My wife was about ready to fold laundry last night when she asked if I could grab laundry from the dryer. Ok, the least I can do for her is to be her gopher because apparently, I don't fold clothes correctly. Anyway, I went downstairs and that's when I smelled smoke.

Good lord, what the heck is going on?

It smelled like something electric that was running too hot. That's when I heard the sound of the sump pump running. It had been running constantly for some time because it was malfunctioning.

We recently have had a few days above freezing and some of the snow has started to melt. A trickle of water was filling my sump pit, but the pump wasn't getting the water out. Oh great. Why does this stuff always happen at the worst times?

A sump pump in a home basement
Robin Gentry

I unplugged the sump pump and immediately tried to figure out if there was a blockage or whatever. I dug my hands into this disgusting hole and started pulling out sediment. Where I live in Superior, there is a lot of clay, that clay comes in and builds up over time and there was a lot of gunk down there. That's likely what caused the problem, as the sediment had ruined the check valve. I tried to get the valve working again and after about an hour of choice words, it appeared to be working again.

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Nope, of course, my fix didn't work.  How many trips to Menards will it be?

I went to bed and the next morning the pump wasn't working again. I had enough and went to Menards and bought a new sump pump and check valve. Learn from my mistake, and make absolutely sure you know what size PVC pipe you have for your discharge pipe. I had to play a guessing game between 1 1/4" and 1 1/2" at the store. I went with 1 1/2" and thank goodness I was right. That might have been the last straw.

Installation wasn't that difficult. I bought a pedestal style that all you really needed to do was attach the float rod, float, and rubber stopper. Then you put the check valve (sold separately) on the threaded side and attach it to the discharge pipe or hose. Now, fingers crossed, I'll be ready for the massive amount of water about to fill my drain tile.

This is going to be a very wet spring, with lots of wet basements.

We've had more snow in our yard this year than I can remember. There is going to be a lot of thawing and water coming. The silver lining in all of this is that it happened now when I didn't need it to be running constantly. I started thinking back on how long we've had that sump pump. It's probably 15-20 years old.

Check and replace your sump pump now, before it fails.

Different sources all say the same thing. You should plan on replacing your sump pump every 10 years or sooner. Some say even every 5-7 years. It also depends on how much your sump pump runs. If it runs fairly regularly, you may need to be more on the 5-year mark for a replacement.

Take it from me, it's better to plan and prepare a replacement than a last-minute late-night sludge fest, accompanied by panic and frustration. Fortunately, the water damage wasn't too bad.

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