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7 Common Sump Pump Problems and How to Fix Them

crew checking sump pump

When managing a flooded basement, it’s crucial not just to remove the water but also to thoroughly dry everything from walls to furniture to prevent mold. To sidestep these issues and reduce stress, it’s essential to ensure your sump pump is fully operational. A failing sump pump can lead to extensive and costly water damage.

Proactive homeowners don’t leave things to chance. Instead of waiting to see what the next storm brings, take preventative steps now. Repairing a water-damaged basement can cost thousands of dollars, so it’s far wiser to be safe than sorry. Keeping your sump pump in top condition means you won’t have to worry every time it rains.

In this post, we will delve into common sump pump issues and offer guidance on how to maintain this critical device effectively.

7 Common Sump Pump Problems

Wet basement after a failing sump pump.

Like every mechanical device, a sump pump can develop problems that prevent it from functioning properly.

Although you may be able to do some of these things on your own, that doesn’t mean you should. A sump pump is a very important piece of equipment, so calling in a professional to maintain it is always your best bet.

Here are some of the most common problems with the sump pump and ways to fix them.

1. Not Working

If your pump won’t start, that means its engine is not running. Check the power cord and see if it is disconnected. If not, the receptacle may have poor contact, and you might need to replace it.

2. Not Ejecting Water

If your pump activates but it won’t eject water, the impeller may be loose or clogged. Therefore, make an effort to tighten the fasteners, and remove the screen cover to clean the impeller.

3. Starts Operating Momentarily, Then Stops

This happens due to an internal motor defect, so contact a local electrician and ask them to check the pump and repair the circuit.

4. Won’t Stop Running

When the pump functions properly, it stops working when the water has been removed. However, if your sump pump continues to work even once all the water has been ejected, there may be something wrong with the level switch. If you are experiencing this problem, turn off the power, detach the pump, and examine the impeller and shaft rotation. Try tightening fasteners and replacing the key and you might fix the issue.

5. Frequent Cycles

There are two possible causes of this issue: Either the check valve is defective, or there is excessive water flow. If you clean the gate of the valve and readjust control floats and the problem isn’t fixed, you will need a larger pump.

6. Keeps Turning on and Off

If this happens sporadically, the float operation may be restrained or obstructed. Readjust the weights or control floats and your pump may work.

7. Too Noisy

This is a common problem that happens when the impeller is rubbing the inlet plate housing. If your pump is squealing, grinding, or hammering, it is also possible that the impeller is loose, or rotating parts are blocked in some way. These excessive sounds may also signal the pump is not positioned firmly on the ground. If you tighten everything and the noise doesn’t go away, you may need to replace your pump.

Common Causes of Sump Pump Issues 

The causes behind sump pump issues are varied, ranging from mechanical or electrical problems to blockages. Understanding the cause is essential to finding the right solution. This could include: 

  • Switch malfunctions 
  • Power outages 
  • Blockages to Discharge Pipe 
  • Clogs in Your Sump Pump 

Since the basement is below ground, it is more susceptible to issues like basement leaks, mold growth, and standing water. Even in the most arid areas, water can be locked in the soil, putting pressure on basement walls and floors.  
If your sump pump fails, leaking and flooding can devastate your basement, and damage any personal belongings found below your home. A sump pump is a reactive solution that addresses the problem immediately, making it one of the best tools to ward off water damage, especially when combined with other basement waterproofing solutions

Steps to Inspect the Sump Pump

If you notice your sump pump is faulty, there are two ways to determine whether it is faulty. A Groundworks waterproofing contractor in your area can also inspect the pump and determine whether it is broken.

Step 1: Unplug It for a Minute

Here, you will need to restart your sump pump the same way you would reboot your computer. Keep in mind that a sump pump has two distinct plugs for the float switch and the motor, so make sure you unplug both. When you plug it back in, pay attention to what happens. If your sump pump hasn’t turned on immediately, it is time to ask a professional for help. If everything seems to be in order, you can move on to the next step.

Step 2: Flush the System

The easiest way to test the pump is with a bucket of water. Slowly pour the liquid into the sump pit and see what happens. If the pump immediately comes on, pumps the water out, and then turns off, everything is in order. However, if it doesn’t automatically turn on or doesn’t stop running after the water has been pumped, you have a faulty sump pump. In this case, you will need to determine exactly where the problem is. There are four steps you should take to detect the issue:

  • Inspect the float: As you pour the water into the sump pit, make sure it travels easily on the float rod.
  • Clean the filter: Dirt, pebbles, and small rocks can jam your pump, so it is advisable to clean it from time to time. Otherwise, the dirty filter could prevent the pump from working properly and cause the motor to burn out.
  • Check the discharge pipe: Like the filter, the discharge pipe can also become clogged with debris. If water cannot pass through it, something is blocking it, so you will need to clean it.
  • Inspect the check valve: There should be a 3/16” weep hole between the pump’s discharge pipe and the check valve. The point of this hole is to stop your pump from going into a vapor lock.

How to Fix Sump Pump Issues

To ensure an effective repair, it’s best to consult with a professional team before attempting sump pump repairs. While it may be tempting to try to repair the issue yourself, the electronics and engineering necessary to repair the sump pump can be challenging to figure out without the proper training or tools.  

