Sump Pump Maintenance Checklist

Keeping Your Sump Pump in Good Shape

Updated June 3, 2021 . AmFam Team

Your sump pump is one of your best defenses against a flooded basement. Giving it regular maintenance is a great way to ensure your basement stays dry during the rainier seasons. Check out our tips for keeping your sump pipe in working order.

Is your basement dry? You might want to thank your sump pump. It works hard to keep your basement and possessions dry every rainy (or melty) season. It detects when water is threatening your basement, then pumps it out before it rises above the floor level.

But in order for your sump pump to function at its best, it’s important to give it a thorough check a couple times per year. At the very least, make it a habit to check your sump pump every spring to make sure it’s working. That way, the risk of a surprise puddle in your basement stays low. Cross these simple tasks off your cleaning to-do list and enjoy the year while staying flood-free.

Tips for Keeping Your Sump Pump Running Smoothly

While your sump pump might seem like a complicated machine, it only takes a little bit of effort and know-how to see if it’s running like it should. Check out these tips on avoiding any potential sump pump breakdowns.

Make sure your sump pump is totally upright. Your sump pump should be sitting on sold, even ground. Any sort of leaning can shift the water in the pump’s pit and put unnecessary pressure on its components.

Open it up. Take the cover off the sump pump pit or basin and have a look inside. Clear any debris, mud or rocks that you find, as any foreign items can clog your sump pump and cause an overflow.

Double-check the drain hose. Check and make sure the drain hose is connected, and that it’s not blocked or frozen. A clogged drain hose can cause your sump pump to run continuously, as it won’t be able to dispose of the water that’s filled its pit.

Clear out the inlet screen. Make sure the inlet screen is allowing water to enter your sump pump’s pit. If your inlet screen is blocked, water won’t be able to make its way into the sump pumps pit and could lead to a basement flood.

Keep it afloat. Your sump pump’s float controls when it will turn on and pump excess water out. Make sure the float component can move freely and isn’t blocked. A malfunctioning float can cause your pump to not run when it’s supposed to, or run constantly, eventually burning out your pump’s engine.

Make sure it’s flowing away from your house. The next time you hear your sump pump running, go outside and make sure its discharge pipe is pumping the water away from your home at a safe distance. If it’s too close, the water could seep back into your pump, causing your pump to run continuously and inefficiently. And the more your sump pump runs, the more likely it is to burn out early in its life span.

And while you don’t want your discharge pipe too close to your house, shed, garage or other structure, make sure it stays on your property. You’ll have some unhappy neighbors if your sump pump is pushing all your excess water onto their lot.

Give your sump pump a test run. Fill the pit with a bucket of water to turn your pump on. Watch it carefully to see if it’s getting rid of the water, then check the discharge pipe outside to make sure it’s disposed of properly. If the pump doesn’t run, make sure it’s plugged in and its power cord is in working order.

Plan for the unexpected. Having a backup battery or generator can be crucial if a strong rain storm comes complete with a power outage. And eventually, your sump pump may give out without the help of a power outage. To avoid the stress of trying to buy and install a new sump pump while the water seeps closer and closer to your basement, have a backup sump pump handy — and be sure to test it regularly, too.

Call a professional. You’ve checked the power cords, discharge pipe, inlet screen and every other piece of the pump, but still can’t figure out what’s wrong. It’s time to call a professional! Risking your basement and everything else in it isn’t worth maintaining your pride as a handyman or woman — get it fixed and fast!

Looking for more great tips to help maintain your home? Head to our home maintenance hub for tips and resources on how to maintain your home all year long!

Learn About Sump Pump Coverage

Your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) can help you plan for the unexpected with sump pump failure and water backup coverage, which is designed to mitigate the cost of repairs caused by water leaking into a home due to a backed-up drain or an overflowing sump. Get in touch with them and make sure you’ve got all the coverage and peace of mind you need.

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