Aha! Craftsmanship found! In the most unlikely of places. Let’s flash back to last December.
Our Big Rain Event of 2008 left the sump in our crawlspace almost filled up with water (the sump is a 18” wide concrete tube about 3 feet deep). With more rain on the way, I decided it was time to play Responsible Homeowner and go down to check the sump.
This involves me crouching in the crawlspace of the house, a three-foot airspace between floor joists/pipes, and dirt with blind gape-mouthed creepy crawlies. Behind me is a little well that allows for entrance to the crawlspace through a broken screen door. The well has about 6 inches of ice-cold water in it. So my options are either forward into the crawlspace and about-to-overflow sump, or fall ass-backwards in the cold water.
I plug in the big sump pump which makes lots of noise but doesn’t drain the water. Instead it stirs around muddy sump water like a giant immersion blender. I don’t look to see if any translucent cave creatures are floating in this mess. I don’t want to know.
So I plug in the backup sump pump, left by previous owners.
Curse you, previous owners! Of course they had two broken sump pumps. [sigh, grunt, and splash]
So I had to go out and buy a new temporary sump pump until I could figure out what was going on. I’ve avoided that job for two months as I imagine it to be like this:
reaching armpit-deep into clean the pump inlet and coming up with soggy clumps of skin, tissue, and brain matter from the churned-up cave creatures. Maybe something would grab my hand. Something with feathery mandibles and pincers and sightless pink eyes.
You can see why I’ve found other things that needed doing.
This weekend, armed with purple dish gloves and a poking stick, I finally ventured back into the crawlspace to get the pump working. With the water now down by the bottom of the sump, I can see what happens when I switch it on: water is sucked up and immediately sprays out the sides of the outlet pipe, which is a corroded and perforated mess. Note to do-it-yourselfers: Don’t use steel pipe in a submerged situation! Der!
As I grab the pipe to look closer, it moves to the side. And the sump pump doesn’t. I rock it again and it snaps off from the sump. Uh oh.
I pull all the bits out of the crawlspace and into the light. The sump pump is a great hefty thing that looks like it was made when the atom was God, and men smoked pipes, had dogs named Prince, drove cars with no seatbelts but plenty of chrome, and wives with conical gravity-defying bras.
The outlet pipe had sheared off right at the base where it threaded into the pump. Hmm, not good. Here was a perfectly good pump, entering its fourth or fifth decade of service, and some convoluted outlet pipe made by the previous owner that had no less than two elbows and four sections of pipe.
I managed to carefully chisel the rusted threads out of the pump and disassemble the pump base. This post-war pump had stainless screws that I could remove with my bare fingers once I loosened them with the wrench. (Note to do-it-yourselfers: stainless steel! Brilliant!) A beautiful cast-bronze impeller and outlet needed a little alignment, and a single screw needed replacement. After a quick trip to the hardware store (a single trip!), I had a plastic outlet hose with the exact sized thread fitting which went in perfectly to the pump.
Please, I think, someone drag my body from the crawlspace, where I must’ve gotten high from swampgas and dreamed the whole thing. I haven’t given myself the nickname Uncle F#*k-Up because all my home-improvement jobs go, ahem, smoothly.
But sure enough, the pump goes back in the sump, I fill it with water, and switch it on.
Whammo! Blammo! Kapow! In three seconds it empties the sump and gurgles, thirsty for more. Man, could they make a pump in the fifties. I just know this model was hand-drafted by engineers with horn-rimmed glasses and short black ties.
Original sump pump -1
Crap-Ass steel piping – 0
Uncle F#*k-Up – 1,000,000