Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Down in the Sumps

Last Wednesday I had to go to the basement.  I was going to grab a jar of green beans for dinner from the fruit cellar.  While on my way down, I grabbed some molding that I had removed from the great aunt's room which I am demoing.  I was going  to take the moulding I salvaged and put it  on a work bench on the opposite side of the basement from the fruit cellar.  I walked through, and thought something is just not right. 

Took a look at the sump pump and realized that water was ready to breach the top of the pit hole.  Now the sump is totally out of my realm of knowledge.  I know that all our gray water goes into it (kitchen sink, dishwasher, washer, bathroom sinks, showers, tubs) I also am aware that when the water gets so high a pump is supposed to kick on and it pumps the water out through a series of pipes that discharge the water towards the ditch out front by the road.  In the few minutes I have been standing there it has dropped a couple of inches.   I think, " OK I am good for tonight!"  Look at the weather and it is supposed to be clear the next day (I had a class all the next day and guild) so I figure I will work on it Friday--just in the meantime no dishes, showers or laundry.  

Friday I carried down a submersible pump that I have, and ran a hose into the basement from outside.

Last year I was complaining to Jeff about the dryer vent that had been broken out of the basement window--cold, bugs, leaves were constantly coming in.  We have glass block windows and when Jeff had them installed years ago a dryer vent was installed in this one window, but now that the laundry had been moved upstairs it didn't really serve much of a purpose anymore.

My suggestion was why couldn't we cement a PVC pipe into the opening, put a cap on one end and a plug on the other end.  That way if we ever needed to run a hose in/out, or a generator just take the caps off  both sides and run the line/hose in/out.  As you can see for some reason Jeff thought it needed a hole in one of the caps.  Anyway, my idea worked perfectly and in about 1/2 an hour the sump was empty thanks to the submersible pump. 
 I sat there studying the pumps, and feel like I sat staring into the abyss trying to figure out how this whole system was put together f-o-r-e-v-e-r.  Really was only about 20 minutes. 

Two pumps, and they have these couplers which are tightened down with hose clamps.  I figured loosen the hose clamp.  Pull the pump and I can work on it.  I started on the one on the left.  Came apart easily and pulled the pump up, and realized there is a lot of gunk in that pit. Also something is definitely missing from the pump.  So off to research and read Google.  According to several articles I read, the pit should be cleaned out once a year.  I don't think this one had been cleaned out in at least a decade.  Can you say ewwww?  So I grabbed an old spatula which was sitting by the pump and started trying to fish the blobs of gunk out.  I wasn't having much success, but I did find the part that was missing from the pump, I got lucky and hooked it out. I wasn't going to use any of my kitchen tools to do this so off to Amazon to locate a tool to strain the gross stuff out.

A Chinese strainer.  Ladle the gunk out without getting a bunch of water with it.  Sump repair postponed-- put the floaty thing onto the pump, and the pump back into the pit.  Run water into pit.  Nothing happened.  WHAT?  The floaty thing is on.....then follow the cord.

Um it has been unplugged!  Someone unplugged it when using the shop vac recently (Not me).  Plug it in and try filling the sump again.  Still no dice.  Off to wait for the delivery of my Chinese strainer...per Amazon it will be here Sunday!  Also I discover I can manually trigger one of the pumps with the spatula by pulling up on a lever, but once it is empty I have to press it down to shut it off too. 

Sunday.  No strainer.  Go to Amazon.  Someone who shall be nameless forgot to hit the buy button.  Click the buy button.  Strainer deliver ETA Tuesday.  

Monday, and Tuesday it is pouring.  I start to stress a bit about the sump, but if I shower, do a load of laundry,  wash dishes, or run the dishwasher,  I run downstairs and trigger the sump pump.  Tuesday the strainer arrives. 

Today.....I was supposed to meet Kris for a shopping trip to Shipshawana, but I came down with a cold and I really did not want to spread disease.  I think it will be a good day to work on the sump.  I head downstairs with my strainer, a couple plastic bags, a bucket and some dish soap.  There is a method to my madness.  

First order of business.  Fill the bucket from the laundry sink downstairs with hot, soapy water and take it by the pit.  Second step choose which pump I will work on.  I decide the pump on the right.  I don't know how this one works.
The one I am working on has a back flow preventer.  Loosen the hose clamps and start to work the coupler apart.  Of course once I get to a certain point, the pipe starts to leak at the coupler, then the coupler breaks free from the pipe with a splash and my arms are doused in dirty, black water, and of course it has also splashed onto the work bench next to the pit.  I pull the pump out with a 4 foot pipe section attached and set it into the bucket of hot soapy water, hoping that some of the grease and grime will break up from the dish soap.  

I  then use the nifty little strainer and I fish out a shopping bag full of gunk.  As I am doing so I feel drip, drip, drip.  Yep that black, nasty water that splashed onto the workbench.  It is dripping off right onto the back of my head.  Most definitely will be a shower after this escapade.   Once I think it is clean enough, I trigger the pump remaining in the sump to make sure I have anything that can be chiseled off removed.  I will spare your delicate senses with any pictures of the globby goopy stuff.  Lets just say hurrah for the strainer or it would been a drippy, globby, goopy mess. 

