How Does a Sump Pump Work

how does a sump pump work

A sump pump is a small pump installed in the lowest point of a basement or crawlspace. Its job is to keep the surrounding area from flooding. Sump pumps are frequently installed in homes that are more susceptible to below-ground wetness, with soil that collects rainwater. Excessive water collecting around the foundation of a home can allow the moisture to seep in through cracks in the foundation, leading to flooding problems. The sump pump works to move water away from the home, eliminating the risk of flooding as a result of excessive water from rain, melting snow, or some other accumulation. For homes that have experienced flooding in the past, a sump pump is a great option to ensure your home’s basement stays dry even through localized flooding.

Sump pumps are strategically installed in the lowest point of the home to reduce water levels before they rise to levels that can pose flood risks. A pit is located beneath the sump pump to collect water. When the water reaches a certain level, the sump pump will begin working. The pump’s job is to remove water from the pit and deposit this outside, far enough away from the home and foundation to eliminate the flooding risk. When installing a sump pump, the area where the water is deposited must be carefully chosen to ensure that it does not run back into the pit. The pipes moving the water have a check valve to keep the water from flowing back into the home through the pipe.

Most sump pumps are powered by electricity, with an automatic trigger to turn on when water reaches a set level. The only times that this can present a problem is when the electricity is out, which will prevent the sump pump from turning on even as water levels increase. A sump pump power battery backup can protect you from flooding even during a power outage. Other sump pumps are available with hand pump versions. These can also be an option during a power outage but will only work if the resident is home and vigilant about watching water levels.

Sump Pump Maintenance

Like most working systems in your home, annual check-ups are recommended for sump pumps. Performing regular checks on your sump pump, generally after the winter as any snow begins to melt, can identify any issues before flooding can become a problem. A visual inspection of your sump pump is a good first step. You can remove the cover, using a flashlight to look inside. If you see any debris or mud, clear this away. Fallen debris that is left uncleared can clog the sump pit, creating problems down the road.

If the water in the sump pump looks slick and oily, you may have a problem with the motor. This is an indicator that service may be needed on your sump pump. You can take a closer look at the sump pump only after disconnecting power and unplugging the pump. Removing the pump from the pit, check the inlet screen for any debris that may be trapped. Clear this away and make sure that the drain hose is clear and without blockages.

The float, which indicates when the levels of water have reached a point for the sump pump to turn on, should be resting on top of the water. If the float is not on top of the water or moving freely, this will not work correctly to turn on the sump pump as water levels rise.

You can test your sump pump by pouring a bucket of water into the pit. As the water levels rise, the sump pump should go to work, removing water from the pit and away from the home. You can go outside to where the drainage pipes lead and confirm that the water is traveling through the pipes and that the area where it is being deposited is not allowing it to recycle back into the home. If you do identify a problem with the sump pump, contact a professional to address the issue as soon as possible before flooding can become a problem.

What to Do When If Sump Pump Fails

The most common reason for a sump pump to stop working is when there is a power outage and the pump is not equipped with a battery back-up. If the power is on and the pump is getting electricity, the problem may be the float switch. If you cannot move or see the float, there may be something preventing it from registering the water levels correctly. Disconnecting power to the sump pump, you can try to see if something is obstructing the float switch, freeing it if possible.

If, when turned on, the pump is vibrating but water is not being extracted the problem may be a clogged or blocked pipe. Inspect the pipes for any debris that may be obstructing the flow of water and clear the area. If you are still not able to determine why the sump pump is not working, you will want to use a hand pump to clear water from the area and out of the home. Once cleared and the immediate danger of flooding has passed, contact a professional to service the sump pump right away.

If your home or basement are flooded, the water restoration professionals at Woodard can help. From removing water from the home to industrial dryers to preventing mold growth, the team at Woodard can make sure your home is returned to its pre-flood state. For 24/7 emergency services, call 314-227-3932.


About Woodard Cleaning & Restoration

Woodard Cleaning & Restoration was founded in 1946 by Earl and Nancy Woodard. Located in St. Louis, Missouri, Woodard services the greater metro area (Illinois, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, St. Louis County, and many more). Woodard is proud to serve as the preferred provider for cleaning & restoration services. Our cleaning services include carpet, hard surface, furniture, and rug cleaning for both residential and commercial properties. We also provide water, fire, board-up, storm and smoke restoration services for residential and commercial clients. For information or questions submit a form online or call us at 314-227-3932.

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Updated 3/12/2021