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What to Do If Your Sump Pump Fails

Friday, March 12th, 2021
sump pump failure

There’s never a convenient time for sump pump failure. Sump pumps spend most of the time on standby, only actuating when they’re really needed as ground water rises up in the sump basin or indoor or outdoor flooding threatens the basement. If you live in your house long enough, a sump pump failure may occur. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development states that the average service life of a residential sump pump is 10 years.

Here are some common causes of sump pump failure and what to do if it happens:

  • Power outage. A severe storm threatens to flood your basement and—just when you need it most—the storm also knocks out grid power to the sump pump that protects your basement from flooding.
  • Float switch or pressure switch failure. The presence of water in the basin is detected by the float switch or pressure switch that activates the pump. A defective switch is another common cause of sump pump failure.
  • Clogged pump strainer. The intake strainer on the bottom of the pump may become clogged with debris that prevents water from entering the pump.
  • Obstructed discharge pipe. Blockage in the pump discharge pipe prevents water from flowing to the outdoors. Instead, obstructed water flows backwards into the sump basin, causing the pump to reactivate continuously, eventually leading to sump pump failure.

What To Do Next

  • A wet or flooded basement due to sump pump failure is very dangerous if electricity is still present in the space. Make sure electrical power is shut off at the main circuit breaker before entering the basement.
  • If you have a wet/dry vacuum to remove shallow standing water—and/or mops—dry the basement as much as possible. If the basement has hinged ventilation windows, open them up and run fans to circulate air. 
  • If basement flooding is more than minor, you’ll need professional water damage recovery services to remove the water safely and prevent subsequent mold contamination.
  • If a power outage was the cause of sump pump failure, consider installing a new pump with a battery backup option.

What Causes Sump Pump Failure?

Thursday, May 28th, 2020
sump pump failure

If a sump pump failure occurs, will you find out the hard way? Installed inside a covered basin in the basement floor, sump pumps tend not to get much attention—until they fail, that is. When the basin overflows with infiltrating groundwater that didn’t get properly pumped out, or a water pipe ruptures and the pump doesn’t actuate to prevent major basement flooding, the situation suddenly becomes obvious.

Here are a few likely causes of sump pump failure:

  • Clogged inlet screen. A screen on the inlet located at the bottom of the pump filters out debris that might clog the pump mechanism. If the pump screen and the basin aren’t cleaned at least once a year, debris accumulating on the screen may block the intake of water and the pump will fail to function when it’s needed.
  • Faulty float switch. As the level in the pump basin rises, a float switch actuates the pump to remove water. A stuck or defective switch means the pump doesn’t turn on and the basin rapidly overflows, causing basement water damage before it’s noticed.  
  • Burned out motor. While pump motors may fail simply from age, another cause is a defective float switch. In this case, the switch may actuate the pump correctly but fail to turn the pump off. The pump runs continuously and overheats, eventually failing completely. Because it’s installed in a basin down in the basement, a continuously running sump pump is often not obvious to residents upstairs.   
  • Defective backflow valve. As the pump empties the basin and turns off, a backflow valve located in the discharge line prevents water from flowing backward into the basin. If this valve is faulty, backflow into the basin will quickly trigger the pump to actuate again. The pump empties the basin, turns off, then activates again immediately due to backflow entering the basin. This continuous on-off-on operation will cause the pump to fail prematurely.

Annual sump pump maintenance is a good practice to ensure that when the pump’s needed most, it will do the job. Sump pump maintenance is typically provided by a qualified local plumber.

Your Sump Pump Line Can Freeze, Too – Is It Protected?

Thursday, November 8th, 2018

winterizeYour sump pump is an important precaution against potential flooding in the basement, especially in the fall season. However, it’s incredibly important that you maintain your sump pump. During the winter, your sump pump line can be susceptible to freezing damage as a result of cold temperatures and a lack of insulation in most basement areas. The following are a few tips to help ensure that your sump pump doesn’t experience damage during the winter season as a result of freezing:

  • Insulate the intake section – The intake section is the part that collects water. If the intake section is frozen, the sump pump won’t be able to do its job and your basement will be left vulnerable to flooding.
  • Bury the discharge hose – By burying your discharge hose into the ground, you’ll help prevent it from freezing. The part of the hose that remains above ground should be insulated by wrapping it up with heating tape or electric cable.
  • Keep your home warm – Even if you plan on leaving home for a few days, you should keep the heat on so that the temperature is at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit throughout your house. This will help to keep the sump pump’s discharge hose somewhat warm, thereby preventing the water inside the hose from freezing.
  • Use a larger discharge hose – If the hose is too small, the risk of it getting blocked by ice should the water inside freeze is greater. By getting a bigger hose, you’ll reduce the risk of blockage.
  • Redirect water away from the basement – Make sure that your downspouts are located so that they direct rainwater away from the basement. Check your gutters to make sure they’re in good shape as well. Doing this will help to prevent your sump pump from being overworked and will, therefore, reduce the risk of the lines being blocked by frozen water.

