Sump Pump Maintenance: How To Do It Right

Check out these simple tips for sump pump maintenance to ensure your clients' basements stay dry.

sump pump maintenance in garden

Published 16 Sep 2022

What is Sump Pump Maintenance?

Regular sump pump maintenance is essential to ensure the pump works properly and keeps any basement dry. The maintenance typically includes checking the pump for proper function, cleaning the pump and discharge line, and checking the float switch for proper operation. Additionally, you should check the sump pit's water level to ensure it doesn't get too high.

How Often is Sump Pump Maintenance Conducted?

The maintenance of sump pumps depends on how often they’re used. Pumps used only in heavy rains or snow melts don’t need to be checked as often as those that run continuously. However, even infrequently used pumps can develop problems, so it’s still a good idea to perform regular maintenance.

The Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturer’s Association (SSPMA), an organization that represents the different manufacturers of sumps, recommends the following maintenance guidelines:

  • Monthly – Once a month is recommended for sump pumps that dispose of washing machine water.
  • Quarterly – If the sump pump is used regularly or if it’s the only means of sewage disposal for the home, every three months is recommended.
  • Yearly – If only occasionally used, annual maintenance should suffice, but be sure to clean the pump and pit during maintenance.

What’s Involved in Sump Pump Maintenance?

Below are some tips on what to perform during each maintenance period.

Monthly Maintenance Tasks

  • Listen to the sump pump for any strange noises.
  • Check to ensure the outlet pipe is properly discharging water.
  • Check the float switch to ensure it’s working correctly.
  • Check the battery backup to ensure it’s charged and working correctly.
  • Check the impeller to ensure it’s not broken or damaged.

Quarterly Maintenance Tasks

  • Drain water from the pump and basin to help prevent any standing water from causing problems.
  • Clear the debris basin and ensure the pump screen is unobstructed.
  • Fill the sump with five gallons of water to ensure the float switch correctly turns on and off when needed.

Yearly Maintenance Tasks

  • Remove the pump and check for rust or corrosion. Clean out the pump intake screen with a brush if necessary.
  • Lubricate the pump bearings if required.
  • Clear the debris from the sump basin.
  • Reinstall the pump and reconnect it to the power supply.
  • Fill the basin with five gallons of water and watch the float switch. Ensure that it goes through its full range of motion without getting stuck and that the pump turns on and off when it should.
  • Examine the pump discharge pipe for damage on the outside. Ensure it isn’t clogged with dirt or grass, it’s completely drained, and it doesn’t contain any residual water that could freeze in the winter, causing the pipe to burst or obstruct normal flow.

What Should a Professional Inspect?

There are six things a professional should inspect:

The Pit

Ensure the pit is large enough to hold all the water the pump will need to move. It should also be deep enough so that the float switch has room to operate correctly. The recommended depth is at least 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide.

Check Valve

The check valve is installed on the discharge pipe and prevents water from flowing back into the pit once it’s been pumped out. It’s essential to ensure the check valve is installed correctly and is working properly.

Backup Power Source

Inspect the backup power source to ensure it’s in good working condition. It’s vital in case of a power outage or the primary pump fails. The most common backup power source is a battery, though generators are also effective.

The Alarm

Adding an alarm to the sump pump can help you get alerted if the water level in the pit becomes unsafe. It’s a good safety feature to have in case of a power outage or if the pump fails.

The Cover

The cover on the sump pump is vital to keep debris and dirt out of the pit. Ensure it fits snugly and is free of any holes or cracks.

Discharge Location

It’s essential to ensure the discharge location is away from the home’s foundation to prevent any water from seeping back into the basement. The recommended measurement is at least 20 feet away.

Sump Pump Maintenance Tips

Testing the Pump

To test the sump pump, you’ll need to fill the pit with water. The best way to do this is to use a garden hose. Once the pit is full, the pump should begin running. Seeing water flowing out of the discharge pipe signifies that the pump is working. Ensure the float switch functions correctly if the pump doesn’t turn on.

Checking the Sump Pump’s Position

The sump pump should be level so that it can operate properly. Use a level to check the pump, and adjust it if necessary.

Cleaning the Inlet Screen

Clean the screen to prevent it from getting clogged. Use a brush to clean the screen, and make sure to remove any debris that’s accumulated.

Deep Cleaning the Sump Pump

If the sump pump isn’t working correctly, you may need to deep clean it. It involves disassembling the pump and cleaning all the dirt and grimes built over time.

Inspecting the Discharge Line

Inspecting the discharge line is essential to ensure it’s not clogged or damaged. If the discharge line is clogged, water will back up into the pit and could cause the pump to malfunction.

Examining the Discharge Location

Ensure proper discharge of water at the discharge location. If water is pooling around the discharge pipe, it could be a sign of a clog.

Checking the Power Source

Ensure the cord and outlet are in good working order if the sump pump is plugged into an outlet. Check the wiring if the sump pump is hardwired to ensure no loose connections.

FAQs About Sump Pump Maintenance

If the sump pump doesn’t turn on, you should first check the water level in the pit. If the water level is low, it may not trigger the float switch to turn on the pump. Also, make sure the float switch is working properly. Lastly, check the power source to ensure the pump is plugged in properly or the wiring is secure. Lastly, ensure the inlet valve is free of clogs and debris.

If the sump pump doesn’t shut off, it could be due to a problem with the float switch. There’s a possibility the float switch is stuck in the “on” position or damaged. You can try gently tapping the float switch to see if it will move. If the float switch is damaged, you’ll need to replace it.

If the sump pump starts and stops too frequently, it could indicate that the pit is too small. The pit should be large enough to hold a day’s worth of rainwater. Check also the discharge pipe to make sure it’s not clogged. If the discharge pipe is clogged, water will back up into the pit and cause the pump to turn on more frequently.

A sump pump should make a humming noise when it’s running. The pump may be worn out and need replacement if you hear a loud banging noise.

Robertson Paredes

SafetyCulture staff writer

Rob Paredes

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.