A sump pump is your home’s defense against flooding, period. No matter if the flood is caused by a severe storm, sewer backup or a burst pipe, the result is the same, water causing damage to your home. When a sump pump fails, it can lead what should have been a small issue to becoming a major problem. Knowing how to inspect and test your sump pump will ensure it is in fine working order, if you should need it.

What are the most common sump pump problems?

Below we highlight some of the most common issues to keep an eye out for.

Clogged sump pump and switches

If your sump pump has no lid, dirt can accumulate and cause it to clog. In addition, over time the pump’s mechanical parts can also become clogged and dirty. Especially if the sump sits straight against the bottom of a dirty sump pit where silt can accumulate. The float switch that turns the pump off and on can become jammed if there is too much dirt around it. This will cause the sump to run consistently or not turn on at all.

If you happen to detect any of the above cases, call a professional. It’s best to have your sump pump examined on a regular basis to ensure that it is clean. An expert will be able to tell you what the next steps are and if a repair is in order or just a good cleaning. A simple precautionary measure that will keep debris and dirt out of your sump pump is installing a lid. The lid will also prevent water from evaporating.

Ice in discharge lines

Any water collected by a sump pump is usually pushed out through the discharge pipes. However, when these pipes freeze or become blocked during the winter months, it can cause the system to malfunction. To remedy this, a technician can install a line attachment that prevents water from flowing out to the icy lines while keeping the water flowing out of the basement.

Loss of power

Your sump pump needs consistent power. If the power is turned off due to a storm, circuit breaker trips or the pump is unplugged, your basement is left vulnerable. The next rain storm may cause your basement to flood. It’s best to have a high-capacity battery backup for those emergency cases. Gel pack systems are available that can power the generator connected to your sump pump for days.

Sump pump running non-stop

Sump pumps are not built to run continuously for long periods. This can cause the parts to wear down and overheat, which will eventually lead to the pump burning out. The most common causes of a sump pump overrunning are:

Stuck switches. The float switch might get clogged or knotted. The movements of a running sump pump might force it to lean against the pit or liner. This can cause the pump switch to be disabled.

The pump or liner is too small or too big. If the pump is too small to handle the job it will just keep running. However, if the pump is too big but the sump is too tiny, it can lead it to fill up too quickly. This would force the sump pump to overload, also referred to as a “short-cycling sump pump”.

The check valve is missing or broken. Since the sump pump is installed below the surface level, the discharge line is pitched upward so that it can channel water up and away until it reaches an exit point. It is then pitched downward to dump the water outside the home using gravity. The check valve prevents water from returning to the pit before it reaches the apex. A broken or missing valve can cause up to two-thirds of the water to run back into the pit. This will cause the pump to overrun.

If your sump pump is continually running during normal conditions, call an expert to check for any of the mentioned issues.

Incorrect installation

There are many requirements and recommendations when installing a sump pump. It’s advised to install a check valve on the discharge line. This is to ensure that the pump impeller does not spin backwards from a back-flow of water.
Most manufacturers also insist on drilling a tiny air relief hole in the discharge line. This is done to prevent the pump from having excessive air pressure in the discharge line.

Another requirement is that the pit itself should not be dug in gravel or soil. Debris and soil are more likely to enter the pump and obstruct it. If any of these installation requirements are missed your sump pump may need to be reinstalled again.

Common sump pump noises

Aside from the alarm, there are other sounds your sump pump could make to indicate a problem.

  1. Grinding noises could indicate that the impeller may be stuck or need to be replaced. A stuck impeller prevents water from entering your pump.
  2. Pipe vibration might cause a clanging noise when the sump pump is running. Insulating the pipes that are linked to the pump is the easiest solution to solve the clanging noise. Otherwise, a professional may be able to modify your discharge pipe to a more suitable (and quieter) location.
  3. A buzzing sound is typical of a sump pump. If it’s making a lot of noise try to clean out the vent hole and reset the check valve to discharge. Also, gently thaw up any frozen pipes. If none of those choices work, the impeller and filter may need to be cleaned or replaced.
  4. Banging noises can occur in your discharge pipes. They may be securely fastened down by a technician to prevent them from banging with wiring and brackets. In addition, a specialist can examine your sump pump’s internal wiring and parts to guarantee that you don’t have any difficulties during the year.

Sump pumps are vital in keeping your home free from flooding and potential water damage. Some signs to look for include a clogged pump and switches, ice in discharge lines, loss of power, constantly running pump, and incorrect installation. Professional maintenance inspections can assist to keep these problems at bay. Regular inspections may help in spotting significant issues early on so they aren’t as serious or costly in the end. Consistent maintenance ensures that your sump pump works when you need it most.