Because Every Day Brings Joy
Posted on November 19, 2009 Posted by John Scalzi 60 Comments
Busted sump pump in the basement!
Fortunately, the folks to fix this will be here in a couple of hours. Then once its fixed we get to see what stuff has water damage. I think I may kill zombies until then.
I thought you lived on top of hill, how would you get water in your basement?
Can you drown the zombies?
Nah, zombies would just wander around underwater looking slightly more graceful than usual.
GregLondon @1: I’ll bet it has something to do with him falling down that damned well.
Well, it could be worse, it could be sewage.
Oooh, sorry. Glad it allows for more time to kill zombies. More things should. I remember the day both my water heaters blew. Sadly I didn’t have a PS3 then or a good gaming PC.
Yet another reason I’m so happy I don’t own a house anymore. Something goes bust, the landlady takes care of it. Fortunately she’s on top of things and they get taken care of rather quickly.
GregLondon @ 1:
A water table acts in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform.
When you have the work done have them set it up so with easily removable clamps. Then purchase a spare pump. (they are only $100 or so) This way when it is late at night and you notice the pump has stopped working, and all the stores are closed and your repair guy is not answering his phone, you can do the swap yourself.
Another thing to consider if you get lots of water in your sump is a second pump that runs only on battery power and only if the power goes out. That will be a few hundred more but consider it a rather cheap insurance policy to keep you basement from flooding.
God, I sound like handyman central……
Watch Out behind you! Zombie!
Best wishes for minimal damages.
Two words: Battery backup sump pump system. (Oh, wait, that was five words.) I think mine was about $140 plus another $100 or so for the marine battery; $50-$60 to get it installed, if you’re not up to it yourself.
The risk-benefit may not pay off for an unfinished basement, depending on what you have stored in it — but if the basement is finished, it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
It’s been raining here in our part of Ohio for the past 2 days, so if his sump pump was to go out, this would be a bad time. Not the worst possible moment, but definately a bad time.
My family has been having rather massive plumbing problems of late too. Our entire first floor flooded. I definitely sympathize.
You could always trundle down to the local hardware store and get a portable sump to keep the water level down while you’re waiting.
To an Arizonan, the thought that it could actually rain enough for watter to pool in a basement is too frightening for words.
Just curious, as someone who lives in Texas where we have no basements due to bedrock geology:
Is this like a pump on a leaky boat, where water is constantly coming in, and as soon as the pump stops working the water starts rising? Or is it more an emergency situation tool, where water only comes in during a storm or flood?
Wondering primarily if this is something that everyone with a basement deals with, and if you immediately suffer damage if the pump dies?
Better yet, find a mod for L4D2 that lets you kill zombies WITH SUMP PUMPS
What local hardware store?
I couldn’t think of a better way to wait for some on calls.
Picked up L4D2 last night and you’re right John, very entertaining. Far more challenging than the first title… and I had two friends and only one dumb AI.
Sorry to hear about your pump problems. I hope you don’t have to much water damage. Whatever you do, don’t let FEMA get involved!!!!
John: I’m highly offended that you joke about killing zombies. Zombies are NO laughing matter! Do you know that a majority of fictional apocalypses involve zombies? In fact, aliens (the green kind, not the kind that do all the stuff we American’s are too lazy to do) and zombies account for around 90% of all totally made up apocalypses! The remaining 10% of world ending fictional events involve diseases, natural disasters and Mayans (how boring is that?)
Having just typed the previous paragraph it is only a matter of time before somebody makes a movie about aliens of the E.T. variety fighting zombies during December of 2012. The movie will take place somewhere in what is left of the Antarctic.
Heck John, you know it will be written, why don’t you write it? You have a couple of hours to kill while your sump pump is being fixed.
PS – 1) One of the characters should be perfect for Megan Fox. That character, for whatever reason, should be wearing a bikini throughout the entire film. I know, it takes place in the Antarctic, wearing a bikini makes NO SENSE. But so what? Think Blockbuster! 2) NONE of the characters should be a fit for Shia LaBeouf. Seriously, no more LaBeouf, ever.
This is the sort of thing that makes me fear becoming a homeowner. (Which I otherwise very much want!)
I grew up in a house that had no need for a sump pump. Sure, the boiler gave way one time, but a shop vac took care of that. Mom’s had the house for forty years. Clearly, the water table is many, many feet below the house.
Now I live in another part of the world where people put “brand new sump pump!” on their real estate listings. But–but–I don’t want a house that *needs* a sump pump!
