Do I Need a Sump Pump for My Basement? Uses, Types & Installation

A basement flood is every homeowner’s worst nightmare. It ruins your property and can compromise the whole building if left to wreak havoc. A sump pump shields your property from torrential downpours and rising waters that cause significant structural damage and expensive repair bills.

A sump pump automatically pumps water out of a flooded area once it reaches a certain volume. Consider the switch, horsepower, and housing when picking a sump pump. Most importantly, consider the number of gallons the sump pump can pump in an hour as it determines how effective it will be.

Knowing which of the several sump pumps best suits your needs is crucial. In the sections below, I walk you through a sump pump’s operation and how to pick the best one for your house. While at it, consider a basement dehumidifier to reduce moisture in the basement.

Sump pump
Image Credit: Home Inspection Geeks

What is a sump pump?

A sump pump is a piece of equipment that pumps water away from your basement. A sump is a naturally formed pit, typically a hole dug beneath the surface of your basement floor. It has valves that can detect rising water pressure or level.

Using a discharge line, sump pumps automatically remove excess water from the basement and away from your property. This specified drainage area is connected to the sump pump by a line known as effluent.

This device monitors rising water levels and pressure to ensure they don’t get too high to damage the house. It doesn’t matter whether your basement was added under an existing house or was built first; water damage has the same level of risk.

Do I need a sump pump for my basement?

If your property is prone to floods, you need a sump pump. Flooding may be terrible for your house and your health, whether it results from above-average rainfall or basements built below the water table.

The risk of upper respiratory infections, allergic responses, and asthma difficulties might increase even if your home doesn’t flood since moisture can lead to the growth of several types of mold. 

Without a mechanism to get the water outdoors, it will build up and possibly flood or dampen your basement.

Types of sump pumps

Below are some of the most popular types of sump pumps:

1. Submersible sump pumps

Submersible sump pump

The pump and motor are combined into one unit in submersible pumps. They’re sealed inside a basin in your basement, submerged. 

Submersible pumps are often quieter, take up less room in your basement, and clog less frequently than pedestal pumps because they are submerged in the water basin.

2. Combination sump pump

Combination sump pump

You can also combine a sump pump with a primary and backup pump. They tend to be huge and would not fit in smaller sump pits, but it might be more affordable than purchasing each separately.

3. Pedestal sump pumps

Pedestal sump pump

A pedestal sump pump has a different engine and motor than a submerged pump. The motor is mounted on a pedestal above the basin with a hose leading to the pump’s location. This pump releases water into your chosen drain area through the hose. 

4. Battery-operated backup

Battery operated sump pump backup

Thanks to a battery backup with a float switch, your sump pump may run even when your power is down during a storm when you need it most. The primary source of electricity for the pump goes out with the power. 

However, with this one, when the basin’s water level rises, the float switch activates your battery’s activity.

5. Water-powered sump pump backup

Water-powered sump pump backup

Your basin’s water is drained by a water-powered backup using higher water pressure. The benefit of a water-powered system is that there is no need to check the backup or change any batteries. 

How to install a sump pump

As I’ve found out, it’s ideal to install a sump pump on a clear day when there hasn’t recently been any flooding. Doing it before the rainy season arrives in your location is also most beneficial. If the ground is dry, digging the hole and installing the pump will be much simpler.

Install a sump pump as follows:

1. Choose a location and set up the site

Find the lowest spot in your basement where you detect moisture buildup, then create a deep and wide hole to fit the sump pump. You can use sledgehammers or jackhammers to penetrate the concrete.

2. Prevent clogs and place the sump pump in the hole

The most effective sump pumps always feature weep holes, allowing water to enter from the sides and below. Take the time to drill these crucial perforations if yours lacks them. Place your sump pump into the hole and backfill the area around it with soil.

3. Check the float valve on the sump pump

The float valve of the sump pump needs to rise and fall to function freely. The float rises with the water level, and when it does, the pump activates. 

Testing the float valve is essential before you continue. Simply move it up and down with your hand to ensure nothing is blocking it.

4. Connect the hose or pipe to the valve from outside the house

Your check valve, which directs water away from the sump, is equally important. Run a flexible discharge hose or a section of PVC pipe between the valve and the outside of the house.

