Sump Pumps

Sump pump maintenance

In this era of extreme weather, it's more important than ever to inspect and service a basement waterproofing system

The sump pump is the heart of a typical basement waterproofing system -the critical moving part that conveys water from the sump pit in your basement to the exterior.

To make sure a waterproofing system will do its job when wet weather threatens to fill a basement with water, it's essential to inspect and maintain the system.

Most waterproofing system installers recommend annual checkup and maintenance.

Basic checks and maintenance steps are described below.


Cast iron is the preferred material for sump pump motor housings because of its strength, stability and heat-dissipating qualities. But cast iron can corrode at an accelerated rate when exposed to salt water. In beach communities and other areas where salt water intrusion is possible, sump pump components should be inspected for corrosion -annually and after any major storm. Some corroded parts may need to be replaced.

Perimeter drain function

Most sump pumps receive water from a drain system installed insclasse the basement, around the perimeter of the basement floor. Some interior drain systems are installed with inspection and/or cleanout ports designed to minimize the incclassence of a clogged drain line. Along with a sump pump inspection, the drain system should also be inspected to make sure a clogged drain isn't impeding water flow to the sump pit. If a clog is detected, is should be cleared as soon as possible.

Debris & sediment

The drain lines that convey water to the sump pit also carry a certain amount of silt and sediment, suspended in the water. This isn't an immediate problem because sump pumps are typically elevated above the bottom of the sump pit or sump basin. However, thick deposits of sediment should be removed.

In an open sump pit, it's important to check for stones, paper, toys and other small objects that may have fallen into the pit. Such debris can cause a float valve to malfunction.

Multiple pump functionality

The simplest sump pump systems rely on a single sump pump to move water from the sump pit to the exterior. However, many basement waterproofing experts recommend installing a multiple-pump system that can handle high water volume and power outages.

A premium-quality sump pump system (such as the TripleSafe system available from Basement Systems) includes a primary pump to handle average volume, a secondary pump that comes on when the primary pump malfunctions or is in danger or being overwhelmed by high pumping demands, and a third battery-powered pump that functions during a power outage. The inspection process for any multiple-pump system should include a test run of all pumps in the system. If a sump pump is equipped with a breather hole to prevent an air pocket from forming, the breather hole must be inspected and cleaned out to keep it open.

Check valve function

The drain line that extends from the sump pump to the building exterior should include a one-way valve called a check valve. The purpose of this valve is to prevent drain water from flowing back toward the sump pit. The function of the check valve can be tested during a regular inspection.

Battery charge

Sump pumps with battery backup are increasingly popular because of the power outages that often accompany severe storms. In a battery backup system, the charge of the battery should be checked, along with the function of the trickle charger that's also part of the system.

A specially designed sump pump battery will deliver strong, reliable performance for 3-5 years. It should be replaced when it can no longer hold a charge. Some homeowners elect to have a second backup battery installed to increase run time in the event of a prolonged power outage.

Drain line obstructions

During a sump pump inspection, the technician will confirm that the drain line is clear and able to deliver unwanted water outsclasse, well away from the building foundation.

Most building codes prohibit a sump pump from delivering water directly to the municipal sewer system. Instead, water should be pumped to a part of the yard that slopes down away from the house. Any cracks or blockages should be repaired or cleared.

Freeze protection

Water that freezes in an exterior drain line creates a blockage that will impede or even stop the drainage system from working. A special IceGuard fixture can be added where the drain line exits the foundation to maintain effective drainage during freezing weather. This is a recommended feature in cold climates.

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