Use these tips to help protect your sump pump during the winter season. If your sump pump has been damaged or your home experiences any type of water damage in general, be sure to contact us at Rytech today.

Extending the Life of your Sump Pump

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

sump pump maintenanceIf your sump pump fails, you probably won’t know it until the worst possible time: after your basement incurs water damage due to flooding, a plumbing rupture or ground water infiltration. Because sump pumps are concealed inside a covered basin in the basement floor, a defective pump may not be obvious until that critical moment when it’s needed most.

The average service life of a residential sump pump is seven to ten years. To maximize your sump pump’s lifespan and avoid unexpected damage due to premature pump failure, here are some tips to follow:


Run it. Because sump pumps often go extended periods without activating, some manufacturers recommend routinely test-running the pump every three or four months to confirm proper function as well as keep moving parts operating freely.

  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket of water and pour it into the basin.
  • Confirm that the float switch activates the pump.
  • Make sure the pump empties the basin, and the float switch turns it off promptly.
  • Also verify that water doesn’t flow back into the basin after the pump stops, reactivating the pump. This is a sign of a defective check valve in the discharge pipe which can shorten pump service life.

Once a Year

Clean the sump basin. Pull the pump up out of the basin and clear out any debris. Also clean the pump inlet screen to ensure that water flows into the pump chamber.

Check the GFCI outlet. Most sump pumps are plugged into GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets. GFCI outlets may switch off due to transient power surges taking place without your knowledge. Verify that the outlet has not switched off and that power is still going to the pump.

Observe pump discharge. Go to the outdoor termination point of the discharge pipe and make sure it’s not obstructed by dirt or other debris. Confirm that water flows freely out of the pipe.

Check the battery backup. If the pump has a battery backup feature, unplug the AC power cord and confirm that the pump activates on battery power when water is poured into the basin.

3 Things To Look For When Choosing A Sump Pump

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

sump pump installationBy the time you realize a sump pump failure has occurred, water damage is often already a done deal. A flooded basement, weakened structure, ruined possessions, mold contamination—the list of possible consequences is long. Because a sump pump typically spends most of its time on standby, silent malfunctions often don’t become obvious until water intrusion happens and the pump fails to respond. The risk of a sump pump failure just when it’s needed most can be reduced by making informed buying choices. Here are three things to look for when selecting a sump pump:

Battery Backup
A sump pump that relies solely on household AC electrical power is a risky bet. The fact is, many scenarios that require the protection provided by a sump pump—such as severe storms and flooding—also tend to be common causes of utility power failures, as well. This means that an AC-powered pump could fail to function just when it’s needed most. Sump pumps that also incorporate a DC battery backup option will actuate to pump water out of the basement even if the power grid goes down. This adds a vital extra layer of protection.

The Right Size
The “size” of a sump pump means its pumping strength expressed in horsepower. For an average residential basement with only intermittent water intrusion, pick a pump with at least 1/3 horsepower rating. If your basement has ongoing water issues—such as a high natural water table beneath the foundation—or if the basement extends unusually deep below ground level, you may want a 1/2 horsepower unit.

Pedestal vs. Submersible
Pedestal sump pumps are mounted on the floor above the sump basin. An inlet pipe extends down into the basin to suck out water. However, submersible pumps installed inside the basin are now considered more efficient and reliable. Because the entire pump unit is directly submersed as water enters the basin, suction is more positive and effective. Submersed pumps also run cooler, which means longer service life and fewer potential malfunctions.


Avoid Damage Due to Sump Pump Failure — Know What to Look For Before It Happens

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

plumber-avoid sump pump failureWith a little attention to maintenance and detail, you can avoid sump pump failure and avoid the major problems associated with basement flooding.

It’s almost impossible to predict when you’ll need the sump pump, whether due to a plumbing failure or heavy rain, so keep it ready to go at all times. (more…)