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7 Common Sump Pump Problems and How to Fix Them

sump pump and other waterproofing solutions

If you truly care about your basement, you should keep the sump pump operational. A faulty sump pump exposes your home to flooding and water damage. When the floods arrive, they can result in water-damaged homes that cost thousands of dollars to repair.

Don’t join the list of homeowners who leave their basements to fate. Make sure your sump pump is in good working order, and you’ll never worry about what will happen.

In this guide, we’ll give you a rundown of the common problems, show you how to check your sump pump for damage, and ways you can maintain it.

7 Common Sump Pump Issues and How to Fix Them

Sump pumps, like other mechanical devices, can develop problems that may hinder its performance. Here are the seven common ones and how to resolve them.

1. Pump fails to operate  

When the pump doesn’t actuate, it means the motor isn’t running. The power cord could be disconnected, or the receptacle has poor contact. Replace the plug, clean plug prongs, or replace the receptacle.

2. Pump actuates but doesn’t eject water

The impeller could be loose on the shaft or clogged. Try tightening the fasteners and replacing the key. You may also remove the screen cover and clean the volute or impeller.

3. Pump operates momentarily, then stops  

This happens a lot when the pump motor overload trips or whenever there’s an internal motor defect. Ask your electrician to check the branch circuit voltage and repair the circuit.

4. Pump runs continuously  

When the pump keeps running, even at the normal shut-off level or all water has been removed, the level switch could be defective. Turn off the power, detach the pump from the sump, and check for impeller and shaft rotation. Tightening fasteners and replacing the key might resolve the issue.

5. Pump cycles frequently  

The cause could be excessive water flow or an inoperative check valve. Try cleaning the gate of the valve or readjust control floats. If any of these fails, get a larger pump.

6. Pump keeps turning on and off  

When this happens intermittently, it could mean the float operation is either restrained or obstructed. It could also be that the float rod is bent or blocked by debris. Try adding water to the sump pit, then turn it on. Readjusting the weights or control floats can solve the problem.

7. Pump operation is noisy

Squealing, grinding, or hammering sounds are not unusual. It could be the impeller is rubbing the inlet plate/pump housing, the impeller is loose, or rotating parts are obstructed. The noise could be excessive when the pump isn’t positioned firmly to the ground. Try tightening the fasteners or replacing the pump bearing. Tightening the coupler and set crews might also help. If the noise persists, replace the pump with a newer one.

What Causes Sump Pump Failure? 

parts of a sump pump exposed

Sump pumps are superior to traditional drains as they don’t depend on gravity to drain water. They work optimally with an interior drainage system, collecting water and pumping it out mechanically. Their effectiveness makes them a top basement waterproofing method. However, as machines with many parts, a single fault can lead to system failure.

Here are reasons why a sump pump might fail:

  • Power Cord: Ensure the sump pump is connected and the cord is undamaged.
  • Discharge Pipe: Check for blockages, freezing, or leaks in the discharge pipe.
  • Overworked Battery: Monitor the battery’s workload, especially during heavy rainfall or storms. Ensure it’s properly charged.
  • Yard Grade: To reduce workload on the sump pump, ensure a positive yard grade.
  • Sump Pit: Regularly check the sump pit for clogging. Clean as necessary.
  • Impeller: Check for clogs in the filter protecting the impeller.
  • Impeller Material: Note that plastic impellers are less durable than cast-iron ones.
  • Float Switch: Test the float switch by pouring water into the sump pit. Replace if necessary.

Other Signs Your Sump Pump Isn’t Working Properly

A sump pump is what protects you and your basement from the problems that come with flooding and humidity. If your sump pump stops working, you’ll see the effects water has on your basement within a few weeks to a few months, depending on the condition of your basement and how severe the leaking problems are. If your sump pump stops working, you’ll know because of these signs:

How to Inspect Your Sump Pump

If you suspect your sump pump is faulty, here are two ways to determine its working condition. A technician with your local waterproofing contractor also can check these various items.

Step 1: Unplug the sump pump’s power and plug it back in

A sump pump has two distinct plugs. One plug is for the float switch, and the other is for the motor. To troubleshoot your pump, unplug both of them.

Plug in the motor and then switch it on. If your pump doesn’t turn on immediately or isn’t very accurate, contact a professional to repair or replace it. If the pump powers on well, reconnect the float switch plug and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Flush the system

Another way to test whether your pump is working is to run water through it. Slowly drain a bucket of water into the sump pit. If the sump pump automatically comes on, pumps the water out of your basement, and then turns off, it is in good working condition. If, however, it does not automatically power on or it does not stop running, your appliance is faulty. In that case, you will need to proceed to further inspections, which include:

Step #3: Inspect the float switch

As the water fills the sump pit, make sure it travels easily on the float rod.

Step #4: Clean the filter

Your sump pump filter can get blocked with dirt and small debris like rocks and pebbles. A dirty filter can keep your sump pump from running effectively and could eventually burn out the motor, causing it to fail. Take time to thoroughly clean the filter before putting it back in.

Step #5: Check the discharge pipe

It can also get clogged with debris, rodent nests, mud, stones, or mulch. Ensure that this pipe is clean and discharges water away from your home.

