The ultimate guide to sump pump maintenance

Mon Nov 21 2022

A sump pump installed in a basement of a home with a water powered backup system

Just the thought of your home and belongings being destroyed by floodwater is enough to fill any homeowner with dread. But don’t worry! If you live in an area prone to storms and heavy rainfall, chances are you already have a crucial appliance in your home that’s got your back. Let us introduce you to the almighty sump pump.

Sump pumps are devices placed at the lowest point of your house (typically a basement or crawlspace) and are designed to protect the foundation of your home and keep it from flooding. They use sensors to detect elevated water levels and move water away from your home through — you guessed it — an underground pump.

Do sump pumps need maintenance? You bet they do! As you can imagine, this appliance is an essential part of keeping your home safe after storms or heavy rainfall. You need to keep this appliance in good working order, which means that regular sump pump servicing is crucial.

In this post, we’ll discuss why upkeep is so important, as well as how to maintain sump pumps.

The importance of regular sump pump maintenance

Sump pump maintenance, not to be confused with sewage pump maintenance, is crucial for a variety of reasons. If these pumps stop working correctly, your basement could flood and cause serious damage to your home.

But that’s not the purpose your sump pump serves. Your sump pump also:

  • Protects your home’s foundation.
  • Prevents paint and wallpaper from peeling.
  • Improves circulation and air flow in basements.
  • Protects basement appliances from corrosion, like washers, dryers and freezers.
  • Reduces fungus growth in basements, like mold and mildew.
  • Reduces insect infestations, like termites and millipedes.
  • Checks a box for flood insurance coverage requirements.

These are just some of the perks of a functioning sump pump! As you can see, regular maintenance is important, and you should invest in a sump pump inspection at least once per year. If you live in an area with frequent heavy rainfall or snow, you may need to schedule quarterly sump pump maintenance service.

6 sump pump maintenance tips

While having a professional come out for regular sump pit maintenance is crucial, there are also things you can do to make sure you’re staying on top of your sump pump’s health. Performing inspections yourself every three or four months can pinpoint problems before they morph into something much more severe.

Here are six essential sump pump service and maintenance tips:

1. Know your sump pump

Most people don’t know anything about sump pumps — and we don’t blame you! While you don’t need to know all the ins and outs of how your pump works, it may help to understand the basics so you can spot when something’s not right.

The majority of the time, your sump pump is on standby, ready to jump into action. After heavy rainfall, groundwater from surrounding soil moves into the sump pit below your house and fills it with water. The sensors in your sump pump detect this pressure and rising water levels, and that activates your pump. It starts pumping the water out into a nearby storm drain or detention pond.

There are two primary types of pumps:

  • Submersible sump pumps, which can operate underwater so the motor will be positioned within the sump pit.
  • Pedestal sump pumps, which have the motor positioned above the pit and floor level.

Despite these differences, both kinds of sump pumps essentially function the same way and come with all the usual parts, ranging from the discharge pipe to the float switch.

It also helps to know basic information about your specific sump pump, like:

  • Your pump’s model and age.
  • Where you can source replacement parts in an emergency.
  • Any previously repaired issues you need to be aware of.

Sump pumps over seven years old are far more likely to experience problems than newer models. If you’ve purchased a new unit, make sure you have a physical and digital copy of the instruction manual. The instructions tell you how your pump works and this can give clues on what you need to watch out for. If you’re not sure which model you have, look for the model number on the motor. It will help you determine which pump you own and where to find a copy of an instruction manual.

2. Perform regular tests

Just because you’re not a sump pump expert doesn’t mean you can’t learn to perform regular tests on your own. Trust us, when that huge storm hits, you’re going to want to make sure your sump pump is doing its job.

It’s impossible to predict when water may begin to seep into your basement, so you want to make sure that your sump pump is functioning properly year-round. Luckily, testing this is pretty easy:

  • Make sure the power is on and pour a small bucket of water into the sump pit.
  • Monitor how the pump performs when it’s running and note any strange noises that could indicate a problem.

That’s it! Set yourself a reminder on your calendar to perform this test every month. If you know there’s a big storm coming, run the test a few times in the days before. It only takes a few minutes to do and it’s well worth it to save your home from permanent serious damage.

3. Recognize the signs

No one spends more time in your house than you do, which is why you’re the best person to monitor your sump pump. Knowing the most common signs of a problem is a key to good sump pump maintenance. You don’t need to know how to fix these problems, just how to recognize them so you can call in a professional.

The most common signs of problems, and the issues they correspond to, include:

  • Rattling or grinding. These noises occur due to damaged or jammed impellers. Other odd noises may indicate worn-out parts.
  • Excessive vibrations. If your motor is vibrating too much, the impeller could have become deformed or bent.
  • Turning on and off. The internal wiring may be damaged if your pump turns itself on and off randomly.
  • Oil leaks. Leaking oil typically indicates that your sump pump is coming to the end of its lifespan.

Any of these problems may indicate that your pump needs professional maintenance. In some cases, a professional may even recommend replacing the pump entirely.

4. Deep clean your sump pump

As with most things, you can extend the lifespan of your sump pump by cleaning it regularly. Cleanliness increases its efficiency and keeps it performing at full potential. You want to deep clean your sump pump and pit regularly.

To do this, follow these steps:

  • Switch off the pump. This step is very important. Trying to clean your sump pump while it’s connected to its power source is dangerous!
  • Ensure that nobody is using any home appliances that could lead to water draining into the pump’s pit, such as the dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Take a garden hose and rinse out the pump. If there’s any caked debris, remove it with a putty knife or plastic scraper.
  • Use a wet vacuum to remove excess water from your sump pit.
  • Wait until the pump has fully dried before reattaching your discharge pipe and plugging it back in.

You may also discover that regular cleaning can alleviate some of the troubling signs we mentioned before. While it isn’t always the case, sometimes all your pump needs is a good cleaning!

5. Keep your equipment covered

Make sure you have a fitted covering for your sump pump. Basements are magnets for lint, debris, and sediment that could fall into the sump pit. A fitted covering protects your equipment from these as well as insects, and moisture-related problems. Plus it can prevent radon from seeping into your home. The covering should fit perfectly over the top, with the only holes being for the wiring.

It’s important to note that putting a cover over the top doesn’t negate the need for regular cleaning, but it can make the job much easier.

6. Inspect the discharge line

The last step in sump pump maintenance is to inspect the discharge line. If water is draining slowly and your pump is working fine, you may have an issue with your drainage pipes. Carefully remove any blockages you can see. If the problem persists, then you need to call a professional.

Protect your home with Kin Insurance

Every homeowner knows that water damage is one of the most severe threats to your home’s foundation. While a sump pump works hard to protect your house, the right equipment doesn’t negate the need for insurance. Take the extra step to keep your home safe with flood insurance from Kin.

Join the thousands of people saving on their homeowners insurance in Florida by getting in touch with Kin Insurance today.


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