Tag Archives: water

Sump pit lid

It’s down to the finishing touches on the back porch enclosure. And to make it not just user friendly but also safe, I had to get a lid for the sump pit – a gas-tight lid to prevent moisture and potential radon from diffusing.


There were a number of lid options out there, and I probably have been looking at most of them. But I am a cheapskate and those lids were expensive. That may be because some of them have a vehicular traffic rating, which we really didn’t need. Foot traffic is all this lid will see.

Because I didn’t want to reach deep into my pocket, I decided that a three quarter inch plywood cover should do. But how would I fit it onto the pit without creating a trip hazard?

Well, we cut out a one inch wide ledge from the upper most concrete adjustment ring. And we made it just deep enough so it would accommodate the three quarter inch plywood cover.

To prevent mold from growing on the bottom of the the cover I attached two layers of a 6 mil poly sheet. Those sheets will also serve as a vapor barrier. And to make the system gas-tight, I grabbed a neoprene gasket and installed it on the ledge. The plywood cover, which was now flush with the floor, is held down by six screws.

Cutting out the ledge was tricky, yet fairly easy thanks to the great help of our friend Rubani!

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Back porch plumbing

Before we get to finishing the porch top, let’s take a step back and look at the very bottom. I still have some underground plumbing to finish so that we eventually can pour the concrete floor at the basement level.

A large part of the underground plumbing was already finished. We had removed the old grease trap with the temporary connections last year and connected the sump discharge to the sewer line. More recently, I extended the sewer line past the new back porch footing and took care of the footing drains.

Floor drains

The cast iron soil pipe (CISP) work that was left to do were two floor drains and their respective vents.


Yes, you read right – two floor drains! One won’t cut it and here is why: First, there is the centrally located, or general floor drain. If water spills into the back porch basement level, this floor drain should pick it up.


The second floor drain is located toward the east end and has two functions.

  1. It should pick up liquid from a future composting toilet if we chose to install one. There are a variety of composting toilets on the market. Some are self contained and others rely on a processing tank. Those with a processing tank may require a drain for small amounts of liquid discharge.
  2. It should allow me to drain and winterize the water system in the yard. We plan on an underground cistern that feeds several faucets throughout the yard with the collected rainwater. I don’t plan to install the plumbing system that connects the cistern with the faucets below the frost depth. Instead, the system has a low point at the back porch from which I can drain it, and thus winterize it.


Raising the sump

If I want to pour the concrete floor in the back porch basement level, I have to raise the sump. in other words, the sump basin rim has to be at the same elevation as the planned concrete floor.

No problem. I knew that I had to raise the sump by six inches, so I got myself two three inch concrete adjustment rings and mortared them atop of the existing sump pit.

Last but not least, I extended the future sump discharge to the planned cistern through the sleeve I provided in the foundation wall.

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3/8 inch and flowing

“I told you so!” – was coming to my mind while looking at the plumbing in a Swedish single family home built sometime in the 1970’s.

Some plumbing lines were partially exposed to keep them in the interior conditioned space. What caught my eye right away was a 3/8 inch branch (or twig) coming off of a 3/4 inch trunk line.


The use of 3/8 inch plumbing lines (or twigs) fits right with the material and energy conservation goals of an efficient domestic hot water delivery system, as was explained to me by the hot water guru Gary Klein. The problem for us in Chicago is that the smallest allowed pipe diameter per plumbing code is 1/2 inch. The rationale behind this limitation is, so I assume, concerns about pressure drop and insufficient flow capacity. But it also puts a limit on the efficiency of our hot water delivery system.

Seeing that a built 3/8 inch twig line didn’t cause the world to implode was rather exciting. Not only that, but the 3/8 inch cold water line services three fixtures: 1) the toilet, 2) a sink, and 3) a shower, while the ? inch hot water line only serviced the sink and the shower.

plumbing-041 plumbing-042



The structured plumbing system that I have described in a previous post, recommends the use of 3/8 inch twigs. But each twig should just service a single plumbing fixture, not multiple fixtures.


Serving three fixtures with cold water and two fixtures with hot water using a 3/8 inch twig lines would take us – so one could argue – into deep water. That begs the question: Why would several fixtures on one twig be acceptable?

The bathroom in the Swedish single family home is meant to be used by a single person at a time. In other words, you shouldn’t need to worry about somebody flushing the toilet or using the sink while you take a shower.

And I used that shower. There was no problem with the water flow rate or the water pressure, despite the nine feet long 3/8 inch twig. And being the nerd I am, I let the shower run while flushing the toilet or turning on the sink faucet. There was a very brief but minor pulse in the shower’s water flow, but other than that, no detectable flow reduction or pressure loss.

