffice. If, however, a sump pump system is often or
always needed, particularly where the water table is high, a primary, secondary and backup pump
configuration is recommended (Source: Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction)


Finally, you may consider installing a sump pump alarm. You can use an audible alarm that will alert the homeowner when water levels in the sump pit are higher than normal. This will allow the homeowner to take preventative action and either install a backup pump or hand-bail the sump pit. However, this type of alarm will only work if the homeowner is present and able to hear it.

Alternatively, you can install a wireless Internet alarm system that will send a text message to a number of wireless devises should a problem occur with the water levels in the pit. With these types of alarms,  the homeowner does not need to be home to receive the warning. These will likely be more costly but will allow for preventative measures even if the homeowner is not currently at home.


Every water-bearing appliance, fixture or plumbing line is a potential source of water damage in your home.

Tips to prevent damage from the basement and up:

  1. Have a main water shut-off valve as well as shut offs for the bathtub and/or plumbing in ceilings.
  2. Check for water and drain pump leaks if you experience washing machine failure. Install a steel braided washing machine hose to improve durability and walls.
  3. Maintain:
    1. Water Heaters; regularly check & tighten valves.
    2. Humidifier: check in winter; disconnect water when not in use.
    3. Boiler – maintain annually, replace after 25 years.
  4. Check for leaks, loose connections and cracked hoses on water softeners, toilets and bathroom fixtures and repair promptly.
  5. Consider other water-bearing appliances you might not otherwise think of:
    1. Refrigerator/ice maker – check for leaks & loss connections
    2. Dishwasher hoses: Inspect & replace older hoses with steel braided hoses

Following some simple testing measures can help ensure a safe dry spring. After all, wouldn’t you rather be enjoying the tulips instead of wearing hip waders in your basement?

For more great in-depth tips on sump pump systems visit:


Or ask your friendly Cayuga Mutual agent for advice and to ensure you have the proper coverage in place.