Common Sump Pump Problems

Although a sump pump is not a foolproof way to prevent basement flooding, having a working pump that is well-maintained and in good working order can go a long way in preventing a flooded basement.

Like all appliances, sump pumps don’t last forever. Even the best pumps on the market will fail eventually. Knowing the most common reasons for sump pump failure and acting accordingly can save you a lot of pain down the road.

The most common reasons for sump pump failure are:

Power Failure

Your primary sump pump is no different from any other electric appliance in the sense that it is worthless without electricity. As a safeguard, a back-up pump, one that runs on battery power, is highly recommended. Since there are many types of back-up pumps on the market, care should be used when selecting one for your home. We recommend one that uses AGM batteries, since they require less maintenance and will generally last longer than the old fashioned deep cycle marine batteries.

Stuck Switch/Bad Switch

There are several different types of switches on the market. The most common types contain either tethered or vertical floats.

Tethered floats are quite inexpensive, making them attractive in regard to your budget. The float hangs from the pump and floats on the water. As the water rises, so does the float and the switch is triggered. But tethered floats can easily get stuck on the side walls of the sump pit, leading to basement flooding.

Vertical floats are slightly superior to tethered floats in that the float has limited movement, rising and sinking along a vertical rod. Both of these floats are susceptible to the accumulation of grime, leading to the sinking of the float and sending a false message to the pump. Still, vertical floats are usually of a higher quality than the tethered type and will often carry a longer warranty.

Diaphragm switches are popular with experts and are the most expensive type of switch on the market. The entire sump pump is immersed under water and on it is a membrane that is sensitive to water pressure. As the water level rises, the water pressure increases and the diaphragm’s shape becomes concave, activating the switch to turn on the pump. When the water level drops, the switch turns off.

An Electronic “Flood-Free” switch has no actual float. Instead, a probe wire is placed inside the pit to sense the presence of water and is activated when it becomes submerged by rising water. A second probe wire can also be placed at a higher level to set off an alarm switch or another back-up pump. This particular switch can be used in many types of applications.

An Overwhelmed Sump Pump

Remember, not all sump pumps are the same. At a bare minimum, your pump should put out at least 1/3 horsepower and be capable of pumping 35 gallons of water per minute. If you live in a higher water table or you frequently hear your sump pump running, then we recommend that you upgrade to a ½ horsepower pump that can pump at the rate of 60 gallons per minute. And a back-up, battery operated sump pump is always recommended!

Sump Discharge Pipe Froze

With our brutal Wisconsin winters, this type of issue is commonplace, especially when the pitch of the discharge pipe is not properly angled. If the water in the pipe freezes then all the additional drainage will end up right back in your sump pit… and when enough water accumulates, well, then you’re bailing water out of your basement. If this is happening to you, call an expert. They’ll be able to provide a solution, perhaps a “bubbler pot,” which will help lead the water away from your basement.

Old Sump Pump

Believe it or not, the average life expectancy of a sump pump is less than eight years! Have yours inspected by an expert often! Remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!