Sump Pump Floats And Floor Drains, Oh My

Yesterday, I got one of those phone calls from my wife that I never want.  “There’s water in the basement.”  My wife heard one of our water alarms going off and found a puddle of water in the middle of the basement.  She couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  I only work a few minutes from home, so I was able to get there pretty quick.  I didn’t even have to go to where the puddle was.  As soon as I went down into the basement, I knew what the issue was.  The sump pump wasn’t pumping.

Why You Don’t Skip Routine Maintenance

Remember how I said I knew right away what the problem was?  I knew that it was the sump pump because when I went downstairs, I saw that water was seeping up through the cracks in the floor, as well as around the perimeter.  And this had happened once before, many years ago.  That time, I went downstairs to feed our cats, and saw the same thing.  And it was the same problem.  The sump pump wasn’t working

What happened that time was that the sump pump floats got tangled up.  See, we actually have a backup system.  We have a backup pump that runs on a marine battery.  That way if power ever goes out, or the main pump fails, the backup can keep us water free.

They both have floats to trigger them to turn on, and what I found out years ago was that they wiggle around over time to where they end up around the same place.

Ever since then, every few months, I would go down, work my way into the tiny space where the pumps are, and move the floats around to where they were nowhere near each other.  For years I didn’t have the problem.

Except guess what I didn’t do last fall when I should have?  I’m not sure why, but it just didn’t happen.

So when that happens, it knocks out both the primary and the backup system.  Since the floats basically get stuck together, both fail.

Preventing it is a simple fix and I was kicking myself for not having done it.

Image from morguefile courtesy of jade

All Kinds Of Lucky

On a scale of one to ten, I’d rate it a four on the luck factor that we had a water alarm.  Since we no longer have cats, we don’t go down to the basement every day.  So, I have a water alarm near the hot water tank in case that starts leaking.  That actually was the one that went off.   The water was coming up through a floor drain that normally drains into the sump well.  Because of the alarm, I got the floats untangled quickly enough that nothing got very wet.

Now, on a scale of one to ten, that this happened THIS week was incredibly lucky, and I rate it a ten.  We’re heading down to Florida, and if this had happened a week later than it did, we’d have come home to an awful mess.  All the alarms in the world wouldn’t have helped if nobody was in the house for days to hear them.

That got me thinking, maybe I need to look into a wi-fi water alarm.  Such a thing has to exist.

Uncovering A New Issue

After everything was quickly back to normal, I started looking around to make sure there wasn’t anything I was missing.  As I was walking around, I happened to notice the other floor drain.  And I noticed that it was completely dry.

Now, in the sense that we only had one puddle to mop up instead of two, this was a good thing.  But, if we ever needed that half of the basement to drain, having it not functioning is bad.

When I looked down into the drain with a flashlight, I could see water but it was clearly nowhere near the level that you’d expect.  Clearly there’s something wrong.

I started thinking about it and the probable answer came to me.

Cat litter.

Although we no longer have cats, for the nine years that we did while living in this house, the litter boxes were each about ten feet from the drain.  My guess is that over time, a piece of litter here and a piece of litter there fell into the drain.  While there is still some water getting through, it’s probably blocked.

I’ve done some research and have found out that cat litter in pipes does cause clogs.  It’s also somewhat of a common problem, as I’ve found.  Apparently some people flush their cat litter down the toilet?  Ew.

Anyway, it seems that pouring a rush of boiling hot water can often free up the litter.  So I’ll have to try that.

In my case, it’s going to be a bit more of a complex job.  The pipes in question empty in to the sump well.  So, if I break up the litter, I can’t just let it travel along its merry way.  Otherwise, it’ll just end up in the well and probably wreak havoc on the pump, or create another clump in the pipe exiting the house.  So, I’ll have to figure out the exact spot where the pipe drains into the well, and will have to catch whatever comes out of it.

It’s been a pretty wet few weeks.  Doing what I described would probably be more manageable when things are dry and there isn’t much water coming into the sump well.

