What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a pump that is commonly used for water removal from basements. Sump pumps remove excess water that collects in a basement and prevent it from rising and entering a home. Water may enter a basement and collect in a sump basin due to rain, or natural groundwater if your local groundwater table level is above the foundation of your home.

When/Why Do You Need a Sump Pump?

Sump pumps are used in locations where basement flooding is common and move collected water away from a basement to storm drains or dry wells. A sump pump is very important on a property where basement flooding is common due to high groundwater tables, heavy rain, or even rapidly melting snow. In the absence of a sump pump, your basement and home could flood, causing damage to the infrastructure of your home that will cost a lot of money to repair.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

A sump pump is typically installed in the lowest part of your basement, or crawlspace. A hole is cut out in your concrete floor, which becomes the sump basin (a.k.a. The sump pit). A pipe is attached to the pit that directs the water to be released away from the foundation, preventing the water from re-entering the basement, and sump basin.

Following an event of flooding, heavy rain, rapidly melting snow, etc, your sump pump will be working to prevent the water entering your basement from collecting, and flooding. Most sump pumps are activated by a float. Once the water collects and rises to a certain level, the float attached to the pump will lift, and automatically activate a switch that causes the pump to run and dispel water.

What Size Sump Pump Do You Need?

Buying a properly sized pump is very important to ensure that your sump pump meets your property’s specific needs, and lasts a long time.


Most homeowners that live in an average sized house surrounded by an unremarkable water table will not need a pump bigger than 1/3 horsepower. This is the most commonly purchased size pump is very versatile and that can easily handle most applications.


If an average sized home is located in an area where the water table is remarkably above average, then a 1/2 horsepower pump will function better in certain situations, where heavy flooding needs to be dispersed in short amounts of time, or through higher vertical lifts. Very rarely will you need a pump bigger than ½ HP.


For areas that are very susceptible to flooding and that are surrounded by very high water tables, or floodplains, a ¾ horsepower pump will serve your needs best. Of course, with the increased power with the ¾ pump, you will also gain an increased horizontal run capability (150-200 ft.), and vertical lift power (20-30 ft).


How Long Should a Sump Pump Run?

A sump pump should automatically run only as often as needed. The float on the pump will automatically lift and activate the pump once the water level in the sump pit reaches a certain level, at which point the float will drop back down when the water is dispersed, and the pump will turn off.


If your pump is running constantly with no specific reason why then you may have a problem with your pump. You should inspect your pump and make sure that the float is not stuck, or propped up against something, such as debris. If the float lifts and debris gets under it, it can leave the switch on, leaving your pump constantly running. The float switch can also get jammed or clogged, so make sure to inspect it well and make sure the float is not the issue.

If there does not seem to be an issue with your float switch, then there may be a problem with the check valve. A check valve is installed on a sump pump to make sure that water that is pumped out of your basement does not come back into the basement. If your check valve is broken or if it wasn’t installed correctly, water that is pumped out will only continuously come back in, causing your pump to activate again and cause a rinse-and-repeat process.


If you have inspected your float switch and your check valve and haven’t discovered any issues, your pump or liner may be the wrong size, which is preventing the water from being drained at consistent, proper rates. Contact a basement waterproofing company if this is your issue, or if you still can’t figure out what the issue may be.


How Do You Clean and Maintain a Sump Pump?

Maintaining a sump pump can be very easy and can greatly extend your pumps life greatly, which makes it worth your while to invest the time into maintaining your sump pump. Every 3-4 months, make sure to:

  • Remove the pump from the sump pit, and make sure there is no debris in the pit, or discharge pipe.
  • Inspect the float, and make sure there is nothing obstructing it from freely moving up and down.
  • Inspect the intake screen on the pump for any obstructions and/or debris.
  • Make sure the pump is plugged into a working GFCI outlet, and make sure the power chord is in good shape.
  • Test the pump by pouring a bucket of water into the pit, and watch the pump activate and drain the water out quickly.
  • If your pump has a backup battery, unplug your pump from the outlet and test it that way to make sure the battery is working as well. Replace your battery every 2-3 years, or as recommended by the battery’s manufacturer.
  • It is also best if you occasionally disconnect your sump pump from the power and the discharge pipe, take it outside and rinse it off with a garden hose to remove all sludge, dirt and debris.

How Long Should a Sump Pump Last?

If properly maintained, a sump pump should last a minimum of 5-10 years. However, the lifespan varies from each manufacturer, pump model, and even the horsepower of the pump. Your pump’s lifespan may be shorter if you are not maintaining/cleaning it, if you are allowing debris to go through the pump often, or if your pump size is too small for your property’s needs. Your pump may also be overworking if your check valve or float is broken or stuck, leaving your pump on for longer, unnecessary amounts of time (as mentioned before). If you don’t know how old your pump is, just pay close attention to how it’s operating, and make sure to maintain and check it more often than you would if you knew the age of the pump. The key to making a pump last a long time is to properly maintain it as per the pump’s manual, and cleaning if often.

How to Tell if Your Sump Pump is Working

If your pump seems to be getting the job done, and you aren’t noticing any water collecting in your basement after rain or in general, then your pump is still working fine. It is very easy to test your sump pump. Testing the pump is as simple as making sure its plugged in while emptying a bucket of water into the sump pit, and watching to see if your pump will automatically activate and remove the water at a quick pace. If your pump seems to be struggling to remove the water, or it’s removing the water very slowly (even after simple maintenance), then it may likely be time to replace your sump pump.

If you have any other questions about sump pumps, or if you need a sump pump replaced or installed in your basement, contact us today.