Sump Pump Maintenance: Steps to Maintaining Your Sump Pump to Prevent Floods in Your Basement or Crawl Space

Sump pumps are a great way to prevent your crawl space or basement from flooding. Unfortunately, sump pumps will get dirty and can even clog over time. If the pump can’t remove water from the sump pump basin, it will eventually overflow. Use our sump pump maintenance checklist to prevent water damage in your basement or crawl space.

Flooded basement or crawlspace? Call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak with a water damage contractor near you.

Recommended Sump Pump Maintenance Steps

You should perform regular sump pump maintenance every year to prevent a flood in your basement or crawl space. Avoid putting your hands into the sump pump basin if the pump is still plugged in.

  1. Test Your GFCI – If your pump is plugged into a GFCI outlet, trip and reset the outlet to ensure it is working properly.
  2. Inspect the Power Cord – Check the power cord from the outlet to the pump itself for signs of damage.
  3. Clean Your Sump Pump Basin – Remove the pump from the sump basin and clear away dirt, gravel, and debris.
  4. Properly Replace the Pump – Replace the pump in the well and ensure the float does not touch the sump pump basin wall.
  5. Test Your Sump Pump – Pour in a bucket of water to ensure the pump works properly.
  6. Check Your Drain Pipes – Check that your drain pipe connections are tight, do not leak, and water is diverted away from your home.
  7. Add or Test Your Sump Pump Backup – Consider adding or test your backup so that your sump pump works even if the power goes out.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is designed to keep your basement dry during heavy rains or quick thaws. Sump pumps collect groundwater that pools around your foundation, preventing it from seeping through your foundation seams or cracks in your foundation walls or floor.

Channels are dug around our foundation and routed into a sump pump basin in your crawlspace or basement floor. Groundwater collects in the basin, helping to keep your basement or crawlspace dry. When the water level in the basin rises past a certain level, the pump automatically turns on. The sump pump then pumps the water into a storm drain.

Do I Need a Sump Pump?

You should definitely consider a sump pump if you live in a flood plain or have consistent groundwater flooding in your basement or crawlspace. Older homes are prone to foundation water leaks, so a sump pump may help solve the problem. If you are concerned about moisture in your basement, a plumber can inspect your home and make a recommendation.

How Often Should I Check My Sump Pump?

If you have a sump pump, you should perform maintenance on it at least once a year. If your sump pump runs frequently, consider performing maintenance every four to six months instead.

Later winter or early spring is usually the best time to perform sump pump maintenance. This is usually the time that snow begins to melt and is just before the rainy season begins. However, seasons are often unpredictable. It’s better to perform sump pump maintenance sooner than later.

In addition to a full maintenance procedure, you should visually inspect your sump pump every four to six weeks. Just pour in a bucket of water and watch to ensure it runs properly. Also, if you are using a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet, trip and reset it to ensure it works properly.

How to Perform Sump Pump Maintenance

Performing regular maintenance and cleaning your sump pump takes less than an afternoon and will ensure that your basement stays dry throughout the year. Make sure you unplug your sump pump before performing any maintenance to prevent injury.

1. Test Your GFCI

If your sump pump is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet, check and reset the breaker. Pour a bucket of water into the sump pump basin and make sure that the pump operates normally. You should also check the breaker during storms to ensure your sump pump works when it is most needed.

2. Inspect the Power Cord

Inspect your sump pump power cord for signs of damage or wear. Start at the pump itself and follow it all the way back to the outlet. Specifically, look for frayed wires, cracked or worn sheathing, or other damage that could cause the unit to fail. Unplug the power cord before moving on to the next step.

3. Clean Your Sump Pump Basin

Over time, dirt, gravel, and other debris will build up in your sump pump basin. Remove the pump and clean the grate at the bottom of the basin. Also, check that vent hole on the discharge pipe is free from debris. Stones and gravel can block the pipe end, preventing the pump from emptying the basin and leading to a basement flood. Make sure your pump is unplugged before removing it and cleaning the sump basin to prevent injuring yourself.