Add it to the to do list.   As well as making sure those floats are re-adjusted every few months.  Without fail!

Readers, have you ever had a sump pump issue?  Did you ever dodge a bullet like I did?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

7 Cleaning Tips I Find Useful

Cleaning the house is not top on the list of fun things to do for many people.  But, since it has to be done anyway, you might as well make the most of it, right?  Here are a handful of tips I’ve picked up along the way.  I hope you find them useful.

Cleaning Tips I’ve Picked Up

  1. Use vinegar.  We have some traditional cleaners in our house, but a majority of our cleaning is done with vinegar.  A 50-50 vinegar/water mix will clean most surfaces. Why put up with all the chemicals if you don’t have to?  Plus, vinegar is cheap!
  2. Spray first, scrub later.  When you spray something down, give it a minute or two before scrubbing.  You’ll find that many stains will dissipate and caked on mess will become easier to clean.
  3. Clean from top to bottom.  If you clean your floors first, chances are you’ll get them messy when you clean something above it. Work from the top down to avoid cleaning things twice.
  4. Clean windows and mirrors with newspaper.  I still use Windex here, but instead of paper towel, I use newspaper.  It doesn’t streak.  Hint: Only use paper with black newsprint.
  5. Clean lampshades with a lint roller.  Don’t bother trying to vacuum a dirty lampshade or wipe them down with a cloth.  Both leave messes.  A lint roller will do the trick every time.
  6. Clean on both sides of exterior door.  Are you tired of cleaning the floors only to have the first person that walks through the door bring in a mess?  Shake out rugs and sweep or vacuum on the outside of the door to minimize this.
  7. Carry around a screwdriver while you clean.  Technically, this isn’t a cleaning tip but it will save you time.  I often carry around a screwdriver to tighten cabinet pull knobs, doors, or other things that you notice but never get around to fixing.

I hope these tips help.  Readers, what are your favorite cleaning tips?  Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

March 2017 Updates

It’s March!  Did you know that even though Spring doesn’t officially start until later this month, that from a meteorological standpoint, spring has started?  That’s right, from a meteorological perspective, the seasons start on the 1st of the month of the calendar change.  I guess they know something we don’t!  I hope that things are going well.  Here are some March 2017 updates and goals.


I recently wrote about some renewed focus on my fitness.  So far this is going well!

  • As of the end of February, I’ve dropped 5.8 pounds.  I’ve also dropped my body fat percentage from 21.0% to 19.0%.  These are both since the beginning of the year.  Both of these numbers make me happy.
  • I’m getting to the gym around 4 times per week.
  • I’m mostly running and walking.
  • I haven’t got as much weight lifting done as I’d hoped.  I had hernia surgeries years back, and the weight lifting has caused some minor pain in the area.  I got things checked during a recent visit, and I haven’t done any damage.  Most likely it’s pulling on the scar tissue.  The doctor recommended that I skip the weights until I’m pain free, then see if I can narrow it down to figure out what’s causing the pain.  If that works, I can eventually cut out just the portion of my workout that’s causing the stress.


  • We got our taxes submitted to our CPA, and it was done in record time.  That was the good news.  The bad news is that the refunds were a few hundred dollars less than I’d hoped.  Oh, well!
  • We already got our refunds!
  • The refunds came so quick that we didn’t even have a chance to allocate the money, so we’ll have to do that.

Florida Trip

Our spring break trip is just around the corner!

  • Both of the big bills for our upcoming spring break trip have been paid: Renting our condo and our flights.
  • Our biggest to-do (except for packing) is to plan our trip back and forth to the airport.  We’re actually driving about 3.5 hours to an airport in Ohio.  The flights were about 50% cheaper versus flying from Detroit.
  • We won’t have a car while we’re down in Florida.  We can Uber to and from the airport.  There’s a trolley line that runs from our hotel to nearby grocery stores (we also plan to use Amazon Prime Pantry).  All of the restaurants and beaches we plan to visit are within walking distance.

