Springtime Projects for AAAD!

Winter has finally given up! It's a big weekend at the AAAD house.

Some are fun projects. Some "keep the house from falling apart" maintenance projects.

First and foremost, we're putting up baby gates, as the little girl is on the move.

We went with the DreamBaby Extra-Tall Gate with a 39" extension, because we have an unconventional staircase and need a 79" span to be blocked off.

That will be installed today - probably by the time I get home. (Thanks, father-in-law!)

The primary problem we're facing has to do with underground drain pipes, and all of this melting snow.

Problem 1 - The Sump Pumps

We have a Basement Watchdog sump pump system - we've discussed it before on AAAD.

Lately, it's been working awfully hard, for 2 reasons.

  • Tons of water due to melting snow, and
  • Drain pipes that are substantially blocked by tree roots.
Because the drainage pipes were blocked, the sump pump would overflow where the water ejects from our house - which causes water to flow right back into the sump system, and keeps the pumps running constantly. 

Our primary pump seems to have an issue with failing to switch on, which causes the backup pump to kick in. 

The primary pump will run if you shake it around a bit. 

That is, frankly, a terrible sign. Equipment should not work BETTER when you shake it. This isn't the movies. 

There's a decent chance that our sump pump needs some sort of repair, or maybe replacement. 

Problem 2 - The Drain Pipes

Our drain pipe has been an issue in the past.  While our house is new (built in 2008), the builders used flexible corrugated pipe for much of the underground run, instead of 4" PVC. 

That was simply a terrible decision. 

Another strange choice - the sump feeds into the same underground drain pipe as the gutters. This causes leaves to build up underground. 

When the sump overflows, the nearby gutters back up and spray water. 

I usually run a stainless steel clog-buster snake through it, and try to beat up the blockage. Lately, that isn't working. 

We had a rooter company examine the blocked drain pipes. He ran a "beacon" through the pipe from both directions, and then tracked where the blockage was located. 

Fortunately, the blockage appears to be BEFORE the pipe goes under the driveway. And the "beacon" service ran us less than $200.  

Unfortunately, he wanted almost $3,000 to dig up and replace about 25 feet of corrugated pipe. More than $100 per foot!?

I know I can do this. 

At a minimum, I can't hurt things. I can dig up the identified clog area, and see what's going on. 

So we got started last night.

Problem 3 - The Spooky Old Tree

First observation - the identified problem area is absolutely lousy with tree roots. 

We have a (horrible, ugly, dying) tree in our front yard. which will be removed literally as soon as a tree service can get started. 

It looks like the Spooky Old Tree from the Berenstain Bears books.

The tree was annoying just because of how ugly it was, and how it occasionally dropped huge branches on our driveway. It's dangerous! 

Now that I know it's also choking off our drains underground? It has to GO. 

Just digging a hole in this area takes 2 people - one with the shovel, and one with a saw to cut the roots. 


After missing the pipe with our first dig, we found it on the second. 

Actually, I found the pipe with my shovel blade. 

I either found an existing hole, or cut a huge hole in the pipe -- Right on cue, the entire hole started filling with water! 

This makes the digging muddy and messy, but it's a good thing. 

The sump stopped overflowing back at the house, and started overflowing where I'd cut the drainage pipe, down by the spooky old tree. 

Looking at the pipe, the problems are apparent. 

First off, the pipe has collapsed in certain places. That's not unexpected - flexible corrugated pipe should NOT BE USED in residential applications. 

Second, reaching my hand into the hole in the pipe, it's absolutely full of roots. 

So, today, the plan is as follows:
  1. Excavate all around the drain pipe in the known "problem area". 
  2. Saw through all roots in the immediate area, and remove from the "good" pipe. 
  3. Remove the damaged drainage pipe from the "problem area".
The fourth step is just as important, but may take a few days:

     4. Remove the tree causing the problem.

And finally, after the drains are running properly:

     5. Determine if a new sump pump is required. 

This isn't as comprehensive a solution as the $3,000 plan suggested by our rooter - but it's awfully close. 


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