Do I Need a Sump Pump in My Crawlspace?
Tips from a Crawlspace Industry Expert
I have been asked by colleagues and trainees in the past, “How do you know if a crawlspace needs a sump pump?” I always preface my answer with this piece of wisdom: Inspections of any kind are one part science and two parts experience.
Let’s dive into it a little deeper!
Why Crawlspace Inspections Are Crucial
As professional inspectors, our findings, comments, and the recommendations we make must be based in our understanding and interpretation of our observations and tests we conduct at the time of the inspection. For example, if during our inspection of a crawlspace we observe an active termite infestation and we know it is an active infestation because we broke open a termite tube and found live termites, this finding is based in our understanding of the science of termite infestation behaviors.
The same is true when we test the wood for moisture levels with a moisture meter. Our interpretation of the meter’s readings compared to what science has taught us will play a part in how we comment and make recommendations.
The two parts experience is what I call “the art of the trade.” Take the same termite infestation example above. To find that termite shelter tube inside the crawlspace, one may have had to rely on experience to look at certain hotspots like the sill band behind a dirt-filled porch. The same is true with understanding that the wood moisture content readings in mid-summer compared to the wood moisture content readings in mid-winter may be different. But my experience tells me that the dormant fungal growth on the wood surface in the winter that I see means that the moisture content in the warmer months is much higher and the fungus is not dormant then.
Therefore, to competently answer whether or not a home needs a sump pump, you have to rely on what you have learned from science and supplement that with your experience to interpret your observations and test results before you make comments and recommendations. Sometimes, you may conclude you need more information before you feel comfortable making any recommendation at all.
What to Do About Excess Moisture in the Crawlspace
If you see excessive amounts of standing water around the foundation footings during any season of the year, there is not a lot of doubt that a sump pump is necessary to control the amount of water intrusion coming from the source. Unless the source of the water can be stopped outside the crawlspace more effectively and efficiently, I would agree a sump pump may be the best recommendation.
Of course, if the excessive water is from a leaky plumbing pipe, recommending it be repaired may be the obvious recommendation.
Identifying the What-Ifs
But what about the what-ifs? What if there is no excessive standing water inside the crawlspace, but the ground around the foundation wall footings is damp and there are high-water marks on the foundation wall? This is where “the art of the trade” comes in.
Several questions should come to mind. What caused the high-water level marks inside the crawlspace? Are these periodic high-water times having long-term effects on the structure? Where is the water going and how long does it take for it to recede from the crawlspace? Is there enough evidence to recommend a proactive approach or an alternative option, like a foundation drainage system, a sump pump, or both?
It may sound like it’s complicated, and it can be, but most of the time when you use your understanding of science and apply the wisdom of experience, the answer comes very quickly. Combining these skills will give you confidence in your comments and recommendations to your client for a final solution to their needs.
Be Honest with Your Clients
I must stress some caution, especially to those of you that are new to this industry. Never tell a client you know something for a fact unless you absolutely know. Be honest; let them know if you want to get a second opinion from your supervisor or a more experienced colleague before you make a recommendation. It has been my personal experience that the client will appreciate your honesty and integrity, and it builds professional confidence for you with them.
I don’t believe every crawlspace needs a sump pump, and I like to recommend you don’t make that assumption either.
Choosing the Right Sump Pump for the Job
One last bit of wisdom before you go off into the sump pump arena. Make sure you have done your homework and offer a quality sump pump. Know how to install it properly by reading the manufacturer’s instructions, and be sure to use all the necessary components to ensure a properly operating and effective service. Going cheap can be a very costly mistake, and one that impacts your reputation.
The Your Crawlspace team recommends high-quality Liberty Sump Pumps and has put together a complete quality sump pump package with all the necessary components needed for an effective installation. This team of professionals has decades of collective experience for all your crawlspace moisture control needs, with tried and proven systems and training material to help you understand the installation process. They are a partner you want on your team.
You can reach the Your Crawlspace team at www.yourcrawlspace.com. Their website offers their products, training material listed, and helpful how-to videos. Contact them with any questions you may have about sump pumps, vapor barriers, or any other crawlspace encapsulation inquiries.
Don Richards ACE, CPI
Don Richards Services, LLC