What’s that, Lassie? John fell into the well and he broke the pump too?
Yes, every day has its “joys.” Mine today was typing an entire comment over at AMCTV in Anonymous mode, then having it suddenly tell me I had to sign in to comment when I tried to post it. I’ve never had to do that before, so I had to sign up before I could sign in. And someone had already taken my posting name, so I gave up at that point.
My brilliant ideas about science education will remain unknown to the world. What a tragic loss!
And our washing machine died, whilst smoking the wash, today. And the back of the toilet fell off last week. I’m waiting for the third disaster now.
If Mr. Scalzi went into the basement alone when there are zombies about, you know what that means.
He is probably a zombie now himself, and the fix it people will be the next recruits. Unless they are warned off by Kodi and the cats, who will sense this via the wisdom of beasts.
Argh! I messed up the unbold markup after “alone”. I blame bad science in the movies.
Look for a house situated such that the basement or crawl space can have a drainage pipe that flows down slope to the surface. As long as you don’t let the pipe outlet get plugged up, you’ll have no need for a sump pump.
Yes, that may reduce the number of available houses.
Would it be worth your while to install said gravity-fed drainpipe into your basement, assuming that you are high enough for it to work? Trenching and having someone install the drain might be several hundred dollars, but if done right, you would almost never need to worry about drainage again, let alone a sump pump.
So you didn’t fall down your well. You just fell asleep in the basement when the sump pump broke.
I just spent the last ten minutes trying to formulate a 1940s Headline-esque reformulation of the topic.
Best I got:
Bum Sump Pump Makes Scalzi Grump, Kick Zombie Rump.
As long as the zombies you are killing don’t claw there way out of your now damaged soggy floor, you should be okay.
Good luck and try to ignore the squishing sounds. I am sure it is nothing.
Pict @ 30:
This has nothing to do with anything but me, but Scalzi, if you’re still trollin’ this thread: where’s a good place to get book reccomendations? I read a lot of what gets a Big Idea post, but have essentially no other sources.
No basements on the Texas Gulf Coast. If you had one, the sump pump would be trying to pump out the Gulf of Mexico. Not gonna happen!
Other Keith @#15: Most basements in places where there’s water and flat terrain have a perimeter drain (perforated pipe around the outside perimeter of the foundation) that catches any water near the foundation and drains it into a sump pit in the basement. This prevents water from seeping into the basement or (worse) undermining the foundation. The sump pump has a float switch that turns the pump on when the water in the pit reaches a certain level, and pumps the water out to drain away from the house. In normal weather the sump pump rarely comes on at all. In rainy weather it might turn on a few times a day for ten seconds or so each time. In a real downpour, it’ll maybe come on once or twice an hour.
One problem is that “heavy rain” and “power outage” are strongly correlated events, so when the power goes out and your sump pump therefore can’t run, it’s usually when there’s a lot of water in the ground seepin into ur houz fluddin ur bazement.
@#17 # John Scalzion 19 Nov 2009 at 12:52 pm
What local hardware store?
John!!! You’re a country boy now!!! That means any hardware store within 50 miles is “close”!!
Oh man remember that time your sump pump broke and you played Left 4 Dead 2 while you waited for the people to come and fix it? That was awesome!
(Sorry, I seem to be channeling Ellis today.)
Using my house as an example, you get a steady flow of water from the drains around the foundation of the house to the sump. So your leaky boat comparison is correct.
As for ‘immediate’ damage, at my house I have three to six hours, depending on the ground water, to fix it before it starts overflowing. If I stick to the same brand of pump I can swap it out in 15-20 minutes.
Where I live was known way back when as ‘the swamps west of Columbus’. My sump kicks in every 5 minutes or so on dry days, every minute or so when it’s wet. I keep a generator and a spare pump handy.
Hopefully your Campbell and Hugos did NOT get water damaged… Or, if you are in true geek-dom, your collectible comic-books.
Been there, and done that. My condolences to you, your family, and all that cool stuff you had in the basement.
A basement? That is one of those peculiarly American things. It would be cool to have a basement so I could say something like, “I’m going down to the basement for… stuff”. But unfortunately in Oz 99% of homes are built on concrete slabs.
Mark Horning @ 14
A basement? In Arizona?
How much sump could a sump pump pump if a sump pump could pump sump?
shane, why is that? Do you know? I’ve never heard that before.
Guess you don’t have tornados, huh? Or if so, where do you go?
