Basement additions are becoming more and more popular as homeowners make the decision to finish and transform this otherwise dull area of the home, facilitating the need for another bathroom. When finishing a basement, it often ends up like an entire other home, featuring bedrooms, a kitchen, and living spaces. Installing a bathroom only makes sense to complete the transformation. Adding a bathroom in a basement requires some additional planning however, and some extra work and prior thought is necessary to ensure proper operation of the new facilities.
When adding a bathroom in a basement, it is crucial to consider the location of the sewer piping in the area. Homes built on a basement typically have the sewer pipes run along the ceiling of the basement, locating them HIGHER than the potential bathroom. Due to this arrangement, gravity drainage, which is standard draining
operation, will not work. It is now necessary somehow transfer the waste water generated by use of the new bathroom approximately ten feet overhead to the sewer lines. To accomplish this, it is necessary to install a sewage ejector pump system.
An ejector pump system is made up of several components; the pump basin, the pump itself, and the discharge and vent lines. In order to install one of these systems, the first step is to determine the location for the pump based on the fixtures it will service (toilets, sinks, etc.). Then the slab material is removed, and a hole is dug about three feet deep and 2 feet wide. In this hole goes the pump basin, a large heavy-duty plastic "bucket" in which the pump will sit. Then drain lines are routed underneath the slab from the fixtures to the basin via a 4' diameter hole in the side. The pump is set in the basin and the discharge line (the drain line which carries the sewage out of the basin) is connected to it. The electrical line is run out the top of the basin, and the lid is secured on with bolts. This discharge line must, by code, have a check valve and a ball valve installed on it near the pump. A check valve stop any excess sewage from draining back into the basin after a discharge cycle is complete, while a ball valve is a maintenance piece designed to stop the discharge completely. The discharge line is then piped up and over to the home's main sewer piping and connected. The pump basin's vent line must be piped to a vent line near the area.
When the finished bathroom is used, the waste water drains into the pump basin. When the water level reaches a determined depth in the basin, normally about twenty inches deep, a float on the pump becomes inverted, activating the pump's motor. The pump simultaneously sucks and chops up the basin's contents, sending the sewage up and out of the basin through the discharge line. A brief, 5-second hum is heard during this process, followed by a quiet "bang," indicating the pump's completed cycle. A small dripping sound may sometimes be heard after the pump's cycle. This comes from a small hole that is supposed to be drilled six inches above the pump's discharge port in the discharge line. Called a weep hole, small, seemingly insignificant hole prevents the pump's motor from locking up due to negative pressure following a cycle.
Ejector pumps generally last several years if used properly. They are, however, very susceptible to misuse and improper operation. The pump is meant to handle ONLY waste and toilet paper. Many homeowners dispose of dental floss, q-tips, paper towels, and feminine products in the toilet. These items WILL bind up the pump's fragile impeller (the small, bladed part that chops up and extracts the sewage) and cause the motor to lock up. This in turn will cause the pump's basin to overflow, possibly damaging expensive flooring and surrounding items. If this problem occurs, a technician will inspect the pump to look for any evidence of misuse. If any is found, all warranties are void. SO it pays to use the ejector pump properly and flush only safe items.
Ejector pumps come with a standard 1-year warranty, but generally last for much longer. Common signs of a failing pump are (of course) flooding, bad odors, odd noises, etc.