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4 Common Sump Pump Problems and Solutions


A good sump pump, tied to a properly installed, working foundation drainage system is a homeowner’s first line of defense against basement flood. sump pumpBelow are the most common types of sump pump failure, and what you need to do to prevent them.

1 – Overwhelmed Sump Pump

Sometimes a single sump pump just isn’t enough to handle the job. Sometimes the pump is simply not powerful or reliable enough.  Plastic, cheap sump pumps for example, often can’t keep up with the high volume of water that pours in, especially during heavy rains. It will burn out or fail to pump water as quickly as needed.

Upgrading your sump pump and adding a battery backup sump pump to the system, usually solves this problem. In some rare cases you might need more than one sump pump and a back-up system, installed in different corners of the basement.

2- Pump Works, but There Isn’t Any Water Coming Into the Sump Pit

This is a classic sign of an improperly installed sump pump. Many contractors install a sump pump in the basement but do not link it to a drainage system.

A sump pump only works properly if there is a drain tile installed externally or internally, along the internal perimeter of the basement. The drain tile collects all the ground water from around the foundation, and relies on gravity to channel and discharge it into the sump pump. If the drain tile is clogged, collapsed, inexistent, or just not installed with the proper pitch, it won’t divert the water to the pit, and the best sump pump in the world will not keep your basement dry.

3- Clogged Sump Pumps and Switches

Sump pits that do not have a lid can easily fill with dirt and debris which can cause a sump pump to clog. Likewise, if you have a sump pump that sits straight against the bottom of a dirty sump pit it’s mechanical parts are liable to clog with dirt and debris. If this interferes with the pump’s operation, the system will slow or stop.

This same debris can cause the “float switch,” which causes the pump to turn on and off as the water level in the pit changes, to clog or jam as well.

If these switches clog, become jammed, or (in the case of cheap sump pump models) become tangled in the rest of the system, the sump pump switch will either stop working entirely or be stuck in the “on” position, meaning that it will run nonstop.

Our sump pump systems include a sump container with an air tight sealed lid that will not only prevent debris from falling in it, it will also keep small children and pets safe and the water from the pit from evaporating back into your basement. The system also includes a pedestal that keeps the sump from coming in contact with the bottom of the container, which is where the silt accumulates.

4 – Sump Pump Running Non-Stop

Sump pumps that run continuously, non-stop, or way too often, regardless of the weather conditions or season, may be a sign of different problems, all of which need to be addressed  before the pump burns out.

  • Stuck sump pump switches
    The float switch becomes clogged, jammed, or the switch becomes tangled in the system. In some cases, the vibrations of the sump pump as it runs can cause it to begin to lean on the edge of the sump pit or liner, disabling the sump pump switch.
  • The Sump Pump Liner and/or the Liner are too small or too big.
    In some cases the sump pump is just not big enough to handle the job, so it runs continuously to keep up. In other instances, the pump may be powerful enough, but the sump pit is so small, and fills up so quickly that it triggers the sump pump to work more often than it should
  • The check valve is missing or broken.
    Because the sump pump is installed below grade, the discharge line goes upwards until it can exit the basement at some point above grade, when the pipe is then pitched downhill, relying on gravity to discharge the water. The check valve, installed in the discharge line, prevents the water from coming back into the pit before it reaches the point in which it begins to roll downhill. A broken or missing check valve will cause 1/3 to 2/3 of that water to flow right back into the pit, overworking the pump.
  • Continually flooding sump pit.
    In very rare cases, there is just a continuous flow of water into the sump pit due to a high water table or an underground spring. If the water table is too high, raising the sump pit a bit might help. Upgrading the system or adding an extra sump pump on another corner of the basement might help.

If the sump pump is running non-stop under normal conditions, there is a chance that it will fail when you need it most: during a heavy rain.


