Sump pump disaster during hurricane Irene


  #1  
Old 09-22-11, 04:16 AM
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Sump pump disaster during hurricane Irene

We hired a contractor to install a sump pump last year. During our vacation time, Hurricane Irene struck - is that what usually happens? After coming home, we found the basement was flooded because the sump pump didn't turn on as it was supposed to. We learned from our neighbour that power wasn't out so it wasn't electric failure.

After some investigation, we found that the pump was not installed correctly. The float switch cord was left too long. While the water was rising, it got stuck at the side of the well so the pump never kicked in. Can't believe a simple twist or adjustment wasn't done by the contractor - it was complete malpractice. We contacted the contractor and he refused to resolve the matter with us.

My question is we did not have a written contract and the work was done a little more than a year ago. Can we bring this to the court and is there any recourse since this was done a year ago? I can prove the pump failure by bringing my neighbour as witness since he was there when we cleaned up the mess.

Please help!!!
 
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Old 09-22-11, 10:18 AM
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Since you are not asking a plumbing question (you just want to sue somebody) you might try posing your question in the legal section of the forum.
 
  #3  
Old 09-22-11, 11:50 AM
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Hi,

A sump pump is not a fail safe. Floats are well known to get hung up. Pumps burn out. Power goes out. Pump vibrates to side of pit when running...etc. Its the nature of the beast.

During flood conditions IMO it is the homeowners resposiblity to make sure his/her equipment is functioning properly. I am sure it was working properly when the contrator left.


IMO you should have been there or got a friend or relative to check on things since you were away.

I have seen floats rise 3 different ways upon water rise in homeowners sump pits. One of those ways it gets hung up. After testing many times there was about a 30% chance it would rise in a way that it would get caught up.

A better solution for this homeowner because the pit was too small was to install a pedistal type sump pump.

Did you have a battery back-up pump? If you did you may have prevented or reduced your flooding.

After some investigation, we found that the pump was not installed correctly. The float switch cord was left too long. While the water was rising, it got stuck at the side of the well so the pump never kicked in. Can't believe a simple twist or adjustment wasn't done by the contractor - it was complete malpractice
Not a lawyer but sounds like hearsay. But you never know. This is a sue happy country. The only place you can get millions for spilling hot coffee on your lap from a fast food chain, even though we know coffee is hot.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 09-23-11, 08:45 AM
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I'd handle it through my homeowner's insurance. Give them the details and let them figure it out.

In my opinion, it'll be tough to prove that it was negligence on the contractor's part. Since it's a movable part, who's to say it didn't slip, shift, or something unrelated to the installation. Also, even though your neighbors didn't lose power, can you prove that you didn't?

Seems like an uphill battle. It seems like it's hard enough to bring justice to contractors who intentionally scam their clients... much less those who aren't intentionally .... their customers.
 
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Old 09-23-11, 09:37 AM
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Did you request a certificate of insurance from the contractor before the work. If so, then you at least know he has errors and omission coverage and he at least has the insurance to pay. But Zorfdt is correct, go through your home owners and let them handle the contractor.

Bud
 
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Old 09-23-11, 10:08 AM
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Guys I was wondering, shouldn’t a contractor test a given setup, or is that impossible. I mean can’t the contractor use a hose for example and observe the pump operating properly? Or is that naďve? Seems to me a contractor should always test his work unless just totally impossible or very impractical?
 
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Old 09-23-11, 10:34 AM
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Hi zoesdad,
yes the sump can be tested, but a simple piece of wood floating into the pit can defeat the float. As lawrosa stated, a sump is not a 100% fix and thus the need to check them while in use to be sure they are working correctly. That is one of the reasons I always suggest more than one sump or as stated, a battery back-up. And, with a hurricane coming through one should be aware of the need to monitor such a critical function, after all, what would have been the results IF the power had, as expected, gone out.

If there was a failing on the contractor's part, perhaps it was the failure to explain the above to the home owner.

