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Excessive Sump Pump Cycling

I have a full basement with a typical drain tile installation (I believe the builder installed drain tiles inside and outside the base foundation wall). The drain tiles empty into a sump pit contained in the basement. We have poured concrete steps out of the basement and at the base of the steps there is a drain that also carries water into the sump pit (this is below grade so the builder had few options to get rid of water that accumalted at the bottom of the steps). When the plumber cut the opening in the sump pump pit for this drain (4 inch PVC) he was less than precise. Due to this "rough opening" we now have a rapid rush of water entering the pit around this 4 inch PVC pipe (water that accumulated below the concrete slab). This causes my sump pump to cycle far to often (about every 30 seconds when the water table rises). I have never seen any water coming from the drain tiles emptying into the pit so this rough opening is probably relieving much of water pressure under the slab.

My question is, should I seal this rough opening and allow the drain tiles to capture water and ultimately bring it back to the sump pit? If I should seal the rough opening what do I seel it with? Can it be done under water? With our very wet summer and fall and the sump pump cycling so often I'm in danger of pump failure very often. I've already plumbed a battery backup and replaced the typcial manual float swith with an electronic high/low water sensor (attempting to eliminate the mechanical swith failure).

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Re: Excessive Sump Pump Cycling

In the past 2 months since I posted my question on TOH web, I think I have found the answer to my question, “Should I plug up the ground water holes in my sump pump pit?”
First I checked with my builder. He said the “ground water” running into the sump pump pit is from underneath the basement floor. Sounded reasonable, but not totally convinced, due to the high rate of water running into the sump pit.
Next I called a local plumbing contractor. Family owned, and has an excellent reputation. His answer was the same as my builder, except he went one step further and said he actually saw a sump pit raise itself up out of the pit due to no holes in the sides of the pit. He said ground water pressure will cause that.
Now here’s what really convinced me not to plug up those holes. Where I live, we experienced a very wet fall. My neighbor’s sump pump quit. No back-up system. Luckily basement not finished. I got involved in helping him move boxes, etc. to higher ground. I noticed at the other end of his basement, where flooding wasn’t occurring yet, there was water seeping up thru the cracks in the floor. That convinced me that my contractor and the plummer were both correct.
DO NOT PLUG ANY HOLES. Let the water flow in, no matter how much your pump runs.
I’m going to have a water/suction back up system installed. It’s called a Water Commander from Tane Corporation. (www.tanecorp.com). The downside is, it’s an expensive system, and you must be connected to city water. (see web site for more information), but it gives you 99.9% protection. If the sump pump can’t keep up with the incoming flow, this system will assist the pump.
Battery back up systems are ok, but with my pump cycling every 20-30 seconds, during heavy downpours, I calculated a backup battery would only last me 2.5 hours. The replacement cost of the battery (approx every 4-5 years), and constantly charging a battery inside my house I don’t think is a good idea.
If you ever used a car charger, rule number one is charge the battery in an open and well ventilated area.
Sorry for the long reply, but I hope all this information helps.

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Re: Excessive Sump Pump Cycling


Do you have a drain tile system installed in your basement? While I agree with your builder and plumber I thought the drain tile systems were designed to carry water back to the pit (4 inch corregated pipe runing inside the foundation walls). I've been of the same opinion as your builder and local plumber but the rate at which water flows into my pit is very concerning. I've investigated water systems similar to your recomendation but have been concerned about the capacity at 10 feet. I don't think I'm going to fill the gaps in the pit but I do think I'm going to try and reduce their size. Slowing the flow will help the sump pump cycle time but will still relieve pressure below the slab floor.

I'm with you on the batter backup, with my current water flow rate the backup pump may struggle to keep up :(

It sounds extreme but I'm considering a natural gas fired whole house generator and then I will install two AC pumps in pit.

Thanks for the info. I continue to ask around for more "expert" advise.

Re: Excessive Sump Pump Cycling

Just a quick note to let you know we installed the Water Commander. The guy from Tane Corp. was correct when he said “it’s just basic plumbing”. Of course it took me and my son probably double the time of a plumber, but at $125 or more an hour, it was well worth us doing it ourselves. I just had to find a day that we could shut the house water off for that long. The instructions (pictures included), are really easy to follow.

I haven’t done any water flow readings yet, as to determine just how much water it uses to empty the pit, but I can tell you it really sucks up the water fast. Of course it doesn’t take a lot of time to empty a sump pit (approx. 3 gal), when this thing is rated at 13.5GPM, and 809GPH on a ¾” supply line. Again, it’s a back-up system, so water usage shouldn’t be an issue.

Re: Excessive Sump Pump Cycling

Use a good pump like a Zoeller, and add a check valve so the water column does not drain back when the pump is off.

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