Sump Pump: Storm Protection Explained

A sump pump is a crucial component of any storm protection strategy. It is a device that is designed to remove water that has accumulated in a sump basin, typically found in the basement of homes. The water may enter via the perimeter drains of a basement waterproofing system, funneling into the basin or because of rain or natural ground water, if the basement is below the water table level.

The sump pump plays a vital role in preventing basements from flooding and protecting the structural integrity of a building. It also helps to keep the area under the building dry and prevents it from becoming damp, thereby reducing the chances of mold and mildew growth, which can lead to health issues for the occupants.

Types of Sump Pumps

There are two main types of sump pumps – pedestal and submersible. The pedestal pump’s motor is mounted above the sump, where it is more easily serviced but is also more conspicuous. The pump impeller is driven by a long, vertical extension shaft and the impeller is in a scroll housing in the base of the pump.

The submersible pump, on the other hand, is entirely mounted inside the sump, and is specially sealed to prevent electrical short circuits. There is a screen or grate on the bottom of the pump that prevents debris from being sucked into the pump, which can cause a blockage.

Pedestal Sump Pumps

Pedestal sump pumps are typically less expensive than submersible pumps. They are easier to maintain because the motor is located above the sump and can be accessed without having to remove the pump. However, they are more noticeable and can be a bit noisier than submersible pumps.

The pedestal pump uses a float to detect the water level in the sump. When the water level rises to a certain point, the pump is activated and the water is pumped out of the sump. The water is then discharged away from the building to prevent it from seeping back into the basement.

Submersible Sump Pumps

Submersible sump pumps are more expensive than pedestal pumps, but they are also more powerful. They are capable of handling larger volumes of water and can pump the water higher distances. This makes them a good choice for larger homes or buildings, or in areas where heavy rain is common.

Submersible pumps are quieter than pedestal pumps and are less noticeable because they are located inside the sump. They are also safer because they are sealed and submerged, which reduces the risk of electrical shock. However, they can be more difficult to service because they must be removed from the sump to be worked on.

Installation of Sump Pumps

The installation of a sump pump involves several steps. First, a hole, or sump, must be dug in the lowest part of the basement or crawl space. This sump will collect any water that enters the basement. The size of the sump will depend on the size of the pump that is being installed.

Once the sump is dug, the pump is placed inside. If a submersible pump is being used, it will be sealed and submerged in the sump. If a pedestal pump is being used, the motor will be placed above the sump, with the pump located at the bottom.

Plumbing and Electrical Connections

After the pump is placed in the sump, it must be connected to the home’s plumbing system. This involves running a discharge pipe from the pump to the outside of the home. The pipe must be sloped so that the water can be pumped out of the basement and away from the home.

The pump must also be connected to the home’s electrical system. This usually involves running an electrical cord from the pump to a nearby outlet. It is important to use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet to prevent electrical shocks. The pump should also be equipped with a backup battery, in case of a power outage.

Testing the Sump Pump

Once the pump is installed and connected, it should be tested to make sure it is working properly. This can be done by pouring water into the sump and watching to see if the pump turns on and pumps the water out. If the pump does not turn on, or if it does not pump the water out, it may need to be adjusted or repaired.

It is important to test the pump regularly, especially before the rainy season begins. If the pump is not working properly, it could lead to a flooded basement and significant water damage.

Maintenance of Sump Pumps

Sump pumps require regular maintenance to ensure they continue to operate effectively. This includes cleaning the sump, checking the pump for wear and tear, and testing the pump to make sure it is working properly.

It is also important to check the discharge line to make sure it is not blocked or frozen. If the line is blocked, the water will not be able to be pumped out of the basement, which could lead to flooding. If the line is frozen, the pump could overheat and fail.

Cleaning the Sump

The sump should be cleaned at least once a year to remove any debris that may have accumulated. This includes leaves, dirt, and other debris that could clog the pump and prevent it from working properly. The sump should also be checked for signs of mold and mildew, which could indicate a moisture problem in the basement.

To clean the sump, the pump should be removed and the sump should be cleaned out with a wet/dry vacuum. If there is a lot of debris, it may be necessary to use a shovel or other tool to remove it. Once the sump is clean, the pump can be reinstalled and tested to make sure it is working properly.

Checking the Pump

The pump should be checked regularly for signs of wear and tear. This includes checking the float switch to make sure it is not stuck or damaged, and checking the impeller to make sure it is not clogged or worn out. If the pump is making a lot of noise, it may be a sign that it is wearing out and needs to be replaced.

If the pump is not working properly, it may need to be repaired or replaced. It is important to have this done by a professional to ensure it is done correctly and safely. If the pump needs to be replaced, it is important to choose a pump that is the right size for the sump and the amount of water that needs to be pumped out.

Backup Sump Pumps

Even with regular maintenance, sump pumps can fail. This is why it is important to have a backup sump pump. A backup pump can provide an extra layer of protection in case the primary pump fails, or if there is a power outage.

There are two main types of backup sump pumps – battery-powered and water-powered. Battery-powered backup pumps have a battery that is charged by the home’s electrical system. When the power goes out, or if the primary pump fails, the backup pump will automatically turn on and start pumping water out of the basement.

Battery-Powered Backup Pumps

Battery-powered backup pumps are the most common type of backup pump. They are relatively easy to install and can provide several hours of protection, depending on the size of the battery and the amount of water that needs to be pumped out.

It is important to check the battery regularly to make sure it is charged and ready to go. The battery should also be replaced every few years to ensure it is able to provide enough power to the pump when it is needed.

Water-Powered Backup Pumps

Water-powered backup pumps use the water pressure in your home’s water supply to pump water out of the basement. They do not require a battery and can provide unlimited run time, as long as there is water pressure.

However, they are not as powerful as battery-powered pumps and may not be able to keep up with a large amount of water. They also require a significant amount of water pressure to operate, which may not be available in all homes.


In conclusion, a sump pump is a crucial component of any storm protection strategy. It helps to prevent basements from flooding and protects the structural integrity of a building. There are several types of sump pumps, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Regular maintenance and having a backup pump can ensure that your sump pump is ready to protect your home when it is needed most.

Whether you are installing a new sump pump or maintaining an existing one, it is important to understand how it works and how to keep it in good working order. With the right knowledge and care, a sump pump can provide many years of reliable service, keeping your basement dry and your home safe from the damaging effects of water.

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