Stuck in the Muck

“Hear that hum?” my husband G. Grod asked before he left for work. “That’s the sump pump. It’s running continuously. I think it’s blocked. Probably not good.” He paused to shoulder his messenger bag. “Thanks for letting me vent my anxiety about that. I’m off to work.”

I picked up that anxiety right where he left it, as the hum droned on. I went outside to check the outtake pipe. Sure enough, the end of the pipe was frozen solid after yesterday’s thaw and last night’s freeze. I got a shovel, poured boiling water and salt on it, and managed to get the end clear. But the pump hummed on, trying so hard to get water out of our basement. I knew if something didn’t happen, the motor would give, or our basement would flood.

I checked the internet. I called my dad. Turns out the freeze probably went up a ways into the pipe, which was about eight feet long. One suggestion was to hook a hose to my hot water heater, put it out the window, and up the pipe, and move it up as the water melted. This worked, so I set about trying to warm the pipe in other ways, in and out of the house, donning and doffing my muddy boots, and braving the above-freezing but grey, windy and snizzling day. I heated water to boiling, but could only pour it on the pipe at either end–the middle was buried in dirt and ice. I tried a hair dryer on an extension cord, but that made hardly any difference in the wind. I chipped away at the mulch, dirt and ice first with a rake, then with a hand tool, then with a shovel, then with the edging tool. I made little progress through the layer of ice beneath. I also turned off the pump, to save the motor. I’d periodically plug it back in to see if things were clear.

After EIGHT HOURS of in and out, shoveling, ice chipping, water boiling, etc, the sump pumped, and then stopped. That silence was perhaps the happiest moment of my day.

3 Responses to “Stuck in the Muck”

  1. Grandpa Says:

    I hate sump pumps! Or, I hate needing a sump pump. We’ve had the pipe freeze only once. A couple of times the float got stuck so it never turned on. Another time the pipe came apart outside and the water ran right back into the sump so the motor ran continuously until it burned out. Yuk.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Yes, it was the latter I was trying to avoid, since the output was blocked.

    Imagine my frustration when G. came home, I told him about this, and he gently told me I probably could have just separated the pipe at the exterior wall, since it has a simple clamp. D’oh.

    That would have been treating the symptom, though. I fixed the whole thing. Ha! (Cue hollow laughter.)

  3. Sydney Says:

    Funny you called dad, but NOT your husband… who could have shared the suggestion with you at that time… :)