Sump Pump Problems & Simple Maintenance

Basement Sump Pump Problems

When there is basement or cellar under your property that is liable to water seepage Sump Pump Problems may happen. These Sump Pump Problems can possibly be catastrophic resulting in destruction and turmoil in the home.

In some houses the basement or cellar may be properly tanked with basement waterproofing and even a basement sub floor, that is lined with a waterproof layer or membrane. However especially as this ages or if you have a prolonged period of rain there is still a possibility of water penetration even if you have a significant slope running away from your building.

Even when you have an existing sump pump or are thinking of putting one in as a safety measure then you need to aware of a number of potential sump pump problems. When and If there is a problem and water starts to build up then usually many of your neighbors may be experiencing breakdowns or problems and the service people will be too busy to do a quick repair.

In most installations the sump pump sits in small pit or basin located below the lowest part of the basement or cellar floor. In some cases this may connect with field drains that may perhaps surround the main concrete foundation slab of the property. You can check out this article for some creative flooring ideas. However please note that you do not have to be a technical or diy expert.

Please keep in mind a few key issues to consider as regular maintenance tasks, or for troubleshooting, regarding possible sump pump problems. These are the main issues.

This is not an exhaustive list and always for safety switch off any electrical units before trying to do any work on them.

Make sure your Outflow drainage is clear

Clear Outflow Drainage is essential lack of, or blocked drainage is a frequent issue. Often homeowners do not realize that the waste water that is pumped out has to be emptied away from the house. Your outflow waste water pipe needs to be able to empty into drainage that will take it away from your building. Remember the waste pipe needs to be insulated and positioned properly in a way that it does not freeze up especially in a bad winter. Stopped up or iced up outflows are a frequent issue that can be rapidly fixed.

The Power supply

Keep it connected to the mains! Always, always, ensure your sump pump system has a permanent connection to your mains electric supply. It is an amazing fact that many householders have problems because they forgot to keep the mains power switched on. If your area has a history of power outages another possible precaution is to also install a backup battery powered sump pump.

Especially where we live in the countryside frequently in bad weather, there is a main power failure, sometimes for several hours. If you have a backup battery powered unit it takes over so we avoid this particular sump pump problem.

Check for a worn or failed Check Valve

Many systems, especially recent installations include this but many don’t. First check, do you have one fitted? Then test it periodically to ensure it functions, if you don’t have one, I urge you have one built-in. The check valve unit is configured to stop reverse flow back down the drain tube due to gravity in between pump strokes. If you have no check valve fitted most pumps will be noisy, be forced to work harder and be prone to failure because the pump will continuously have to work against this reverse gravity feed backflow from the drainpipe.

By fitting and then inspecting the operation of the check valve periodically you can avoid many of these problems and extend the life of the system saving you money in the long run.

Problems with Float Switches

If the switch jams the pump may overheat, cut out, burn out or alternatively not switch on at all. Most pumps rely on the flow of water to prevent overheating. It is the float switch that turns the pump on or off as the water-level in the sump-pit or sump-basin increases or decreases. Usually over the years, either because of vibration or inadequate installation the pump may gradually loosen resulting in the float switch arm mechanism jamming in one position or not operating. Periodic testing and maintenance is the answer to this.

basment flood

Problems with blockages in the Pump Unit (and related pipework)

Blockages can cause major harm to the pump assembly. Sump pumps can only handle a limited amount of particulates, that is dirt or grit in the water. Eventually the sump pit or basin and the pump can become choked up and you’ll need to use a pressure washer to clean them out. To prevent this it is advisable to regularly empty the sump pit or basin and clean out any filter mesh unit in the pump inlet pipe. Remember to also make sure you have a tightly fitting cover sealing the pit or basin because this will help to stop dirt getting into it preventing the problem.

Stench or bad smells

Bad smells in the basement or cellar are often a real problem. Usually such a problem happens for several reasons. If one of your sewerage waste or waste water drainage pipe is leaking into the ground next to your house the leaking waste contaminates the groundwater that is draining into the basement. Another frequent cause is if the sump pump remains switched off for long periods then a small quantity of water becomes cloudy and stagnant in the sump pit or basin eventually giving off a bad odor. In most instances this sump pump problem can be resolved by tipping a few buckets of clean or disinfected water into the sump pit and letting the sump pump extract through the system to flush it out every few months.


In summary these notes are both a troubleshooting guide to the most common sump pump problems and as a reminder of what you can do as simple preventative maintenance. Obviously this is not a fully comprehensive list but some regular preventative maintenance can save trouble; avoid expensive maintenance call-outs, as well as considerable mess and damage. Plumbing Townsville has information on dealing with other related problems. And a word of warning, should you have a serious issue with the mains electric supply in your cellar or basement, consult a qualified electrician as soon as possible. Be very careful water and electricity can be a dangerous combination.

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