rarely give much thought to their sump pumps except when
things go wrong. Often hidden away in a basement sump
basin, these devices activate to pump water outside when
water reaches a certain level in the pit. But when they
fail, homeowners face the prospect of a flooded basement
and an expensive cleanup.
rated plumbers recommend a few simple steps to maintain
your sump pump and keep it in optimal condition.
Counts, owner of highly rated Potomac Plumbing & Gas
in Gainesville, Va., says homeowners can help ensure the
longest life for their sump pump by hiring a licensed
plumber to install it correctly. "I see a lot of
mistakes on the front end," he says. "Lots of
times, I’ll see a pump where a check valve wasn’t
installed, and without one of those, the pump never gets
a chance to rest."
Diciolla, owner of highly rated Lifeline Plumbing in
Elgin, Ill., says installers should include materials
that help protect the system. "You want a good,
solid lid on the pit, and if there’s a battery backup
system, make sure it’s protected from dust
buildup," he says. "If there’s debris in the
pit or the electronics, it can damage the system."
Tarvin, owner of highly rated Tarvin Plumbing in
Cincinnati, suggests homeowners occasionally inspect
their system and verify proper operation. "If the
lid is easily removable, it’s easy to see if the pump
is running or backed up," he says. "In either
case, you can test the pump by turning on the manual
switch or adding water to the pit with a hose or bucket
to ensure the pump turns on and removes the water."
suggests keeping an eye on the outdoor discharge line
during cold periods, when frozen pipes can send water
back into the pit and potentially overflow. "I’ve
seen the pump turn on while the discharge line was still
frozen with a block of ice sitting in the pipe," he
sump pump should only make a basic motor sound and
operate quickly, Diciolla says. "When a pump turns
on, it should empty that pit in about 10 seconds,"
he says. "If it runs for two or three minutes at a
time, call somebody to take a look, because it’s not
pumping fast enough."
also notes that unusual sounds, such as grinding or
crunching, can indicate an obstruction, which can damage
a pump or slow it down. He suggests hiring a
professional to check for damage and perform maintenance
in that case.
in the pros
least once a year, plumbers recommend hiring a
professional to perform an inspection and check the
motor and electronics. Tarvin says this sort of
inspection costs between $75 and $200, depending on
whether maintenance needs to be performed.
points out this can be part of standard home
maintenance. "You should have someone check out
your plumbing once a year in any event," he says.
on a backup
the finest sump pump becomes an expensive piece of
sculpture if a storm knocks out power. Plumbers
recommend installing a battery-powered backup to take up
the slack. "Your sump pump is useless if your power
goes out, so that backup is very important," Counts