If you are experiencing difficulty with your basement sewer pump not adequately clearing the basin, then it is possible the check valve is clogged. Sewer pumps and their associated plumbing, including the check valve, are designed to handle human wastes, but other substances can cause problems with functioning. Fortunately, removing, cleaning and reinstalling the check valve in your basement sewer pump is a relatively simple task that can be performed by most homeowners. Here is how you can do the job yourself:
Tools and materials needed
- Mineral spirits
- Adjustable wrench
- Small plastic brush
- Trisodium phosphate powder
- Plastic container
- Rubber gloves
- Old towel
1. Disconnect the water supply to affected plumbing fixtures - the last thing you want to have happen during the process of removing and cleaning your check valve is for someone to flush the toilet, so be sure that you turn-off the water supply valve to toilets and other fixtures in the basement. Flush the toilet once after disconnecting the water supply, and be sure to notify others in the household that the basement restroom is out of service.
2. Turn off the sewer pump - after making sure the water supply is disconnected, the next step is to remove power from the sewer pump; most pumps plug into a standard electrical outlet, but some are hardwired into your home's electrical panel. In that case, turn off the breaker that controls the sewer pump's circuit.
3. Switch the ball valve into the off position - the ball valve is located on the pipe leading out of the sewer pump basin; as the name indicates, it will contain a sphere-shaped body with an external handle. The ball valve is positioned before the pipe exits the basement and serves to provide protection from sewage backup during maintenance and repair. Turn the handle on the ball valve to the 'off' position.
4. Locate the check valve - immediately beneath the ball valve lies the check valve. This valve keeps wastes from re-entering the pump basin after they are pumped into the outgoing sewer line. Without a check valve, gravity would bring the wastes back into your basement. The check valve may take on a variety of external appearances, including a tapered cone shape or an enlarged cylinder. Internally, the valve only permits liquids to flow in one direction and shuts if the flow is reversed.
5. Remove the check valve - before removing the check valve, have an old towel ready in the event that wastewater leaks from the pipe. In addition, put on a pair of rubber gloves to protect your hands from the wastewater.
Slip an adjustable wrench over the end of the check valve and adjust the wrench until it is snug. Turn the fitting counterclockwise to loosen the valve from the adjoining upper sewer pipe threads; next, loosen the other end of the valve to remove it from the lower pipe leading toward the sewer pump.
6. Inspect the check valve - after removing the check valve, give it a quick rinse in running water to remove obvious waste particles. Next, inspect the valve for signs of clogs; chemicals such as paint or petroleum-based products can accumulate inside the valve and prevent it from functioning properly. Other items such as paper, cloth, or string can also jam the valve's mechanism and keep it from working. In some cases, mechanical wear and tear may indicate the valve is simply in need of replacement due to old age.
7. Clean the valve - to clean the valve, remove debris that has accumulated inside the check valve with a plastic-bristled brush. If the valve contains paint or other chemicals, place the valve into a container and soak it in mineral spirits for a few minutes. This will loosen up the paint and allow it to be easily removed from the valve.
After cleaning the valve with mineral spirits, prepare a solution consisting of one-quarter cup of trisodium phosphate powder dissolved in one quart of warm water. Soak the check valve inside the solution for about half an hour. This will eliminate any traces of mineral oil and remove any other particles that might remain inside the valve. Rinse it in clean running water.
8. Replace the valve - after cleaning the valve, reinstall it in the pipe. Turn the ball valve back to its 'on' position, restore power to the pump and water service to the fixtures.
If this doesn't fix the problem or if you need help with other repairs, contact a local plumbing company like Forrest Sewer Pump Service.