Xopher, not enough tornadoes to worry about I suppose. But even in the cyclone prone north there aren’t basements. Tropical monsoons means flooding I guess. Even in the rest of the country where we don’t have cyclones there has not been a tradition of basements. After the devastating fires in Victoria earlier this year there is talk of mandatory fire bunkers but I doubt they will be basements in houses considering 90 percent of houses are on concrete slabs and the rest are up on blocks.
I’m also guessing because of the fairly temperate climate for most of the country we don’t have central heating so no boilers needed in a basement.
Having said that of course some Aussie will pop up now and say they’ve always lived in a house with a basement. Personally, I have never been in a house with an underground basement in Australia.
When I was little, I lived with my parents in “Married Housing” at the university where my dad was a grad student. All the houses were exactly alike and none of them had basements.
I didn’t believe basements really existed. I thought they were made up, like unicorns.
Hey, whaddaya want? I was three.
Xopher, betcha had an attic though.
I have no idea. I remember the kitchen table was nailed to the floor.
I wanted to leave a comment on one of your books (the first, “Agent to the Stars”) but couldn’t find an E-mail address. I know this blog is not the place and apologize for the OT post. Can you please advise? I have no experience of basements, living on the top floor of a condominium. I know more about leaky roofs.
Twelve hours later…
a) the basement is now a swimming pool
b) he has fallen down a well again
Take your pick.
Zombies? Pah! Get to writing, you workshy fop! Moar Old Man’s War stuff, curse you!
(this post not to be taken seriously. Or internally).
Just curious, John – is that small body of water in your general vicinity above the level of your basement floor, hence mandating the use of the sump pump? Or is it a general condition of the area?
Either way, hope that the damage is minimal and that you won’t have to deploy the Ginormous Blower of Drying again.
Mark @14: Also desert-raised, but have learned that a cautionary “FLASH FLOOD AREA – NEXT n MILES” sign really, truly means “don’t be here when most of the year’s rain ration buckets down and heads this way.” The more arid the terrain, the faster it’s likely to arrive all at once and nothing first. 
 There’s a section of I-10 outside Blythe (CA/AZ border) which is: a. below sea level; b. surrounded by flat desert which rises on either side of the road, if only by a handspan; and c. too long to simply floor it and get to high ground ahead of a sudden change in weather, should it decide to f*** with you and turn nasty. Can’t recall a time I’ve driven it without seeing at least one vehicle (often more) which had been swept off the road by a gullywasher and run aground 30 – 3000m out.
Time to re-read Water Is For Washing.
John – your continued silence is – disturbing.
I really hope you didn’t have too much flooding and wet stuff to deal with. I’ve had this, and it’s lots and lots of not fun.
My understanding of basements is that they are more likely in areas prone to harsher winters. When building a house in such a climate you need to have the footings on your foundation below the frost line. This is to prevent the foundadtion from buckling when the ground freezes and heaves in the winter. In Ohio that would be around 48 inches. If you are going to have to excavate that far the thinking generally is why not go a little further and gain some valuable square footage for only a few extra dollars. Although in some areas that will also include the sump pump and related issues.
Temperate climate areas tend to just put the house on a slab.
Don’t hide in the basement when the zombies come unless you have an escape tunnel.
I’ve got two broken pumps. One a sump and the other a leaky Polaris for a freshly replastered pool. I’m going to do a jigsaw puzzle. The pool man is coming tomorrow.
Get a Leakfrog. They’re cheap (between $9-14), vigilante, they let you know something’s wrong by being super-annoying, and they’re shaped like a limbless frog. What more could ask for in something that is almost more likely to save your basement’s contents than a smoke detector, and or/a pet?
“Huge flocks of soiled zombies crawling up from the sewers, infringing peoples’ personal freedom…” Your neighbors should pay you for getting that pump fixed.
Nargal @42, they exist, but are very expensive. A coworker has a 4 bedroom house where all 4 bedrooms are in the basement and all the common space is upstairs at ground level.
Echo on the “keep a spare pump and rig for quick swap” suggestion. It’s not rocket science, and no degree in nuclear plumbing is required. Just a spare rubber joiner sleeve, a pre-cut length of PVC, and a coupla ring clamps. But still useless if you don’t have SOME sort of system for alerting you when the water rises.
GregLondon @ 1: I know places where ground springs come out on the TOPS of hills, and generally soak in and/or evaporate before reaching the bottom of said hills. It’s weird to be walking those hills, kicking up dust in the gulleys and valleys, then have to slog through mud up on the “summits.” But it happens.