Step #6: Inspect the check valve

Ensure that your sump pump has a 3/16” weep hole in the tube between the pump’s discharge pipe and the check valve. This hole prevents your pump from going into “vapor-lock” and dramatically extends the lifespan of your pump.

Other Sump Pump Maintenance Tips

  • Replace the battery on your backup sump pump every three years.
  • Install a protective cover or grate to prevent debris and pests from entering the discharge pipe.
  • Clean out the air hole in the discharge line.
  • Readjust weights and floats.
  • Install a wider discharge line.
  • Use vinegar to clean tiny particles.
  • Apply water repellent to deter corrosion.
  • Clean the vents and air holes to enhance pump efficiency.
  • Lubricate the bearings in the column gap.

If, after trying these steps, your sump pump is still not functioning well, ask a local waterproofing professional to check it. Tar Heel Basement Systems is a leading basement waterproofing company in Raleigh, NC. We offer a range of basement services, including sump pump maintenance, repairs and installation.

If you are not sure about the status of your sump pump, get in touch with us for a free basement waterproofing inspection.

Call Tar Heel Basement Systems for Expert Sump Pump Repair 

Tar Heel Basement Systems specializes in basement and foundation repairs, and we’re proud to serve Winston-Salem and Raleigh, NC. We have our own line of patented sump pumps, so we know all about what makes sump pumps tick. You can rely on us to get your basement fully waterproofed once more. Whether it’s sump pump repair or replacement, we have the answers. 

If you’re having problems with your sump pump or your foundation and basement drainage system, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to schedule a free inspection and repair estimate. Our expert team will visit your home, assess any problem areas like your sump pump, and present you with the right solutions to meet your repair needs. 

Sump Pump FAQs

Crawl space sump pump systems are available in various designs and capabilities to accommodate diverse needs. At Tar Heel Basement Systems, we offer a range of submersible sump pumps with varying pumping capacities. Our battery backup options also ensure continuous protection in case of power outages. Learn which is the best option for your home during a free inspection with one of our experts.

It’s not uncommon to hear your sump pump running while you’re going about your day. While hearing the sump pump may annoy you at times, being able to hear it a bit is actually a blessing. It’s easier to detect sump pump problems when it begins to sound differently than it usually does.  

  • Normal Sump Pump Sounds 

Depending on how much it rains, there are really only two sounds you should hear a functioning sump pump make. The first is the sound of the motor as the sump pump runs. It’s completely normal for there to be a steady, quiet hum as the sump pump is working. Low-quality sump pumps usually make more noise because the cheap motor wasn’t built to be quiet. 

The second sound is the sound of water filling up the sump pump’s pit. Depending on how much it rains and how much water the sump pump is taking in, this can be a loud or quiet noise. After heavy rain, it’s completely normal to hear a lot of water spilling into the pit. Sometimes, it might even overtake the sound of the motor.  

  • Irregular Sump Pump Sounds 

A quiet hum and the sound of a stream of water falling into the pit is all you should hear. Any gurgling or slurping indicates problems with the valve or the sump pump’s shut-off height. After the water is in the pit, the sound of it being drained out is actually pretty silent, so if you can hear it draining, there’s a problem. Motor problems often manifest themselves by making the sump pump sound like an exhaust fan. 

Loud banging and vibrating are also indicators of a malfunctioning sump pump. These noises are usually connected to the discharge pipes hitting the components of the sump pump. It means that the pipes need to be secured into place so that they don’t rattle. Sometimes, if the banging is really intense, you’ll be able to feel the vibrations in the areas of the house closest to the sump pump. 

Installing a sump pump makes a homeowner’s life a whole lot easier. It’s important to have a good interior drainage system to collect leaking water and drain it to the sump pump. A sump pump keeps your basement dry automatically, so you don’t have to worry about much when you have one installed. That said, just because a sump pump does things automatically doesn’t mean you can just have one installed and then never check on it again. 

A sump pump is a convenient device to have, but it still needs maintenance. A sump pump’s average lifespan is 10 years, but with proper care, it can last longer.  

  • General Maintenance 

On average, a sump pump should be maintained once or twice a year. Maintenance procedures include cleaning the filter in front of the impeller, making sure the float switch is working properly, making sure the power cord is protected, cleaning out the sump pump pit, and greasing up the pump bearings. 

While some of these things can be done without the help of a professional, it’s always best to leave the care and maintenance of your sump pump and its inner workings to the experts. Professionally cleaning your sump pump ensures that it clogs up a lot less frequently. It also means the professional you hire will be able to spot any problems and get them fixed right away.  

  • Seasonal Maintenance 

There’s some maintenance work that you should pay close attention to during certain times of the year. Sump pump pits and filters need to be checked frequently. In North Carolina, it rains the most during the summer, so this is the time of year when the sump pump works the hardest. You can help your sump pump work less by covering some parts of the yard so that the ground absorbs less moisture. 

As for maintenance that should be done during the winter, you can actually avoid doing it by installing exterior discharge line attachments. They’re to be attached to your sump pump’s discharge pipe to protect it from freezing over during the winter. They also help drain the water away from your foundation even when the interior pipes are frozen and the stream is blocked by ice. 

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher is the Content Lead at Groundworks, helping us to answer all of our customers biggest questions about foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete lifting. In his free time, Michael enjoys collecting vinyl records, watching Formula 1 Racing, and reading philosophy. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge.

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