Sump Pump Maintenance and Inspection Tips
A sump pump is a key component in your home that helps prevent ground or rainwater from entering your basement. Water from under or around your home drains into a sump pump pit, and is then pumped out of your home and away from the foundation. As with any other system or appliance you may have in your home, a sump pump needs regular maintenance to keep it functioning properly. These tips can help you ensure that your sump pump stays in working condition.
How Often Should I Clean My Sump Pump?
Since there are many different types of sump pumps, remember to consult your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s instructions on standard maintenance and service schedules. However, the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturer’s Association (SSPMA) generally recommends the following maintenance frequency on sump pumps:
- Monthly: If your sump pump disposes of water from a washing machine, a monthly cleaning of the pump screen or inlet opening may be needed. The SSPMA also advises that the pump should be unplugged before cleaning — but make sure it’s plugged back in upon completion.
- Quarterly: If your sump pump does not dispose of washing machine water, the pump screen or inlet opening can be cleaned once every three to four months.
- Annually: Remove the sump pump and clean both the pump and pit.
A professional inspection of your sump pump each year may help make sure it is working properly and prolong the pump’s lifespan, says the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).
What Should a Professional Inspect?
Here are six things a professional should examine during an annual inspection of a sump pump, according to the InterNACHI.
1. The pit. A sump pump sits in a pit that gathers and collects water until the pump removes it. A professional should ensure that the pit is large enough — at least 24 inches deep and 18 inches wide, says the InterNACHI — for the sump pump to function properly.
2. The check valve. A professional should make sure that there is a functioning check valve installed on the discharge pipe. The check valve helps prevent water in the discharge pipe from flowing back down into the pit after the pump turns off.
3. A backup power source. Sump pumps may need to need to work harder during extreme weather conditions where heavy rains may result in power outages. A professional can confirm whether or not there is a backup power source on a sump pump, such as a battery, and that it is in proper working condition.
4. The alarm. While not all sump pumps are required to have alarms that sound when the device is activated, they can help alert a homeowner that there is water buildup in the pit. If a sump pump has one, it should be tested to help ensure it functions properly.
5. The cover. Since sump pump pits collect water, they should have a removable cover to help prevent water from evaporating into the basement. A professional will ensure it fits properly or should help add one, if needed.
6. The discharge location. A professional can alert homeowners if their sump pump’s discharge location is improper. It is recommended that the discharge location be at least 20 feet away from a home to help prevent water from draining back towards the house — and it should not drain onto neighboring properties, into public sewer systems or into a residential septic system.
Remember that a sump pump helps prevent excess ground or rainwater from entering your home. With regular maintenance, you can help keep your sump pump working properly and your basement or crawl space dry.
This article highlights examples of precautions you can consider to help maintain your personal property. Please recognize that a particular precaution may not be appropriate or effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what’s appropriate and always consider safety.
Originally published on January 13, 2016.