If you are in the market to buy a new home, there are a lot of details that need to be completed before you can make an offer. One important task is inspecting the house to be sure you are aware of any flaws that might cause you headaches down the road. If the home has a basement, then that opens the door to other concerns; one such area is the sewage ejection system. Below is more information on some common problems with sewage ejection systems and how you can recognize them:
What does a sewage ejection system do?
In homes without a basement and on flat ground, wastes are usually discharged to the main sewer line via gravity flow. However, if a house has a basement with a toilet, sink, washing machine or other fixture that emits wastes, then a sewage ejection system is installed to pump the wastes up and out to the main sewer line. The system consists of a sump basin, which is simply a tank built into the floor of the basement, as well as a sewer grinder pump, air vent, and basin cover. Waste collects in the sump basin until it reaches a certain level. At that point, a float valve activates the sewer grinder pump which then grinds up solid materials, mixes them with liquids, and pumps all of it to the sewer main.
Sewage ejection systems are normally low-maintenance and unnoticed by homeowners unless something goes wrong. System failures can create large messes in your basement, and the damage can be catastrophic in some instances. Raw sewage will ruin furniture, carpeting, and anything else it contacts; it is filled with harmful microorganisms and the odor it leaves will linger a long time.
That's why you must be sure you understand if the sewage ejection system in a prospective home is in good shape or in need of repairs or even replacement. Below are some particular trouble-points to look for:
Unsealed sump basins
It is important that the sump basin be completely sealed to the air inside your basement. Holes, cracks or other flaws will permit the foul smells to permeate the air. Worse, if there is a rise in wastes, they will find a way out of your sump basin and into your home. Look carefully with your eyes for flaws or damage, and use your nose, too, to be on the alert for odors. You shouldn't be able to smell anything; if you do, then there is likely a problem.
Faulty float valves
Float valves are all-important in a sewage ejection system. They activate automatically when wastes reach a certain level and signal the sewage grinder pump that it's time to begin operating. If the float valve is faulty, then sewage will build inside the basin and seep out if there are leaks. At that point, you will be forced to open the sump basin and plow through wastes in an effort to fix the problem. Test the float valve beforehand to avoid trouble; simply open the basin cover and pull the valve upward. It should activate the pump motor if it's working. Just be careful to watch your fingers around the grinder, and wear gloves when handling any components.
Poorly vented systems
A poorly vented or unvented system will not work properly. It is important that there be some air inside the sump basin to equalize pressure, and that's why the vent stack is in place. Be sure that the stack rises all the way up through the house and out to the roof. If there are any openings into the pipe, they will need to be fixed.
Another overlooked area are the valves on the pipe exiting the system. There should be a check valve, which protects your home from overflowing sewage from the main line, and the other valve is a hand-operated ball valve that can be turned off in case of an emergency. The check valve is especially important, and you don't want to be without one. You can test the check valve for correct operation by opening a sewer cleanout on the line leading to the main. Simply run water into the line and listen for it at the check valve in the basement. It shouldn't run past the valve into your pump if it is working correctly. Fortunately, check valves and hand-operated ball valves are not expensive to replace or add to the system.
For more information, contact a local sewer pump repair company.