06 November Overhead shot of a sump pump in the basement

Sump Pumps: What They Are and How They Work

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Sump pumps can be considered as the final defence against basement flooding. Once the water has gotten in, sump pumps will promptly expel it before it becomes problematic. You may have encountered this term as you search for ways to deal with water leaking into the basement and you’re probably wondering if this is the solution you’ve been looking for. Well, in this article, we will cover everything you need to know about sump pumps, how they work in keeping your basement dry, and more.

Let’s get started!

An unfinished basement that is dry and free of flood

What is a Sump Pump System?

The main function of sump pump systems is to collect water that has accumulated in your basement and divert it away from the house. The water has to be diverted far away enough so that it does not accumulate around the basement walls and seep back in again. Sump pumps are the heart of what’s known as a sump pump system. 

The other parts of the sump pump system include the sump pit (the hollow space where the liquid collects and where the sump pump is placed) and the discharge pipe (the part that channels the pumped water away). 

During a flood or any occurrence when water collects in the basement, the water will move towards the lowest part of the basement – which is the sump pit. As the water collects in the sump pit, it triggers the sump pump to turn on and water will be expelled through the discharge pipe. 

Do All Basements Need a Sump Pump?

Sump pumps are mainly for basements that occasionally or frequently flood. But then again, just because a basement has never flooded, it doesn’t mean it won’t. Over time, small cracks (sometimes barely visible ones) can form on a house’s concrete foundation or basement walls, allowing water from the soil to seep in. This is why having a sump pump can be a good precautionary measure even for basements that have never flooded before or are starting to get small puddles every time it rains. 

Another useful application of sump pumps is in case water gets in by accident through the basements window or from a flash flood on the street, sump pumps can clear out the water.

How Does a Sump Pump Work?

Now we will be focusing on the pump itself and how it functions. There are two main kinds of sump pumps for residential use: the submersible sump pump and the pedestal sump pump. We’ll talk more about their differences later – but for now, the key thing you need to know is that though they have different designs, they have the same fundamental parts. 

The Power Source

Main sump pumps are typically powered by electricity and thus have two cords – one for the float switch and another for the motor. If you’ve ever come across “water-powered sump pumps” these are often used as optional backup pumps for main sump pumps. Please keep in mind that for the next sections, the parts and functionalities that we’re discussing are for main electrical sub pumps because backup water-powered pumps have a different mechanism altogether. 

The Float Switch

This part of the sump pump is what activates it to turn on when a set water level is reached in the sump pit. The water would push the float and float arm upwards, thereby activating the switch of the sump pump’s motor. 

The Motor and The Impeller

The motor and impeller work together. After the motor is activated by the float switch, it pushes the sump pump’s impeller to spin. This centrifugal force generated by the impeller is what ultimately pushes the water out towards the pipe fitting that leads to the discharge pipe.

Outdoor Temperature and Time Pipes

This is the part that connects the sump pump to the discharge pipe. The discharge pipe then extends away from the home so that the channelled water will not pool around the basement wall. 

Flexible hose from a residential sump pump carrying water from the flooded basement away from the house

Do Sump Pumps Require a Lot of Care and Maintenance?

Just like any device that has moving parts, sump pumps need periodic maintenance for them to continue functioning well. But with the right maintenance, a sump pump can serve you seamlessly for years. If you would like more information about this, please feel free to check out our article on ‘How to maintain your home’s sump pump’

Types of Sump Pumps to Choose From

Main Sump Pumps

Earlier, we mentioned submersible and pedestal sump pumps. These are the main kinds of sump pumps used for the home. The main difference is that submersible sump pumps have motors that sit within the sump pit. Meanwhile, pedestal sump pumps have motors that are positioned above the pit, supported by a stand. 

Each of these types has its own pros and cons. For instance, submersible sump pumps are known for having more power and they save space because they are inside the pit. Meanwhile, pedestal pumps tend to have more longevity and are easy to access in case repairs are needed. 

Backup Sump Pumps

Because main sump pumps are typically powered electrically, some homeowners opt to install additional backup sump pumps in case of a power outage. These backup pumps are either powered by a battery or by water pressure from the home. These, of course, typically do not have the same robustness and power seen in main sump pumps. 

Can Sump Pumps Completely Waterproof My Basement?

Completely waterproofing would mean that no water should be able to get into your basement. As such, sump pump systems are not standalone solutions to completely waterproofing your basement. They can, however, still be installed as a backup in case a waterproofed basement becomes flooded. Additionally, in cases where exterior waterproofing cannot be done on a home, sump pump systems are an essential part of the next best option which is interior waterproofing.

Next Steps for Sump Pump Installation 

Thinking of having a sump pump installed in your basement? Here at PlumbWize, our plumbing experts are quick and effective when installing a sump pump. We will be more than happy to give you our recommendations on the best kind of sump pump for your needs. Furthermore, we also offer maintenance, replacement, and repair services so that you can be sure that your basement is always well-protected against flooding. 

If you have any questions or would like to start the process of installing a sump pump in your home, please feel free to give us a call!


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