Bud
 
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Old 09-23-11, 04:21 PM
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This pump was installed over a year ago. Is this the first time the pump was required to run? Alot of things can change in a years time. The homeowner needs to take some responsibility and make sure the system is working or pay someone to do so. It's his basement and his mess if it doesn't work when needed. Quit blaming someone else and do it yourself!
 
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Old 09-24-11, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Bud9051 View Post
...
If there was a failing on the contractor's part, perhaps it was the failure to explain the above to the home owner.

Bud
Thanks Bud. Good point. Maybe the contactor was a grab the money and run guy.
 
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Old 09-26-11, 05:41 AM
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Yes. This was the first time the pump was required to run after the installation more than a year ago. If not for a hurricane like Irene which happens every 20 yrs or so, the pump would never need to run since we are in a pretty good non-flood zone.

As a follow-up, the contractor actually showed up and admitted that the pump would not run under the current set-up since the cord was too long and would be stuck on the side of the well wall. BUT, here is the but, he said no one knows what happened during the one year period - someone may have tried to test it and pulled the cord too long. Okay, then I tried to pull the cord in front of him- it was impossible to pull without some force. A raccoon would certainly not have caused the havoc. You have to make an effort to adjust the cord to the proper length, which the contractor should have done in the first place to avoid all these troubles and save our basement.

He said the same thing as some posters here that I should be responsible for testing it and making sure it worked. Well, do I need to climb up my roof to make sure it doesn't leak if someone installs the new roof for me?? That's why I hired a professional to do the job!!!

As someone said here "we're in a sue happy country". But I'm not happy even if I decide to sue. Someone once said "there's no perfect lawsuit, but only perfect life". No one wants to go to court. But what can we do? Just let it go?

Finally this may be related to DIY. I probably could have done DIY one year ago (it wasn't really that complicated) but decided to hire a contractor. When you hire someone vs DIY, you put trust in that person and want to have a peace of mind. It turned out to be a disaster. Lessons learned here.
 
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Old 09-26-11, 07:16 AM
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Jason, thanks for stopping back and defending yourself, we can get a little harsh when left to ponder in a vacuum . You are correct to expect something to work properly when you pay a pro, but as many of us have learned over time, it isn't always going to turn out that way. Taking a 2 week vacation in Florida while a contractor comes in to remodel your home is rarely as good as spending that vacation time overseeing the job. There are exceptions and when you find one you adopt them.

The leaky roof is a different situation as mother nature has to test that. But when I get my wife's car fixed, "I" test it before she heads out onto the roads. I've also learned to keep a paper trail so there are no excuses when something doesn't work.

Bud
 
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Old 09-26-11, 10:27 AM
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I wonder, in the most recent conversation did the contractor claim it was working when he left? Doesn’t seem like he did. He just assumed it must have been working when he left. Don’t know why a contractor can’t give the homeowner a little piece of paper with a check box “Tested and Working Date xx/xx/xx”.

If I tested my work I would boast to the homeowner and put it in writing, so I got full credit. One interpretation may be he did not test the setup. Maybe he would justify that in his own mind as : “I am not getting paid enough to test this, and besides, this is a function the homeowner should perform periodically”.

That would be OK I guess, as long as the homeowner was told that. But I guess that would go to Bud’s previous point about the contractor informing the homeowner.
 
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Old 09-26-11, 04:32 PM
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Let's say you go out and buy a new car and leave it sit for a year without being run, now you need it to start. You probably have a 50/50 chance of it starting. Same thing goes for a pump. Leaving it sit idle without periodic testing is just asking for trouble whether it was installed correctly or not.
 
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Old 09-26-11, 06:40 PM
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You are quite likely correct. It is his job to ensure it's installed correctly and works correctly before he leaves. I'm actually quite impressed he came back, to me, that means he's trying to make good on his installation.

That said, you know that even if he knows it was his faulty installation, he's not going to offer you a $x,000 check to fix the basement, and he's not going to admit fault for his insurance to cover it (and then raise his rates). As good a guy as he may be, I can't imagine anyone shelling out that much of their own personal money for one client.

I know it's not what you want to hear; unfortunately there is no "perfect" outcome at this point. Hopefully you both learned something and are a bit smarter with your next projects!
 
 

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