Top 10 Mistakes to Avoid With Your Home's Sump Pump

6979 Last modified by the author on 04/10/2021 - 11:15

Your home has dozens of fixtures and fittings, many of which you don’t think about when they function correctly. One such component is the sump pump. This device is commonly found in basements where it redirects rain or groundwater to prevent flooding. 

Odds are your sump pump will last for many years to come. However, if you need to replace yours, you must keep a few things in mind. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes to avoid, plus a few sump pump tips to help you maintain, repair and replace yours the right way. 

1. Choosing the Wrong Size

Most homes come with a sump pump system, so you’d assume they’d all be about the same size. However, sump pumps aren’t nearly uniform because their size, shape and design should be specific to your home. 

For example, the average pit is about 2-3 feet deep, but the exact depth depends on local soil conditions, floodwater levels and other factors. Find the perfectly sized replacement by measuring how high and far you’ll be pumping or speak with an expert to determine the proper size.

2. Installing a Standing Pump 

There are two distinct kinds of sump pumps: standing and submersible. The former is a vertical device with an underwater pump and above-water motor. If the water reaches the engine, the pump may short-circuit and stop working, leaving your home susceptible to flooding. 

Thus, it’s best to forgo standing pumps and invest in a submersible one. This kind will keep working even when the motor gets wet, so you don’t have to worry about standing water or replacement motors. 

3. Allowing Debris Buildup

Dirt, gravel and other small debris can easily clog sump pumps and damage their motors. This is especially true of pumps that sit on loose silt or gravel. Buildup can also obstruct the discharge pipe and vent hole, which can cause the pump to work harder and possibly overflow. Prevent these mishaps by checking the pit, discharge pipe and vent hole for visible debris. Remove any clogs to ensure a strong flow.  

4. Disregarding Float Switch Problems

Your sump pump’s float switch monitors water levels within the basin to indicate when the motor needs to start and stop. It needs space to float freely, or it will fail to function properly. For instance, if debris prevents the switch from floating back down, the pump may run continuously and burn out the motor. 

Therefore, it’s important to periodically check the float switch and remove any blockages. Doing so will save you money — and some major headaches — in the long run. 

5. Failing to Test Your Pump

Most people don’t realize their sump pump is dysfunctional or broken until it’s too late. Testing the pump at least once a year can help prevent such disasters. Simply pour a few gallons of water into the system until the float triggers the pump to activate. If everything works properly, you should see the water slowly drop until it falls below the shut-off level. If the motor keeps running or never turns on, you may need a repair or replacement. 

6. Ignoring Discharge Pipes

Sump pumps push water up through a discharge pipe and safely away from your home. In most cases, this pipe is located below ground level, where unruly tree roots can break it. If this occurs while the motor is on, your natural water flow and backflow can flood the pit and your basement. Therefore, it’s important to inspect what you can see of your discharge pipes and hire an expert to examine the rest. 

7. Tying the Pump to a Septic System

Where you put the discharge pipe matters, too. Typically, you don’t want to tie the outlet into a downspout because you’ll face more potential clogs. However, you also don’t want to attach it to a septic system. In addition to shortening the drain field’s life span, the sump pump can kick on and back up into your drains if the leach system is saturated when it rains. Avoid this nasty surprise by burying the discharge line or running it away from your home above-ground. 

8. Leaving It Unplugged 

If your sump pump plugs into a wall outlet, you might catch yourself unplugging it to use other appliances. While doing so won’t cause any harm during the dry season, forgetting to plug it back in could cause a flood the next time it rains. Luckily, you can avoid this mistake by hardwiring your sump pump into a dedicated circuit outlet. Because this remodel requires electrical wiring, you may needd to obtain a permit before you begin. 

9. Not Having a Backup Power Source

Some homeowners will purchase a battery backup system or generator to ensure their home stays dry if their primary pump stops working. These alternative energy sources will keep your pump running even when you lose electricity so your basement stays dry. If you opt for a backup battery pack, use the charger to juice it back up and replace the battery every five years to ensure it’ll work in an emergency. 

10. Doing It Yourself 

DIY enthusiasts will likely jump at the chance to install, replace and maintain their sump pump. While practically anyone can maintain or even repair their pump, you should only attempt to install or replace yours if you’ve done so before. Otherwise, you risk flooding or damaging your home. Even if you’re rather confident, sump pump fixes are best left to the professionals. After all, if something goes wrong under their watch, it’s on them to fix it, which will certainly be a lot less stressful for you. 

An Ounce of Prevention 

Maintenance and repairs can be expensive, especially if you hire a professional. However, taking preventive measures to ensure your home is dry is much more affordable than paying someone to clean up after a flood. In this case, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure — so keep up with your sump pump and be proactive. That way, you don’t have to worry when the rains come.

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Emily Newton