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How To Test Your Sump Pump - Plumb University

How To Test Your Sump Pump

by Trevor Woods | Last Updated: August 19, 2020

Often forgotten, rarely visited, and almost always crowded, unfinished basements offer ample storage space and the alluring potential of more square footage should you ever pursue renovating one. Of course, until you do, there are special requirements you should always keep in mind.

One of those requirements is the need for a basement sump pump to keep moisture out of this notoriously wet area. Sound like something you can put off until next fall? Think again. 

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Just an inch of water can cause over $1000 to the average home!

Luckily, a simple test can save you from a flooded basement.

What Is A Sump Pump?

A basement sump pump can serve as a good investment for a homeowner, but many homeowners don’t even have to buy one! For homes in particularly low or wet areas, sump pumps often come as a standard fixture in the basement. 

With that said, if you’re not familiar with a sump pump, you probably don’t have one (…yet). Many homes use a sump pump to prevent groundwater from getting into the basement or crawl space area. 

Wondering where that water comes from to begin with? Extra water can build up along the foundation of your home, especially during heavy rains, and it can end up in your basement or crawl space area. That’s when a trusty sump pump comes into play.  

The simple explanation: A sump pump moves this excess groundwater out away from your home.

What If I Don’t Have A Working Sump Pump?

If your sump pump stops working, water could get into your basement and foundation walls, which is a big deal. When water gets in, it rarely leaves on its own. The water’s build-up will eventually cause mold and mildew in this confined space. Plus, if enough water gets in, the basement could flood.

Therefore, properly maintaining your sump pump is essential. Maintenance means you can rest easy knowing that it will function correctly if you should experience excess water from unforeseen leaks or wet weather. 

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When Will I Need A New Sump Pump?

Sump pumps typically last 10 years or more, but the lifespan really depends on how often it runs and how clean the water is that runs through it. If your sump pump works hard and runs often, consider replacing it every 5-7 years.

How To Test Your Sump Pump

If your home has a basement sump pump, you should test it regularly to ensure it functions properly. Don’t worry, it takes only a few minutes to complete this test and it doesn’t require any special plumbing skills!

It’s important to test your sump pump at least once a year. You should test it twice a year if you live in an area that has a high water table or experiences a lot of rain. 

Ideally, sump pumps should be tested before the spring and fall seasons, so that you can avoid flooding and make sure it’s ready when you need it.

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What You’ll Need

Depending on the make and model of your sump pump, you should only need a few basic hand tools:

1. Check The Sump Pump Discharge Line

Locate the exit pipe (or “outlet pipe”) on the exterior of your home. This is the pipe through which your sump pump directs the water from your basement. 

Inspect the outlet pipe for damage and verify that the pipe has no clogs, like debris or ice. Make sure that the outlet pipe is clear so it can direct water away from the foundation of your home. 

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2. Inspect The Sump Pump

Locate the sump pump in the basement of your home. You can usually find it near the interior walls of the foundation, typically in an unfinished area of the basement. 

Verify that the electrical cord for your sump pump is plugged into an outlet and remove the lid to the sump pump, if your pump has a lid. 

Using a flashlight, inspect the interior of the basin for any clogs or debris. If you find clogs or debris, remove them. 

3. Add Water

Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly, at approximately the same speed that water might flow into the basin from the basement, until the sump pump turns on and begins to pump out water. 

Do not pour in more water than the basin will hold. Expect the sump pump to begin pumping out water when the water level reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches below the surface of the basement floor.

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4. Test The Float

Look for a float on the sump pump, which it may not have. If it has a float, verify that the float functions correctly and does not catch against the lid or basin.

The float’s proper operation ensures that the sump pump turns on when the water level reaches a certain height.

5. Clean Up

If your sump pump functions flawlessly, clean up the sump pump pit. Remove any debris or mud trapped in the pit that would impede the flow of water or create a blockage in the pump. 

Reinstall the lid when you’re done clearing it, Done! 

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Sump pumps are only good in an emergency if they work, so take the time to test your sump pump regularly! It may seem like a hassle, but it will save you a major water damage-induced headache down the road.

Happy Plumbing!

Trevor Woods is the founder of Plumb University® and he started in the plumbing and construction industry in 1997. Since then, his mission is to make plumbing repair and maintenance easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with their plumbing installation, care, and troubleshooting.