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What the Heck is a Sump Pump? Do I Really Need One?

You’ve heard of a sump pump, but if you’re reading this, you probably have little to no idea what they are or why you need one. We’ve created a handy guide to tell you everything you need to know about your sump pump.

So, what is this thing?

A sump pump is a small pump installed at the lowest part of your home’s basement or crawlspace. The purpose of the pump is to keep your basement from flooding and to keep the area under your home dry, preventing flooding outside the building as well.

But flood prevention isn’t the only reason to have a sump pump. By keeping your home dry, you’ll prevent mold and mildew from forming. And because it pumps water away from the building, a sump pump keeps your soil stable. Wet and shifting soil is one of the main contributing factors to foundation damage. A sump pump not only keeps your home from flooding, but it helps keep it in top shape by staving off mold, mildew, and deteriorating foundations.

How does it work?

Sump pumps are installed in specially constructed pits dug below the lowest point of your home. Water enters into the pit through drains in the floor of your home or by water migration through the soil surrounding your foundation. As the pit fills with water, the pump registers a rise in the water level with a float, and it turns on. As the water pours in, your sump pump moves the liquid out of the pit and into pipes that run away from your home, and most pumps have a check valve that ensures water won’t flow back into the pit. The water is then dispensed in a spot where it won’t cause any damage to your soil or foundation far away from your house.

Do I need a sump pump?

There’s not a black-or-white answer to this question. Whether or not you need a sump pump depends largely on your location and the climate where you’re living. If your home is at the bottom of a hill or near a pond or lake that’s prone to flooding, it’s a good idea to have a sump pump. Additionally, if you live in a region with heavy rains, a sump pump is a good investment to keep your home and your foundation dry.

A sump pump isn’t the only way to keep your home free of moisture, but if your home is at risk for water retention or flooding, it’s a great way stop damage before it starts.

Sump Pump Maintenance

A sump pump can be a lifesaver, but there are a few basic steps you need to take to maintain its functionality. Conducting regular checks is important, especially when your pump is working hard during seasons of heavy rain, like in the spring. Below are some basic practices you should conduct at least once a year:

  • Clean the pump’s inlet screen.
  • Make sure the pump is connected to power.
  • Fill the sump with water to make sure the float rises, and the pump turns on.
  • Clean and inspect the sump pump.
  • If the bearings require grease or oil, make sure everything is properly lubricated.

Signs you need to replace your sump pump

If your sump pump isn’t working correctly—or at all—you want to take care of maintenance before the eleventh hour when your basement is filling up with water. Below are three common problems with sump pumps that mean you either need some repairs or need a new pump altogether.

  1. It’s Old – You can expect your sump pump to last about ten years. If your pump has seen a lot of life and is acting up, don’t bother spending a ton on repairs. It’s time to get a new one.
  2. It’s Dry – If there’s no water in your sump pit, something isn’t right. Check to make sure your sump pump is installed correctly and is hooked up to your drainage system. Have your plumber come out to schedule an inspection to make sure there are no clogs in your systems.
  3. It’s Noisy – It’s normal for your sump pump to make noise while it’s working. But you should keep an ear out for thuds, gurgles, and grinding sounds. If you look into the pit and can’t see any reason for the change in noise, disconnect your sump pump and make a decision about a new purchase or repairs to your current pump.

Can I install my own sump pump?

Sump pumps are small machines that do big work. They’re available at most hardware stores, and if you’re handy, you can install them yourself. But if there’s any doubt, or if your home doesn’t already have a sump pump pit dug (most new construction includes this feature), your best course of action is to hire a contractor who can do it for you.


For some homeowners—and building owners—a sump pump is a necessity. Because they’re underground, sumps might seem like a mystery and hard to maintain. In reality, they’re an easy-to-understand little pump that can save your home from damage and your family from the stress of flooding, mold, mildew, and the renovations resulting from all three.

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