Select Reputable Contractor
Basement waterproofing may include a sump pump installation among other things. AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation installed two that were so flawed as to be worthless. Their work crew obviously was incompetent but AquaGuard, the self-styled “Trusted Name in Waterproofing” neither cared about who they sent to my house nor cared to know how much I was being ripped off. Indeed when I complained, they defended the “work” and did their best to blow me off. Simply put, this is an example of a company grabbing money, handing responsibility over to some subcontractor, and leaving the customer to deal with the results. No quality control, no inspections, just greed and ignorance on a massive scale. Buyer Beware!
To understand the depth of the problem, let’s examine this critical part of the job in detail.
As the Arbitrator stated: “Contractor admitted that the workmanship was sub-standard and needed to be redone. Virtually every aspect of the project was improperly performed or not performed at all.” The following series of postings will highlight the extent of the unworkmanlike (to put it mildly) performance that I was subjected to. These will focus on the sump enclosure construction, contrasting what was offered to us by AquaGuard, what experts and the industry describe as standard or recommended practice, and what was “delivered” by AquaGuard’s unlicensed, incompetent subcontractor.
For this posting, we will look at what one might expect to find in a typical sump pump installation. The information and figures provided are for descriptive purposes only. I am not an expert and cannot provide advice or recommendations on such installation. However, I will provide the reader with references such as various data sheets and instructions found in industry publications. Zoeller Company, a producer of numerous commercial and residential waste water products, has given me permission to reference and link to a number of their data sheets and figures. To paraphrase their website, Zoeller Company was founded in 1939 as a family owned operation making, among other things, a dependable column sump pump. They are the oldest independently owned U.S. pump manufacturer, and all Zoeller pumps are time-tested and quality driven.
AquaGuard promised to use Zoeller pumps, which indeed they did. However, in all cases they provided small, cheaper versions of what was described to me. They have their reasons. AquaGuard’s General Manager defends the breach of contract with respect to the size of the submersible sump pumps by stating under oath that they had “problems” with the larger pump. We will explore his assertions in detail as well as Zoeller’s response to his statements in a future posting. For now I will merely note what Zoeller states on their website: “Our submersible pumps are 100% factory tested underwater for dependability from the instant they’re plugged in.”
Returning to sump pump installations, let us note several elements of such a system:
First, the enclosure itself rests just below the surface of the basement slab, surrounded by a bed of gravel. This means that before installing the sump pump enclosure, a hole must be dug significantly larger than the enclosure itself. The gap between the enclosure and the dirt surrounding the foundation should be filled with gravel.
Second, the sides of the enclosure must be opened so the trench inlet or drainage pipe can allow water collected in the trench path to empty into the sump enclosure. That is, the enclosure itself must be capable of collecting and storing water from the trench path in order for it to serve its primary purpose, i.e., hold the collected water until it fills the enclosure to the point where the sump pump turns on (via a float-controlled switch) and pushes the water out of the house through the discharge piping.
Third, a submersible pump of suitable size or capacity must be set into the enclosure to enable the water discharging function described above. We will refer to this as the primary pump. It may be powered by electricity, though the wiring isn’t shown in the illustrative diagram. The electricity itself may come from “city power”, via a separate outlet with its own circuit breaker.
Fourth, some sort of backup discharge or pumping system should be provided in case the primary pump is not functioning. One can see the need for such a backup if you consider what happens in cases such as severe weather, such as a hurricane. The combination of heavy rains and lost electrical power can leave you with a lot of water and a primary pump that doesn’t run. A battery backup pump can buy you time.
Finally, the water must be pumped out via a discharge pipe system.
In the coming weeks we’ll examine these basic system components and what was actually delivered. No one will be surprised that there were problems. Indeed what the Arbitrator stated with respect to the entire project is accurate with respect to the sump enclosure. To repeat: “Virtually every aspect of the project was improperly performed or not performed at all.” That AquaGuard allowed this to happen speaks volumes about their lack of quality control or interest in what happened in my home.