A sump pump is a very important device to prevent flooding and is found in almost every home that has a basement. Installed at the lowest point in your basement, the sump pump is always on standby monitoring the saturation of ground around your house. When it rains, the sump pump will activate if needed and pump water out of the ground so that your basement does not flood.
Some of the most common sump pump problems are continuous pump running, jammed float switches, clogged pumps, poor installation, power outages, and frozen or blocked discharge pipes. To fix these issues, you will need new pipes, electrical outlets, float switches, valves, or an entirely new sump pump depending on the problem.
Luckily, we have all of the information you need to tackle and fix the common problems that can occur with your sump pump. When you are ready to inspect your sump pump, reference the rest of this article to learn about all of the common problems, fixes, and preventive measures you can take.
Why Does A Sump Pump Fail?
A sump pump can fail for a variety of reasons. In this article, we will discuss the most common causes of failure including overwhelmed sump pumps, switch problems, clogged pumps, poor installation, power outages, and clogged/frozen discharge pipes.
Chances are that if your sump pump is malfunctioning, one or more of these problems are the culprit. Your goal is to understand these problems and work to prevent and address them when they happen.
Common Problems With A Sump Pump
Here is a more detailed explanation of what the common problems of sump pumps are and how and why they happen. Sump pumps are mechanical devices, so they are prone to mechanical errors and component failures, especially over a long period of time.
1. Overwhelmed Sump Pump
Sump pumps have limits on how much water they can pump from your home’s foundation. If the amount of water around your basement exceeds this limit, your sump pump will fail and flooding could happen.
The sump pump may be able to just barely pump enough water so that your basement does not flood, but this will still translate into long-term damage. A constantly working or overworked sump pump will make wear and tear complications more frequent.
If your sump pump is constantly cycling on and off, or never stops running, it is a sign that your sump pump is overwhelmed. You can install an additional sump pump or replace your current pump with a larger one to resolve this issue.
2. Switch Problem
Always make sure to check the float switch of your sump pump. These switches tell the instrument whether it needs to be running or not, and if the switch is clogged, faulty, or broken, your pump will not know when to turn on or turn off when there is water to be pumped.
The switch can also become frozen during the colder months of the year. This will cause a similar complication to your switch being stuck, as it cannot move when it is frozen.
You want to make sure that your switch and float activator can freely move at all times. Debris is a common disruption of functioning switches.
3. Clogged Pumps
Many sump pumps do not have lids and over time can fill with dirt and other debris. This results in clogging of your pump.
Check your sump pump every few weeks to make sure that clogging is not occurring or developing. If your pump is not clean and is near a lot of debris, it has a high chance of getting clogged at one point or another.
4. Poor Installation
Ensuring that your sump pump is installed correctly is pivotal in avoiding problems. A poor installation can result in many different complications within your pump.
Evidence for poor installation includes the absence of check valves on the discharge line, which prevents the backflow of water into the sump pump when it turns off, or installing the pump in dirt or gravel. This maximizes the amount of debris around your pump, so avoiding these installation conditions is key.
Good installations of a sump pump will include a drilled hole for pressure relief. Without this relief hole, the pump will be working against unnecessary pressure and end up weathering preventable wear and tear.
All of these installation errors will cause problems with the sump pump, so make sure you check and make sure if any of these are true for your pump setup.
5. Power Outages
This is one of the most common problems that cause flooding in basements across the country. When a heavy storm takes place, many homes lose electricity, and sump pumps are powered by electricity. A power outage will turn off the sump pump, allowing rain to build up quickly around the foundation of the home.
As this rain builds up, it will begin to damage the integrity of your basement walls. If any part of your basement is breached, the power outage would have successfully flooded your basement.
6. Clogged or Frozen Discharge Pipe
Just like the switch and float indicator, the discharge pipe can become clogged or frozen. If the discharge pipe fails by freezing or clogging, the system is guaranteed to fail. This is because water cannot be expelled from the system, and it gets instantly backed up.