However, there are some steps you can take to assess what the problem is. If you suspect a simple clog or blockage, you should switch the pump off and check the filter, pit, and main pump for obvious debris. If there aren’t any blockages in the pit, check that the float switch is not jammed or tangled, then check the discharge pipe for external blockages. Once this is done, try switching the pump back on. If it begins to work again, you should quickly notice an improvement in the water levels in your basement. If not, contact a professional for more support. 

Performing regular checks and having a general awareness of sump pump issues will help you mitigate them before they get worse. To improve the functionality and longevity of your sump pump, consider working with basement waterproofing experts like our team at Groundworks to install a high-quality sump pump system in your home. 

Common Sump Pump Issues and Expert Groundworks Solutions

Sump pumps play a vital role in protecting your home from water damage, and dealing with frequent issues can be both challenging and risky.

If you’re experiencing problems with your sump pump, don’t take chances by attempting fixes on your own.

Instead, trust the experts at Groundworks. We specialize in properly installing and maintaining top-of-the-line pumps to ensure your home stays dry and secure.

Contact Groundworks today to schedule a free inspection with a local expert who can help keep your basement safe and dry, no matter the weather.

Sump Pump FAQs

Installing a sump sounds straightforward, but one misstep can result in serious water damage and wasted time and money. Consider choosing a professional to install your sump pump. A professional offers a long-term warranty, so you can rest easy that you’re in good hands.  

Using a sump pump alongside the appropriate drainage system can drain any water that might seep into your basement. A sump pump’s function is simple, and you typically don’t have to physically interact with the sump pump to make sure it starts. Here’s what you need to know about the functioning process of the sump pump.

  • Detect Water Intake

First, the sump pump will detect the water level in your basement or crawl space. This is almost always an automated procedure; the method the sump pump uses to detect the water level may vary, but you typically don’t have to do anything to ensure your sump pump starts pumping out water once it gets to a level that’s high enough in your crawl space.

The signal to activate is usually given by a ‘floating’ switch which is pushed upwards as the water level rises (though this is not always the case). This ensures that you get efficient protection and that your sump pump is not damaged by running ‘dry’. As a result, you can expect your basement or crawl space to be dry and your energy bills to be kept to a minimum. 

  • Pump out Water 

The next step is to pump out the water. This is a process that may vary dramatically, depending on the style of sump pump that you use, but at the end of it all, it’s going to do essentially the same thing: ensure that the water in your basement or crawl space leaves the area. Most models use an electric-powered motor, though some models use other motor styles.

Whatever motor you have, however, the drainage capabilities of your pump rely just as much on your discharge line. The discharge line is the channel that accepts the water being removed from your property and ensures that it reaches the right drainage systems. If your discharge line is blocked you will soon notice problems. 

  • Direct Water into the Appropriate Place

The water needs somewhere to go once the sump pump has removed it. It’s not possible for you just to direct the water immediately outside the basement or crawl space, as this tends to increase hydrostatic pressure and therefore future water problems. Instead, a discharge line will typically direct the water into a storm drain or further out in the yard where proper landscaping will angle it away from your property’s perimeter.

Older sump pumps may have a discharge line that terminates directly outside of a property, but this is now known to be harmful. If you have a pump like this we can either upgrade your sump pump or install perimeter drains to catch and safely dispose of the discharge in a way that protects your property as a whole and prevents the creation of a ‘clay bowl’ around your home.

Sump pumps aren’t always necessary. However, Groundworks recommends installing a SafeDri™ Sump Pump models in homes that see higher volumes of water. Here are a few reasons why the SafeDri™ sump pump can be so beneficial.

  • No Need to Rely on Gravity

When you use a sump pump, your drainage system doesn’t need to rely on gravity to get the water moving. That means you can always deal with water in the home, regardless of how much water there is or where your drains have to empty. This will keep the relative humidity in your home to a minimum and prevent the formation of mold and mildew. 

This proactive water removal is managed through a ‘floating switch’ mechanism which activates once the water level reaches a certain level. This pulls the water into the sump pit and pushes it out into the discharge line which will direct the water into capable drainage systems. This will prevent water from building up around your perimeter.

  • Sudden or Frequent Rainfall

In areas with sudden or frequent rainfall, homes need to be able to drain this water away effectively, and some homes are more capable of dealing with heavy rainfall than others. Even more importantly, they need to consistently prevent basement leakage from getting out of control. For homes that do see leaking, internal drainage is crucial to clearing the water away.

After all, there are so many ways in which water can get into a home. If water is getting into your basement or crawl space as a result of damage to the structure of your home this can be addressed. If, however, water gets into your home as a result of seepage and encapsulation is not an option, an effective sump pump is a fantastic addition to your home. 

Leah Leitow

Leah Leitow

Content Writer

Leah is a Content Writer for Groundworks with nearly ten years of experience working in the foundation repair industry. Her experience ranges from working with homeowners to find the right solution to training inspectors and staff. In her background as a Michigan journalist, she gained invaluable insight into people's lives throughout our state. Leah lives in metro Detroit with her husband and two sons.