Create a hole big enough for the hose or pipe to fit through where the output meets the basement wall. After inserting the pipe, caulk the surrounding area to seal off any openings, no matter how big or tiny.

5. Check for leaks and test the sump pump

The pump should then be powered up and tested. When water almost reaches the top of the basin, the float should rise, the pump should activate, and water should be pumped out. 

If everything is working, check the connections for leaks before covering the sink with the lid.

6. Pour concrete around the sump pump

Covering the hole around the pump is the last step. Typically, you use concrete in this step: Spread a little concrete mix that has the consistency of peanut butter around to cover everything but the sump pump’s lid.

With these steps, you’re sure your basement won’t be flooded when the rainy season is in full swing. It will, in essence, help preserve and increase the value of the building, especially when the basement qualifies as part of the square footage of the house.

What to look for in a sump pump

The best sump pump has the following attributes:

1. Switch

When the water level in the sump reaches a specific level, all three types of switches – tethered float, vertical float, and electronic – automatically turn on the pump. Always ensure this switch is present and works for the pump you choose.

2. Horsepower

Look at how much water it can pump each hour and how high it can pump the water. Consider a more potent pump if your current one runs continuously, regardless of season or the weather.

Most homes will do with a 1/3 HP (horsepower) sump pump. This pump handles 7-10 feet vertical lift off the sump pump, a 90° elbow, and a horizontal pipe running between 3-25 feet. If your dimensions exceed these, go for a more powerful sump pump.

3. Housing

Most pumps have cast-metal or plastic housing; more expensive types use stainless steel. The sump encloses a submersible pump and offers the motor the necessary protection.

Sump pump maintenance

You can avoid the expense of clearing up a flooded basement by performing simple preventative maintenance. Follow these tips to ensure your sump pump is in good working order and that you are prepared for a storm:

1. Test run the sump pump

Inspect your sump pump at least once yearly. To be sure the pump will work properly when needed, test it before the “wet season” in the early spring.

2. Clean the pump

If the pump has a lid, remove it and inspect the inside with a flashlight. Clear the pump opening of dirt, sand, gravel, or other debris. It is challenging for water to flow into the sump pit if the incoming drainage lines are obstructed.

3. Replace worn components

The moving parts of a sump pump might deteriorate with time, making it impossible for the pump to function in the case of a flooded basement. 

In such a case, simply replace the worn-out parts with new ones.

4. Install a backup battery system

A battery backup will ensure your pump doesn’t malfunction during a power outage.

Sump pump alternatives

If you can’t access or afford a sump pump, I found some alternatives that work just as well, though in different ways. They include the following:

1. French drains

French drains keep water from accumulating by providing drainage routes for the water to follow. Making paths of least resistance that keep water from pooling minimizes flooding because water always chooses the path of least resistance.

Despite their effectiveness, French drains cannot totally stop water from entering a house. You will need a portable sump pump in addition to your French drain if you live in a rainy area.

2. Sloping the ground

Sloping or grading creates a small slope all around a house before construction. This slope may become level or even reverse as a house ages. 

The ground should slope at least 1 once for every foot away from the house for the first 5-10 feet. If this isn’t possible, dig a French drain around the house to divert the water before it reaches the foundation of your house.

3. Gutter maintenance

Gutter guards and downspout filters prevent water buildup in your downspouts. Cleaning your gutters regularly will keep them from flooding your property if you don’t have gutter guards or downspout filters.

4. Waterproofing the compound  

Cracks in the walls can allow water to pass through to your basement, causing it to flood. If water seeps through your home’s walls, sealing the crevices with a waterproof caulking solution can help prevent it from getting into your basement.


Sump pumps can save not only your basement but your house as a whole. Water damage to the basement eventually affects the whole building and can have costly consequences. 

Get a sump pump today and give your home a new level of safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you have a basement without a sump pump?

While some buildings can be okay without a sump pump, a business or home built over a basement must have a sump pump to protect from water and flood damage.

How do I know if I need a sump pump in my basement?

You need a basement if your basement frequently floods. This means that water will eventually damage your basement and house as a whole without a sump pump.

What if my basement doesn’t have a basement?

If your basement doesn’t have a sump pump, excess water from rain will damage the foundation by creating cracks and damaging walls. With time, the whole foundation might be compromised, leading to costly repairs.

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