4. Properly Replace the Pump

Ensure that your pump is standing up properly. Models vary, so check the manual for your sump pump to ensure it’s in the correct position to operate correctly. Regardless of the model, the float arm should always move freely and not touch the walls of the sump basin. Again, make sure your pump is unplugged when replacing the pump to prevent injury.

5. Test Your Sump Pump

Finally, you need to check that your sump pump runs properly. After plugging the unit back in, pour a bucket of water into the basin. This should cause the pump to activate and evacuate the sump basin. If it doesn’t work properly, review the manual for your unit to ensure it is properly set up. Unplug the pump before attempting to fix the unit.

6. Check Your Drain Pipes

Check the joints on your sump pump drain pipes to ensure they are tight to prevent leaks. If you drain pipes pump directly outside of your home, make sure they are pumping water away from your home. Add extensions if necessary to keep the water at least ten feet from your foundation. If your drain pipes connect to a storm sewer line, make sure the lines flow smoothing and have your sewer lines snaked as necessary.

7. Add or Test Your Sump Pump Backup

If you live in an area prone to flooding or you have frequent power outages, you should consider adding a battery backup. A battery backup will keep your pump working, even during a power outage. An alternative to a battery backup is a water-powered backup pump. If you already have a backup, make sure that you test it as well.

If you are looking for an even greater level of protection, you can add a tank level alarm. This will sound an alarm if water reaches a certain level within the basin, helping to prevent it from overflowing. Some sump pump alarms even work with your wi-fi network to send you a text or email alert.

How to Maintain Your Sump Pump Backup

Regardless of whether you have a battery-powered or water-powered backup system, testing your backup works the same. Either trip the breaker or unplug your primary sump pump system from the wall to simulate a power outage. Then pour several buckets of water into the basin to ensure that the backup runs properly.

If you have a battery backup unit, you also need to check that the battery holds a proper charge. Keeping your primary pump unplugged, wait at least an hour before pouring several more buckets of water into the basin. By double testing it, you ensure that the pump will run throughout an extended power outage. Also, replace your battery backup per the specifications of your model.

Monthly Sump Pump Check-Ups

In addition to your yearly sump pump maintenance, you should also perform monthly check-ups to ensure it works when you need it most. Always unplug the pump before making adjustments to the pump to prevent injury.

  • Normal vibrations can cause the pump to shift and may prevent the float arm from working properly. Make sure it is in the proper position in the sump basin.
  • Check that the pump runs properly. Pour in a bucket of water until it runs. While you can pull the float up instead, running it too long can damage the pump.
  • If you have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet, trip and reset it to ensure it works properly.
  • If you have a backup, test it every month to ensure it is working properly.

How Often Do I Need to Replace My Sump Pump?

Even with regular maintenance, you will eventually need to replace your sump pump. Most units come with a three- to five-year warranty and are rated for ten to twelve years. Check the specifications on your model. When in doubt, it’s best to replace your pump sooner than later.

While it is possible to repair some pumps or replace specific parts, sump pump repairs typically cost just as much as a new unit. For the price, a new sump pump offers better protection against a basement or crawlspace flood.

What to if Your Sump Pump Fails?

Unfortunately, even with regular sump pump maintenance, your unit could fail at any time. If you’ve had a crawl space or basement flood as a result of a malfunctioning sump pump, Restoration Local offers complete water damage restoration services.

The water damage contractors in our network are trained and experienced in water extraction and dry out. With 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response, and free estimates, they can begin cleanup quickly and help limit the damage.

If you have water damage caused by a sump pump failure, find a local restoration contractor or call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with the nearest on-call water damage specialist in your area.

Image provided by State Farm / Flickr

Author: Jeff Rooks

Jeff Rooks writes restoration content that helps homeowners restore their lives after a disaster or accident. Most days, you can find him cycling through Tampa. He also enjoys exploring new and delicious food and beverages around the world.

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