For full disclosure, I should mention that the bathroom in question was on the 1st floor and only a few feet away from the water heater and water main. The second floor bathroom has a different set up. Here a 1/2 inch twigs (or branches) services the various plumbing fixtures, probably to mitigate pressure loss that may come with the elevation and friction that comes with the longer pipe run.

Now – is that 3/8 inch twig I observed an exception? Apparently not. I noticed almost the exact same setup in a restaurant men’s room — a 3/8 inch twig servicing all fixtures.

As unscientific and nerdy as this is, I am delighted to see proof that 3/8 inch twigs can work and can be safe. But to whom can I take my “I told you so?”

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Finalizing sump-thing

I am working down the list of plumbing connections I have to make to the new sump pit. Those that require digging or moving soil are done.

The connection for the exterior footing drains is in place. I also have the interior footing drains connected, and so is the sump discharge into the sewer, although it is a temporary connection at this point.


Plumbing per code

To turn the temporary sump discharge into a permanent one, I need to switch out the Schedule 40 PVC piping with Cast Iron Soil Pipe (CISP), as per the Chicago plumbing code requirements. I have to use CISP where the pipes are concealed, i.e. under the future floor slab. Once I am in the sump pit, I can re-connect to the already installed PVC pipe setup.

I got myself the right CISP pipe, fittings and gaskets, widened the hole into the sump to fit the two inch CISP pipe, and made the new connection.

Sewer extension

When we ripped out the old sewer to replace it, the City required that I separate the sanitary sewer line from the storm sewer line .

To extend that line, I bought a four inch diameter CISP pipe and took it all the way to the porch footing. Once the porch gets torn down and the footing is redone, I will continue to extend that line into the back yard.

I may never connect a downspout to that storm sewer line, as I have ambitious plans for sustainable and infiltration based stormwater management in the yard. Instead, that storm sewer line may be repurposed into a sanitary sewer one day — if we ever build a garage with a studio apartment above it. But those are distant dreams and warrant a whole new blog post.

Cistern connection

I have a couple of connections to go, and one of them is the future discharge connection to the underground cistern (see also graphic above). This requires another hole to be punched into the sump pit through which I can fit the pipe. Because this is not part of the sewer plumbing system, I used a Schedule 40 PVC pipe for the rough-in and will again extend it into the yard once we redo the porch footing.

Electrical conduit

The cover for the sump pit will be in the middle of a workshop area. I wasn’t interested in having power cords from the pit cover running across the floor; I’d rather avoid that kind of trip hazard. And I did so by installing a 1 1/2” diameter galvanized electrical conduit from the pit up to the basement wall. I can have an outlet near the top of that conduit, and thus circumvent the power cord spaghetti sprawl.

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Sump-thing afoot…

Connecting sump-thing

Thinking about sump-thing

Sump-thing pretty heavy

Digging for sump-thing

Terminating the temporary

Grease trap cleaning

Nail biter

Why that storm sewer?

Plumbing code variance

Trenching for a new sewer line

More sewer installation

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Sump-thing afoot…

… precisely, footing drains. The interior footing drains are now connected to the new sump. But I also have plans for footing drains running around the exterior periphery of the house. Now is a good time to get started on those – or at least get started with the connection to the sump as shown in the sketch below.


The ground in the back porch is still a mess and needs to be leveled out. That gives me a good working platform. I blocked the hole I punched into the sump for the drain connection to prevent dirt from falling into the pit – and started digging the trench.

People have commented on what hard work it appeared to be, excavating the sump pit. That was actually not bad because with the long-handled shovel, I didn’t need to bend down too much.

Digging the trench, on the other hand, was hard work indeed, with a lot of bending down and slicing though stiff clay. Add to that 100% relative humidity and no breeze. I was soaking wet from the start. I’ve never sweated so much – not even in a steam room.

There are two more interesting things worth mentioning:

Did you notice that I always have water in the bottom of the trench? That is because of the rains we had saturating the soil. The advantage of having the water in the trench is that I didn’t have to measure the depth while I was digging along. The standing water acted like a level, and as long as I had the trench bottom barely covered, I knew I was at the right depth.

At one point the trench was full of water. That happened over lunch when we had a downpour and I had the sump pump disconnected. This reinforces the need I had identified for the “seamless transition” from the old grease trap to the new sump pit. I am glad it worked it out that way and thus we stayed out of trouble.

The trench digging was done, and so was my back. Still, I had to put some stone chip bedding down in the trench, level it out, place the rigid drain pipe, and cover it with more stone chips.

I stubbed the two drain pipe ends and will connect to them when the back porch comes down and we redo the footings and foundation wall.

My bones were hurting and I was in the mood for sump-thing soothing. Not sure if the Little Sumpin’ will do it this time round. But what about the Little Sumpin’ Extra?


Related Posts:

Connecting sump-thing

Thinking about sump-thing

Digging for sump-thing

Terminating the temporary

Grease trap cleaning

Nail biter

Perimeter drain installation