Sump Pump FAQ

Sump Pump FAQ

The sump pump is an owners first line of defense against a flooded basement. In most buildings tiling is only installed around a portion of the house. When the excess water drains into the sump it must be removed and to do so a sump pump is require.

When heavy rain or snowfall is forecasted, basement flooding is always a major concern. It is important for a homeowner to find out the type of drainage system their basement has before installing a sump pump.

Sump pump types include submersible and pedestal and include a variety of features. A submersible sump pump sits below the surface of the floor, while a pedestal one stays above the floor.

One feature of a sump pump is that it may be manual or automatic. Manual sump pumps contain a switch that you flip, while automatic sump pumps have a switch that is activated by the pressure and depth of the water.

Either type of pump should have a check valve on the water outlet pipe so water doesn’t flow back into the sump when the pump shuts off. Water flowing back and forth can cause the pump to turn on and off more frequently than necessary, which decreases the life of the pump.

How can you check or test your sump pump?

Before checking anything else make sure your outlet pipe directs the sump water away from the house and is not clogged, frozen or dislodged. Then unplug the sump pump and check to make sure the pump is clean and the pump intake is not plugged.

To make sure the sump pump works make sure your unit is plugged in and pour water into the pump at a similar rate water would normally flow into it. Make sure the pump turns on and off twice, the float switch works properly and the pump sounds and works properly. If there are any issues get it fixed ASAP.

Can you burn out the pump if the outdoor pipe is frozen shut or will it automatically shut off?

Newer sump pumps have thermal protection to protect the motor and will shut off if the motor becomes too hot. If this happens unplug the unit and allow the motor to cool. While waiting for the system to reset make sure the pipes are clear from ice.

What size pump should I use?

House horsepower requirements are determined by area of drainage connected to the sump, depth to groundwater, the depth of the basement and several other factors. The majority of houses can use a 1/3 horsepower pump.

Can you replace a 1/3hp pump with a 1/2hp pump?

A switch to a 1/2hp pump is not needed if your sump is dealing with normal to slow water flow. However, if you are dealing with rapid water flow then you should consider using a 1/2hp pump.

Are there filters that need to be cleaned/replaced?

There are no filters in sump pumps. However, there are screens and small openings that need to be checked frequently to make sure they are not blocked or plugged.

Can or should you pump into a sewer drain or basement floor drain?

No! The septic system sometimes struggles to handle a normal flow of house water and adding sump pump water to it can damage the sewer system. Even if you are connected to a public sewer system, sump water should not be pumped into a floor drain except under special circumstances. Many communities have ordinances prohibiting the diversion of sump water into the sanitary sewer system during certain times of the year or during widespread flooding. Check with your municipal government to find out its rules.

Where should the sump pump drain hose be run?

Sump water should be discharged 20 feet away from the house and not directed towards a neighbors house or into a sewage drain.

Can the average person replace a defective sump pump or does it require specialized tools or the expertise of a plumber?

Sump pumps come with a list of required tools and directions for installing them. Replacing a sump pump should not be too difficult for the “average” person.

How big should the sump hole be? What kind of hole liner should you use? How much gravel do you put under and around it?

Sump holes should be about 2 feet in diameter at the top allowing space for the pump and piping. You can use metal or plastic liners but plastic is preferred because it is easier to work with and find. 3 to 4 inches of gravel should be placed in the bottom of the hole after installing the liner.

What is the lifespan of a sump pump?

It depends on how often and how long they have run for. Some manufacturers recommend replacing the switch and float every 2 years and the pump every 5. If you are unsure of the age of your pump have a backup pump handy and ready to use.

Do I need a backup pump?

If you are constantly away from the house or worried about major flooding a backup pump is a good idea. Grabbing a battery powered pump can come in handy if there is a power outage while flooding is occurring. In most cases if the main pump is unable to power on the backup will take over and turn on.

At Ideal Basement Waterproofing, we will install the type of sump pump best for your home. We also clean debris out of sump pumps and service them so that you receive more years of service from your sump pump. If the foundation of your home or basement has already been compromised by water damage, Ideal Basement Waterproofing also provides crack and foundation repair services.  Let our experienced team help you today!


Information from North Dakota State University Agriculture and Extension