I had a sewage back up in June. For some reason, I can'tget rid of these flies. Could they be coming in thtough the sump pump?
Posted @ Thursday, August 01, 2013 4:52 PM by Inshallah Brown
how do I get bad odor out of my sump pump and drain?
Posted @ Tuesday, March 04, 2014 10:10 AM by byron brooks
A few questions need to be asked when trying to find out why an odor is coming from your sump pump: What does it smell like? Sewer, sulfur, mildewy, dead mouse?Where does the discharge pipe end? Outside, the building drain (illegal), the neighbors yard (not nice)? Does the sump pump pit have a bucket or crushed stone - what is the condition of the earth? Does the bucket have a cover? Does anything else dicharge into the pit? Condensate line, etc. How often does the pump turn on? This will help get to the resolutiion. Thank you, Jim P
Posted @ Tuesday, March 04, 2014 10:54 AM by Jim
When it rains alot I get this thumping under my house. Could this be something wrong with my sump pump.
Posted @ Friday, March 07, 2014 7:58 PM by K Christy
My pump runs constantly during the winter thaw and during rain. Like every 10 seconds. It's an above water pump. Can I instal a submersible pump and will this cut down on the noise?
Posted @ Tuesday, March 11, 2014 8:07 PM by Keith
Hi K. Christy: The thumping that you hear when it rains a lot must be the flapper closing on a check valve. If that is the case it is normal.
Posted @ Thursday, March 13, 2014 1:31 PM by Jim Papalia
If you had a submersible sump pump installed it would most likely be quieter than a pedestal style sump pump because the motor would now be under water and they are normally not as loud as well.
Posted @ Thursday, March 13, 2014 2:05 PM by Jim Papalia
My sump pump failed and the backup 'water-powered' sump pump was stuck in the 'on' position. I did not realize this until I got notification from the town Water Dept. that there must be a problem with running water of toilet or possibly sump pump. It was the sump pump and water bill was $400+ having used over 40,000 gals of water. WHERE DOES ALL THAT WATER GO? Does it empty through drain pipes into a sewer system? Luckily it did not flood my finished basement level.
Posted @ Sunday, March 16, 2014 11:18 AM by Pat
My sump pump runs constantly and I bought a replacement. But my issue is there is a nonstop filling of water into it. My water box on my septic just malfunctioned and was fixed today. The ground is not soggy anywhere. So I dont know where this water is coming from. Also when we turn the pump off it will fill up to the top but doesnt overflow!?? What does that mean? I can not find any answers to these questions....please help
Posted @ Monday, March 24, 2014 11:05 PM by Courtney
It is illegal to drain ground water into the sewer system in Massachusetts. The water goes to a drywell or just outside on top of the ground. Hopefully the topography is so that the water drains away from the house. You may be able to follow the discharge pipe to see where it goes. Look at the good part, you got lucky your basement did not flood! JP
Posted @ Tuesday, March 25, 2014 9:08 AM by Jim
The snow is melting which raises the ground water level. The new level of ground water is enough to enter into your sump pump basin but not overflow it. The ground water level is very important, as it rises it may find other outlets so you are lucky it stops before overflowing your basin. Hope that helps, JP
Posted @ Tuesday, March 25, 2014 9:24 AM by Jim
I do not lived at the property in PA, its like a vacation home in the Poconos, I did t visited the home since December 2013 and was there over this week and putting the septic pump on and it fly back a few times I tried and same happened. 
please Advised 
Posted @ Tuesday, April 01, 2014 11:53 AM by patsy
I am getting a lot of silt material being pumped out with the ground water. I'm starting to get concerned that this will undermine my foundation. How can this be fixed to prevent more silt from being removes when the pump activates? r
Posted @ Wednesday, April 02, 2014 7:39 AM by EZE1963
That is a common issue when there is not sufficient crushed stone surrounding the bucket that the sump pump is in. If there is no bucket or basin to hold the earth back under the slab there will continue to be undermining and it should be upgraded soon. JP
Posted @ Wednesday, April 02, 2014 8:18 AM by jim
My sump pump is running every 15 minutes for about 1 minute. What could be the issue?
Posted @ Monday, April 07, 2014 8:16 AM by Michael
It's working! The ground water level is high this time of year. If you get a flashlight you may be able to see the ground water flowing into the pit. Make sure the discharge pipe is long enough to allow the water to flow away from the house. It's a good idea to have an extension on the discharge pipe temporarily for this time of year. JP
Posted @ Monday, April 07, 2014 8:32 AM by jim
Our basement has flooded frequently during a heavy downpour. We have 2 sump pumps, French drain, backup sump pump and back flow valve to prevent sewer backup. 2 days ago basement flooded. Sump pumps were running but could not keep up. What else can we do? Our house and foundation are stone