Now to clean the pump. I grab a milk crate, turn it over to sit on it and proceed to break the chunks of goop off the pump.  Now this pump is different than the one with the toilet floaty looking thing.  This one has a rod, which is totally surrounded by gunk (imagine taking a pencil and encasing in clay).  I work the stuff off, and discover there is a rubber ball on this rod, that I am going to assume will float as the sump fills.  I lift the pump out of the water, and clean the fins around the bottom of all the gunk, thinking I really should have brought a hard bristle brush down to do this since I am using my hands and finger nails.  Can you tell I am definitely not a have my nails done type of girl?  I finish cleaning the rod with the other floaty thing.  I set the pump back into the bucket of now hot, sudsy, black, gunky water, and.....WHOOSH!  The pump flushes the water in the bucket straight up into the air, through the 4 foot length of pipe which is still attached, hits the basement ceiling/AKA the subfloor of the house, and, yep you guessed it I had the pump dump a 5 gallon bucket of blech on me.  My hair was soaked, glasses, shirt, bra, jeans, and underwear. I jump up, dumping the shopping bag full of the gunk which I have fished out and stepped in the pile with my bare feet.   I started laughing at first,  an then crying....  After my short pity party, I thought well heck.  (Sorry no pictures of me during the fiasco, but rest assured the visual you will come up will more than suffice)  I had thought that I had unplugged that pump.  Nope.  So I unplugged the pump, finished reinstalling it with all the fittings,  filled the pit and it triggered.  Yay for me!  I then proceeded to remove the pump 2.  Making sure that I unplugged it first, cleaned it, installing the toilet floaty looking thing correctly, and got that pump back into the pit and hooked up for my back- up in case of failure of one of the pumps.  Yes I actually made sure both were now plugged in also. 

Lets just say that I was so gross, if I had a towel downstairs and shampoo I would have showered down there.  First I used the spatula and scraped the greasy, grimy, goop off the bottom of my feet, then off the floor and back into the shopping bags.  I then went upstairs and started to shower.  My hair felt like I had mud stuck into it, and it was near impossible to get it out.  I used a fingernail brush and managed to get the black off my hands, and from under my fingernails, and after a good 45 minutes I felt human once again. 

I then called my mom to share my adventure, because everyone needs a good laugh at someone else's expense early in the morning their time.  

Oh and here is a slight reference to how yucky this water is.  This is my sterling band with Kokopelli on it, which I have worn for years.  Even after scrubbing all the yuck off,  it actually instantly tarnished my ring to the point I could barely get it off my finger (you would understand if you have ever polished really tarnished silver it actually gets very sticky).

I am sure that Jeff was laughing hysterically in heaven at this adventure.  I am pretty proud of myself because I figured it out and did it on my own, even though I got an unintended yucky shower.  I think I need to have a set of sump tool (including some rubber gloves) sitting near the pit.  Also I have it etched on my brain how it all works, like make sure I unplug the pumps when working on them, and that I only have to do this once a year.  And most importantly of all.....thank the good Lord that both pumps are working and I don't have to buy new ones right now. 


  1. Blech! I can clean a vintage machine (gunk under the nails there) but, I don't have a clue about our sump pumps. Hubby is supposed to check them regularly (doesn't happen). My plumber is married to my hair dresser, so, he's easy to contact, thank goodness. Beer strips all the gunk off of hair (I don't drink it, I don't like it, but, it's great for hair, and sets your hair color in the process).

  2. WOW sounds like a fun day for sure (not!) I too am not a girly girl but I sure as heck would call a plumber ha ha
    you are a brave woman and I am proud of you.
    yes Jeff was probably laughing at you but proud of the fact that you did it girl!

  3. Ohmygosh, Rheema!! What an adventure! You are amazing...there is no way I could have figured that one out myself. I even have a battle with my vacuum cleaner...machines and I don't get along (Helga and I have declared a truce, but I still don't know half of what she can do!!)--or plumbing or anything mechanical--Good for are the "Mighty Mouse" that saved the day for sure...(" she comes, to save the day.." lol).Those plumbing fixtures now know who's the boss for sure...
    hugs, Julierose--

  4. It's a good read. Writing it helped to embed in your mind what to do and not to do if the situation arises. With my husband bordering on dementia, I just couldn't even snicker at the story because I know what an accomplishment it was for you to find a solution to the problem. Some would sit and cry and feel sorry. WE would do what needed to be done and get a good laugh later. I'd forgotten Cheryl's beer tip. I used to put beer on my hair all the time until it got so expensive. (I'm old enough to remember when beer, a gallon of gas and a pack of cigarettes were a quarter each) lol. Sorry you missed your Shipshewana trip, but really, the flea market is just not like it used to be years ago.
    xx, Carol

  5. So much for resting and relaxing your cold away my have had a tough adventure but glad you can celebrate success. So proud of you :) I so wish we had one of the fairy tale gravity drains I have heard of but the house was not built up high enough here either, always makes you think twice when you know rain is coming. From the forecast sounds like we may be wishing for rain soon.

  6. proud of you dear, if you were a drama queen you would still be screaming down the house and it still wouldn't be done!

  7. OMGosh!! In between gagging, I laughed my a$@ off. You are my hero!

    I'm lucky if I can figure out how to run the dishwasher, and still haven't completely figured out the microwave....just the popcorn button.

    Just enroll me in your Admiration Society. Hugging you from afar in case you are still sticky....LOL

  8. Now I understand why you didn't get that stitching started!!! Holy cow. Glad you figured it out and have everything up and running. Isn't it a great feeling of accomplishment? Yeah!

  9. Good on you - you worked it out and did the job - even though you got decorated in the process it sounds like a job well done to me!


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