Six-Step Maintenance Guide To Keep Your Sump Pump Working For Years 

Kenneth Wilson

Your home’s sump pump is very much an unsung hero! It kicks into action when it’s called upon and protects your home from flooding.

And while it doesn’t need a huge deal of TLC, you must regularly inspect and maintain your sump pump so it’s fully functional when you need it most.

That’s why we’ve provided this simple six-step maintenance guide, so you can keep your sump pump working for many years to come.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is installed within a designated pit at the lowest point in your home, typically in the basement. Its primary job is to prevent your home from flooding, and it kicks into action when the soil around your property becomes saturated.

As excessive groundwater makes its way into the sump pit, your pump activates automatically, draining water from the pit and diverting it to a nearby storm drain or well. The pump plays a crucial role in protecting the structural integrity of your home, as it prevents excess water from seeping into the foundations. (Related: How To Waterproof Basement Walls From The Inside)

How Often Should a Sump Pump Run?

Your sump pump is likely to sit dormant for extended periods of time, and it should only ever run when it’s needed. It only needs to run when the water levels surrounding the pit reach a certain level for the switch to activate and the pump to kick into action.

During seasons of heavy rainfall, it’s not uncommon for a sump pump to kick in several times in a day to divert water away from your home.

Six-Step Sump Pump Maintenance Guide 

Typically, sump pumps last for years when they’re well looked after, so it’s important to put together a maintenance schedule for this vital component of your home’s flood defense!

Below is a six-step guide to maintaining your sump pump, so you can be sure that it will work consistently when you need it the most.

1. Locate your Sump Pump

Some homeowners have absolutely no idea where their sump pump is located! So, the first thing you need to do is find it. It will always be located below ground level and is likely to be in the basement or in a crawl space.

2. Check its Position Periodically After Heavy Rainfalls

Once you know where your sump pump is, get into the habit of checking it regularly after bouts of heavy rainfall. Vibrations in the soil can cause your sump pump to tilt to one side, so you should inspect it to ensure its upright and that the float ball is able to move freely.

3. Perform a Simple Water Test

Of course, you want to make sure your sump pump is actually capable of pumping water. To test it out, pour a generous amount of water into the pit and wait to see if the pump kicks into action.

4. Clean your Sump Pump in line with SSPMA Guidance

The Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturer’s Association (SSPMA) issues the following guidance on cleaning a residential sump pump:

  • Monthly: If your sump pump disposes of water waste from household appliances (such as a washing machine), you should clean your pump once a month.
  • Seasonally: Supposing your pump is only used to divert rainwater away from your property, you can check and clean it seasonally (3-4 times a year).
  • Annually: Once a year, you should perform a deep clean of the sump pump and pit, or call in a professional to do it on your behalf.

How do you clean a Sump Pump?

Cleaning a sump pump is relatively straightforward and can be done with a garden hose. The main reason for cleaning your pump is to remove any dirt and debris and to prevent any blockages in the future. Here’s how to clean a sump pump yourself:

  1. 1
    Disconnect: Make sure you turn off the circuit breaker at the power source before you start cleaning your pump. You don’t want it kicking into action while you’re trying to clean it!
  2. 2
    Remove & clean: Remove the pump from the pit and place it on a tarp. Using a garden hose, clean each side of the pump, taking care to remove any debris.
  3. 3
    Drain the check valve:Once you’re happy that the pump is clean, drain its check valve to remove any water that remains.
  4. 4
    Remove standing water from the sump pit: If you have a wet vacuum, use it to remove any water that’s standing in the pit.
  5. 5
    Reconnect: You’re now ready to reconnect your sump pump and turn the power back on.

As you can see, cleaning your sump pump isn’t too complicated, but doing so will help to preserve the pump for many years to come.

5. Check your Pump’s GFCI Connection

Sump pumps are connected to the mains via a Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter (GFCI), which is a safety device that protects you from electric shocks and ensures your pump can run effectively. Naturally, if your sump pump’s GFCI is faulty, it won’t work. Here’s how to check its connection:

  • Find and test the reset button. When you flick the switch, the pump should connect to power.
  • Use a GFCI tester. This simple device will inform you of any issues with your GFCI connection and whether or not it needs to be replaced.

We would advise checking your sump pump’s GFCI connection when you clean it.

6. Schedule an Annual Inspection with a Professional

You can’t understate the importance of your sump pump. Therefore, it’s a smart move to call in a pro to take a look at how your pump is performing once a year. They will check the following:

  • The pit:They will check that your pit is functional and make any repairs that are required.
  • The check valve: Your sump pump’s check valve is a vital component, as it prevents water in the discharge pipe from flowing back into the pit. An engineer will check that the valve is operational.
  • The condition of the pump:If your sump pump is aging, a professional will advise you on how well it’s functioning and inform you if it needs to be replaced.
  • The discharge location: Sump pumps are required to discharge water at least 20ft away from the home. An engineer will explain if you need to make any changes to your pump’s discharge location.

You can get in touch with a local plumber or home inspector to take a look at your sump pump and to offer any advice on improvements that you need to make.

Final Thoughts

Your sump pump is a vital component of your home’s flood defense. In most instances, it will work away on its own and divert water away from your basement. But it’s super important that you regularly check and maintain your pump following the steps above, as a broken pump could cause thousands of dollars in flood damage if you don’t realize your pump is defective.

Kenneth Wilson
October 27, 2021
Contractor Tips, Interior

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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