• Clayton


The sump pump at work in your basement has a big responsibility: preventing floods and protecting your home from water damage and expensive repairs. Keep a sump pump in good condition, and it will perform. But neglect to service it, and you could end up with a destructive and costly mess on your hands. Follow these steps to learn how to maintain a sump pump.

How does a sump pump work?

A sump is the lowest point in your house, usually a basement. A sump pump basin is dug in the basement, and the water level in the sump well shows the groundwater level around your house. When the groundwater rises to a certain level, the sump pump activates and drains water out of the basin until the level is lowered once more. Sump pumps come in two types — pedestal and submersible. A pedestal sump pump sits outside the well, and a submersible sump pump floats in the water. Most of the time, if it's doing its job, you probably forget the sump pump is even there. Nonetheless, it needs to be maintained like any other system in your house.

Annual sump pump maintenance

Thankfully, maintenance is easy, and any homeowner can run through this checklist of tasks every year:

Check the power source for the pump. It should connect to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for maximum safety.

Inspect the cord to the pump, looking for evidence of wear and tear.

Make sure the pump is level and upright. When it runs, the vibrations from the motor or the force of the water can cause it to tilt, which will let the float shift out of place.

Fill the basin or pit to the top with water, which should cause the pump to start immediately. This task simply assures you that the pump will run when it needs to and that nothing has malfunctioned.

Take the pump out of the basin. At the bottom, there should be a grate, which needs cleaned. Sometimes debris will get sucked into the grate, which can compromise the system and eventually cause it to malfunction.

Check on the drainage pipes that take the water out of the system. All joints should connect tightly, and drain to the proper area—such as the main sewage line or through a pipe that extends into your yard. If your system has the latter, make sure the drainage pipe points away from your home's foundation and extends far enough away to avoid adding to the water table near your home.

Identify the discharge pipe, and check that the venting is free of debris.

Sump pump maintenance to perform every quarter

Experts also recommend performing these maintenance steps three or four times a year:

Remove the pump's screen and clean it.

If your model has an inlet opening instead of a screen, gently clean it.

Before you perform any maintenance tasks on your pump, be sure to first disconnect its power supply. While you're cleaning, water may drain from the sump pump basin or well. Once you've completed maintenance and you put the pump back into the basin, fill it with water so the pump doesn't operate dry when it turns back on

How to maintain the sump pump battery backup

A sump pump battery backup powers the pump when electricity fails to power the primary pump. If you have a backup battery, you should also check that the battery is working and charged. Some backup systems are maintenance-free and should supply power as long as the main pump is charging it. When you're performing annual maintenance and checking both systems, take the time to check the owner's manual for average life span for the battery and sump pump. Keeping an eye on the expected service life and tracking how often the system runs will give you an estimate on when to replace the battery backup and primary pump systems — before they fail. And if you don't have a sump pump with battery backup, considering installing a battery to protect your basement when the power goes out.

Basement waterproofing

In addition to a sump pump, consider other methods to waterproof a basement and lower groundwater levels, such as careful yard-grading, maintaining proper gutters and downspouts or installing a French drain. The best sump pump situation is when it never needs to activate. 

Maintenance for your sump pump is easy, but it takes time and dedication to keep the system in good working condition. Invest in your pump's future, and it will reward you with durability and reliability. Get peace of mind about your primary pump and backup battery by scheduling maintenance with a service professional every so often. Homeowners whose pumps run frequently will need to schedule maintenance more often.

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