For a sump pump to function, water must be able to smoothly flow through the discharge line and out of the exit into the outside of your home. Frozen water, debris at the exit of the pipe, or the water not flowing correctly will cause the freshly pumped water to back up and disrupt the system. Make sure you check the discharge pipes outside your home when checking your sump pump if it is malfunctioning.
Solutions To Sump Pump Problems
Each of these common problems with sump pumps has solutions, and as long as you can identify which of these problems is disrupting your pump, you will be able to solve it.
Here, we will list and explain the solutions that solve a vast majority of sump pump problems. If you do not identify the problem with your sump pump, going through each of these solutions will likely fix whatever it may be.
Check The Power Source
The problem with your sump pump could be that it simply does not have power. This could be because of a broken electrical outlet or because the pump is incorrectly plugged in.
Examine the plug where your sump pump is plugged in. Two plugs should be running from your sump pump to the wall. One is a plug for the float switch, and the other is for the motor. If there are not two plugs in the wall, your sump pump could only have one plug.
As long as you make a general inspection of the power source, you will be able to tell if something is wrong even if you do not know specifics about the type of pump you have.
Make Sure The Float Switch Is Not Jammed
To solve the issue of the float switch being stuck or jammed, first, make sure you can confirm that it is the cause of your sump pump problem. If you are inspecting your sump pit and water has filled to the top, the float switch can be the issue.
If the float switch is down, remove whatever is causing it to be jammed down. Sometimes, this will be some debris that needs to be removed, but more often the switch just needs a gentle nudge. After tapping it lightly back into place, the water will drain quickly.
Check The Discharge Pipe
You will be able to find the discharge pipe on the outside of your house. It may stop right outside your house wall, or it could run through your lawn and into your front yard.
You should locate where your drainage pipe goes for your specific situation, and then check to make sure there is no frozen water or debris that is clogging the discharge pipe.
If you find something obstructing the water flow, remove it as quickly as possible. There are freeze protection products on the market for your discharge pipes if needed.
Check If The Sump Pump Is Clogged
Another possible solution to your sump pump problems is checking if the pump is clogged.
If it is, there is a quick and easy solution. Remove the sump pump from the pit. You will most likely see an abundance of dirt stuck in your pump. Remove any covers and clean/scrape the dirt from the pump.
You will want to add a lid to your sump pit. This will allow less dirt to get stuck in the pit, and therefore the pump. Making it airtight sealed is a bonus that will make managing your sump pump even easier over time.
Make Sure Your Sump Pump Is The Right Size
Sump pumps come in all different sizes, and determining which size you need for your sump pit is critical. All pumps come with reference charts describing important details like how much water they can pump.
Most mid-sized homes need at least a ⅓ horsepower motor or better, and 30 gallons per minute pumped. If your home did not come with a sump pump, a plumber can help you do calculations for your home in order to get the correct sump pump size.
If you don’t get the correct size, you will quickly find out after the first rain storm while you are in your house.
How Can I Prevent Any Sump Pump Problems?
There are a variety of ways to prevent sump pump problems. The most reliable way is to make sure your discharge piping and sump pump itself are installed correctly. You want your discharge pipe to rise above the ground outside your home, and then back into the ground, most preferably into a larger pipe.
Other common problems like power issues and jammed switches can be prevented by regularly inspecting your sump pump. Catching issues before they become irreparable is what you want to achieve at all costs.
If you take the proper steps to prevent sump pump problems, take good care of your pump, and know how to service it, you can efficiently avoid large bills for sump pump repairs.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix a Sump Pump?
Fixing a sump pump can cost you hundreds of dollars. That is why it is important to review this article and stay knowledgeable about the condition of your pump. Here is a table of the average prices in the US to fix common problems with your pump.
|Problem with Sump Pump||Average Cost|
|Faulty switch replacement||$75|
|Leaking sump pump repair||$300|
|Full discharge pipe replacement||$600|
|Pedestal sump pump repair||$150-$500|
|Submersible sump pump repair||$175-$550|
These are steep costs, and no one wants their sump pump to have any of the previously discussed problems regardless. Always make sure not to forget about your sump pump and do monthly or even weekly inspections.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.