Posted @ Friday, May 02, 2014 3:13 PM by Anne
I have a water filtration system with a tank that discharges water daily into the sump pump basin. The sump pump is running everyday when the water filtration discharges water even when the amount of water is not even close to being high enough to activate the float. The sump pump will run for a couple of seconds, shutoff for a couple of seconds and then run for a couple of seconds and keeps going like this until the basin is completely empty. It also looks like the float arm has a zip tie around it. I can't tell if it is keeping it on or off. The basin was empty. I poured in less than a half gallon of water. The sump began to run immediately as the water started to come in. The motor is starting to smoke. Also don't know if this is a separate issue, but the slots in the outside discharge hose cap was clogged with rocks, so we took the cap off and the tube is filled with small stones (about the size of a cherry). Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
Posted @ Sunday, May 11, 2014 3:08 PM by Tonya
My sump pump is constantly running, I do have a back up battery, should I still get this problem looked at, and what damage could this cause?
Posted @ Wednesday, May 14, 2014 9:51 AM by kim
When testing my sump pump (lift the  
float) it only buzzes. Could the  
starter winding on this induction  
motor be burnt out? What else?
Posted @ Monday, May 19, 2014 10:08 PM by Bob Wilson
Forgot to request any responses via e-mail.
Posted @ Monday, May 19, 2014 10:10 PM by Bob Wilson
My house has a portion of the sump drain tile that is exposed above the finished grade on the walkout basement side of my house. I did not realize it was drain tile and punctured the plastic pipe while landscaping the yard. I now have a stream of water coming from the pipe. The positive side is that my sump operates about 1/3 of the cycles it normally did so the water is draining naturally rather than out the pump. Question- Is there any problem with me just digging a French drain where the water is flowing from the pipe or should I somehow try to patch the pipe and let the sump handle it?
Posted @ Wednesday, June 04, 2014 9:56 PM by Tom
I have a zoeller sub pump that I have to slap the water pipe to get it to work. Sometimes I gently touch the pipe and it will work for a few days. I have replaced the switch a couple of times but after a while this re-occurs. and ideas.
Posted @ Friday, June 13, 2014 8:01 PM by walter morancy
These common problems happens with most of the people most of the time. I would have to agree with the writer here that cheap and plastic made sump pump may not be the best choice for the long run.
Posted @ Tuesday, June 17, 2014 2:50 AM by Drainage Solution
House built in 1979 and sump pump has worked until this year. Pump works but sump bucket is dry. We have had record amounts of rain this spring. So far basement is dry. System has drain tile along the interior of the basement floor. Please advise what might be wrong.
Posted @ Thursday, June 19, 2014 7:18 PM by Kim Corcoran
If your basement is dry there is nothing wrong. This situation can happen in reverse as well. Basements that do not get water for 40 years suddenly get ground water because of different reasons like nearby construction that could change run off patterns or a change in topography. In your case the water may have found an easier outlet than your basement. If your getting water in the basement and it is not making it to the sump pump that is a different issue. You need to observe what is happening and where the water is coming from. Hope that helps.
Posted @ Thursday, June 19, 2014 7:26 PM by Jim
Our pump runs only for about 4 seconds, clearing about a third of the water from the pit. Because of the heavy rain.we have had all week there is only about a minute between it's running.
Posted @ Friday, June 20, 2014 5:27 AM by Paul
There is no reason to panic here. The ground water level changes thru the year. The water level is where you see it now. As the pump removes the water from the pit the ground water is seeking its own level and filling the pit which turns the pump on again.
Posted @ Friday, June 20, 2014 6:35 AM by Jim
My house is 60 years old. All of a sudden sand is filling my sump basin from what looks like a screen or filter coming loose from the bottom of the pit. Is there any way to fix this with the water table being so high right now?
Posted @ Saturday, June 21, 2014 2:39 PM by Tracy VanGeison
This is the 3rd time in 4 years our sump pumps couldn't handle the amount of water from flash flooding. We have 2 pumps. It has never been a power issue. We flooded again this weekend. We just got it serviced in April. What more do we have to do?
Posted @ Monday, June 23, 2014 2:07 PM by Audrey
There can be many different types of this kind of pump. There might be like rotary types, screw pumps or like liquid ring vacuum pump - <
Posted @ Tuesday, July 15, 2014 6:55 AM by Shenoiekaant
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