Other March 2017 Updates

  • Lawn – I’ll be working in the backyard.  Since we had some tree stumps removed, I’ll have to dig out the shavings, fill in with top soil and put some seed down.  We have a number of other spots throughout our yard that could use some fill in, so I’m debating just getting a load of top soil delivered.
  • Fridge – Our basement fridge is one that we borrowed many years back.  It’s a mini-fridge (bigger than a box fridge) but has worked well.  We knew that the owner might want it back, and it’s been our plan to move the old, ugly white fridge in the kitchen to the basement and get a new kitchen fridge.  Well, our ticket was finally called.  Unfortunately, it was about two weeks past President’s Day, which is when you can get some good sales.  So, while we’re not going to rush to buy a new fridge and overpay, we may be down to a single fridge for awhile until we find a deal.  As we’re often at capacity with our current two fridges, this could be troublesome.

Readers, how are things going for you this March?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

My Stump Grinding Tip – Hire Someone

To grind or not to grind?  Here is my best stump grinding tip: Hire someone to do the work!

A Few Stumps To Grind

One of the features that drew us to purchase our home 10 years ago was the number of mature trees on our lot.  Our

Image from Morguefile via dhester

house is relatively new (built in 1999), but the developer kept many mature trees.  We love this.  However, with a number of mature trees, we had to have some removed.  A few years ago, we started losing quite a few elm trees.  After the dust settled, we have a few less elm trees left, but had a few more stumps.  I wanted to get them ground out and put grass seed down, so I debated whether to do it myself or have someone do it.

My Former Strategy

We had one stump from years ago that was along the edge of our lot that I never did anything with.  It took about 10 years but it finally rotted out where I was able to dig what was left out and fill it in.

This was, of course, one option, though with three stumps and being right in the middle of the yard, it wasn’t a real option.

Do It Yourself Stump Grinding

Renting a stump grinder from Home Depot is listed at $94.  This is a four hour rental.  You have to unload it, load it back up, and of course figure out what you’re doing.

I was a little leery of this.  Using machines with sharp blades that are moving very fast and grinding wood and dirt and such is not in my comfort zone.  Read: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Still, with a pickup truck, it would be straightforward to get it back and forth, so I considered the idea.

Leaving It To The Pros (My Stump Grinding Tip)

Our subdivision contracts out our landscaping.  We hired a new company last year that has worked out very well.  They took over for a company that was unreliable and did the bare minimum.

They work with many neighborhoods, and see it as an opportunity to offer services to residents as well.  Word of mouth is very important to them.

I was on our homeowner’s board a couple of years ago, so I heard that they are very fairly priced.  When I contacted them for a quote, they said that they could do it for $150.

That was a no brainer for me.  I had them come out and grind the stumps the next day.  They even got to do it in February as we had a really nice warm spell with temperatures in the 60’s.  Those are record temperatures for Michigan.

Crunching The Numbers

For me, it was a simple decision.  Although it cost $56 more, it meant that I didn’t have to:

  • Load and unload the machine.
  • Push the machine around and risk taking chunks out of the grass.
  • Use the machine incorrectly, grinding too much or too little.
  • Risk damaging the machine.
  • Risk my own personal safety.
  • Spend my time doing any work.

I’m pretty sure that I got a break from economies of scale.  If I would have had just one stump, I’m guessing it would have cost at least $100.  It was likely a case that once they are set up for one stump, doing a couple more is no big deal.

The End Result

We were out of town when they did the work, but when I came back, things looked great.  Instead of three stumps there were three piles of wood shavings.

When spring comes, I’ll have some work to do.  I’ll have to dig out all the shavings, fill in with top soil, then apply grass seed and water.  This kind of stuff I can handle with no problem.

I’m just glad the stump grinding portion is out of the way!

Readers, do you agree with my stump grinding tip?  When do you draw the line between doing it yourself and leaving it to the pros?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.