Your basement (or crawl space) sump can be the difference between expensive water damage repairs and a dry basement. Skipping out on yearly sump pump maintenance and service is a sure-fire way to have a problem next time there is heavy rain.
Keeping your pump in good working order is not difficult and it does not take very long. In this guide we will learn how to maintain a sump pump. We will review step by step instruction for cleaning and maintenance – plus a few extra things to check every year!
In this guide we’ll review everything you need to know about maintaining your basement sump pump:
Sump Pump Maintenance Checklist
Not sure where to start when doing your yearly pump service and cleaning. Start with our 8 step service guide to make sure your pump and basin are ready for the next thunderstorm.
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Step 1 – Check the Basin
Your basin and sump pit are as important as your pump! If there are cracks or leaks there could be hidden water damage. Check the basin by taking everything out of your pit and filling it with some water – if you notice it leaking out the bottom you have a problem! Make sure to check the basin holes, cover, and extensions.
Step 2 – Check your Power
Sump pumps use a lot of power and are a common cause of GFCI breaker trips. Check the quality of the power cord and outlet. Make sure there is not corrosion around the metal and that the cord is not at risk of getting wet.
Checking The GFCI Breaker
Most sump pumps can trip the ground fault circuit interrupter if they pull too much power or their is a problem – it is one of the most common sources of failure
Step 3 – Check the Drain Pipes
If the drain pipes get backed up you are in for a problem.. Test that the lines are clear by filling a bucket of hot water upstairs and dumping it straight down the pipe. If it flows out into your sewer or yard without delay then you know the pipes are blockage free. On the other hand – if you notice slow draining you may need to clear the pipe of debris.
Step 4 – Check the Check Valve
One of the most common areas of failure is the check valve. You should inspect this part at least once a year. Test it by pushing it up and down if it freely flows and does not stick everything should be working correctly.
Step 5 – Check for Oil Leaks
Anytime you see an oil leak on a pump you know there is a problem – or some oil came in with the ground water. If you find oil on the pump try to see where on the body it may be leaking from. First try to stop the leak then decide if you need to repair or replace the pump!
If the oil is in the water you should still check the entire body of the pump but you may have dodged a bullet. Sometimes oil can creep into your pit after heavy rainfall.
Step 6 – Test the Alarm
What good is an alarm if it does not work? Test your pump alarm on a regular basis to make sure that it still works and you know what it sounds like when it goes off. We recommend turning on the alarm then going to a faraway bedroom to make sure you can hear the noise!
Step 7 – Test the Backup Battery
Your backup sump pump battery needs to be tested every year – just like the alarm. Common battery problems include not holding a charge and delivering power to the pump. Test that the battery is working by disconnecting the pump from the primary power source, adding some water, and making sure your pump starts! If your backup is gas-powered it is a good idea to check the fuel level every few months and make sure it has not dried up.
Step 8 – Perform a Test Flood
The only way you can be totally sure your sump pump, alarm and backup battery are working properly is to simulate a flood. Start by filling a few buckets of water or run a hose through the basement window.
When you are ready start filling your pump basin with water and cause the water level to rise and make sure everything is working properly. If the pump does not kick on stop adding water before your basement (or crawl space) is flooding!
Servicing Your Sump Pump
The key to a making your pump last is regular service. This cleaning and maintenance does not have to be done by a professional plumber – it is something you can do with a little elbow grease! Start by followup our 8 step guide – plus keeping an eye out for other problems like funny smells and corrosion. We recommend putting a reminder on your phone calendar so you don’t forget every 3 to 4 months.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here is more information about common reasons your pump may fail due to lack of maintenance.
How do you maintain a sump pump?
Keep your pump working its best by cleaning the pump, basin and piping on a regular basis.