Ejector and Sump Pit 101

Most of the homes in the Chicagoland area have below grade areas such as basements and crawlspaces.  Since these areas are below grade, any water that gets to these areas needs to be pumped out of the area and properly disposed. Sometimes it is easier to answer a few of the more common questions I get during a home inspection.

What is the difference between a sump pit and an ejector pit?

A sump pit collects outside/ground water that may enter the basement through cracks or gaps in the floor or wall.  There is a sump pump inside the pit that is supposed to pump that water to the exterior of the house or into a storm sewer.  An ejector pit collects inside water from below grade bathrooms, laundry, floor drains, humidifiers and HVAC condensation drains. There is an ejector pump inside that is supposed to pump that waster material into the raw sewerage.

Are the pumps the same?

No, they are different.  Since only rain water is supposed to go into a sump pit, the sump pump will have a screen/strainer on the bottom to prevent debris from getting into the pump and damaging the impellers.  Ejector pumps are designed to take solid waste like fecal matter and toilet paper, grind it up and pump it out.  There is no screen/strainer on the bottom to stop the solids from entering the bottom.

Can an ejector pump discharge any solid?

No, it is important that only fecal matter and toilet paper get flushed down toilets that utilize the ejector pump.  Items that may be common to flush down most toilets such as cottons, nylons, dead animals and other materials that I just don’t feel comfortable mentioning here may damage these pump and should not be flushed down these toilets.

Does every home need a sump pump?

Not necessarily.  Every home is different.  Water seeks it own level.  There is water beneath the entire Chicagoland area.  Depending how deep your basement/crawlspace is and how well the area around your home drains away rainwater you may not need one at all.  But me, I am one of those better safe than sorry guys.  I do believe that every home should have a sump pump.  I should also confess, that when I do inspections in older homes that do not have sump pits, AND I don’t see any signs of water entry, it is hard for me to justify someone spending close to $3,000.00 ($10,000 for the larger companies that you see their advertising) for a water control system.  We recently gutted and rebuilt our home.  Our basement only received water one time and I swear it rained so hard, I was looking for Noah’s ark.  We did install a perimeter drain tile and a sump pit.  That thing went 9 months without a pump in it during construction.  It is still bone dry.  I honestly don’t think is will ever be needed again, but it is there should the great tidal wave come.

Basements are holes in the earth.  When we make holes in the earth, water will want to fill that hole.  Our foundations are walls designed to support the structure resting on it and the soil on the outside.  Footings, basement floors, and foundation walls are not poured at the same time.  First the footing is poured and then the foundation is poured on top of that.  The last pour is the basement floor.  Since the point where these slabs of concrete come together is not a water tight jointAnytime we have water below grade, we have to give it a way to get out of the house.  The two methods are underground sewers and overhead sewers. Underground sewers work by gravity.  If your home has the main drains going down into the floors, you have underground gravity sewers.  If your drains go out through the wall of the foundation, then you will most likely have overhead sewers.