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A timely blog post, given the weather

Last week 18” of snow. This week six inches of rain. Ugh! As the old sayings goes; if you don’t like the weather in Chicago wait a few minutes and it will change.

In roughly seven days, we have had 24” of precipitation. To add insult to injury, all the snow melted in roughly 48 hours helped by all the rain. If you’re the ground, in 48 hours, you have had to deal with two feet of water.

How has your basement fared? In spite of the recent warm weather, the ground is still frozen like concrete. Don’t be fooled if the top of your lawn is mushy and squishy. The earth below is still frozen a good 18” to 24” deep and will be for some time. However, the ground is not frozen next to your foundation. The warmth of the concrete foundation walls warms the earth right next to the foundation just enough to thaw the earth. Water is pretty lazy, it follows the path of least resistance and that probably means right now all this water is running down the outside of your foundation wall.  That’s okay, it should be engineered to handle it.

This also means that your sump pump has probably been running more than usual. Some are running nonstop. But what if it stops?  We tell clients to generally figure a sump pump will last about three years. You never have warning when its life is about to end. They just stop and your subtle clue is that your basement starts flooding.  Keep in mind, even if you have a battery backup system for the sump, it won’t matter when the pumps motor’s life ends.

So what to do? Two things. First, replace the sump pump every three years, even it is appears to working fine. Save this old pump and set it next to the sump pit. That way if the other pump fails, you can easily slide the former pump into the pit and avert disaster. Most sump pumps these days have been installed with quick connect/disconnect flanges that you can usually turn by hand. Like a NASCAR pit crew, you can literally change a pump in a few minutes even if you do not know what you are doing. Just one word of caution:  Unplug them while you are working on them!