Sump Pumps: What Homeowners Need To Know

Is it a good idea to buy a house with a sump pump?

This question was opened for discussion on Trulia. Let’s take a close look at what prospective and current homeowners should know.  

Michigan is the land of many lakes. Whether you live in a flood-prone area or have basement issues you’re trying to solve, a sump pump might be a homeowner’s best friend. In fact, sump pumps are very common in Southeast Michigan.

It is a good idea to take some time to familiarize yourself with how a sump pump works and what kinds of sump pumps are out there. In addition, if you don’t have a sump pump but you need a long-term solution for your basement to keep your stuff safe from destruction, here’s your guide.

Sump Pump Basics

  • Sump pumps don’t keep water from accumulating. If you are having significant issues, other outlets include having the grading of your yard examined and changed and repairing any noticeable leaks or broken pipes.
  • Some homes have sump pits built right into the basement floor. However, if you have an older home, it might not have one. If you have a pit, all you need is the pump. If not, contact a drain expert or contractor to see if your basement or crawlspace can be retrofitted with a sump pit.
  • A sump pit is just a hole with a gravel base - 2 feet deep and 18 inches wide - dug in the lowest part of your basement or crawlspace. The pit will fill with runoff water and the pump turns on, moving the water out of the pit through pipes running away from your home to a spot where it can drain away from the home’s foundation. There is a one-way valve at the pump end designed to keep water from flowing back into the pit.
  • Sump pumps usually turn on automatically using a float activator arm or pressure sensor to tell the pump there’s water there.

Types of Sump Pumps

  • Water-powered - the least powerful of the types, they run on city water pressure instead of electrical power, thus no need for electricity to keep them running. You can see the advantage here. No power, bad storm...still a dry basement. However, they can’t be used if your city’s water pressure is low or if you have an independent well.
  • Pedestal - also called a column or upright sump pump. It has an open motor supported on top of a column attached to the pump casing. The motor sits outside the sump and above the basement floor and is not designed to be submerged.
  • Submersible - this is a watertight motor designed for immersion. This kind kicks on when it senses it is submerged. The motor is coupled to the pump casing and is hidden within the sump.

Most sump pump systems have a primary pump, an emergency backup battery or water-powered pump and an emergency backup pump alarm. The emergency backup works when the power goes out, to help the primary pump with extra water or when the primary pump fails. The alarm lets you know the backup pump has had to be used, so you can attend to any failure before the next storm.

Should I Get a Sump Pump?

Installing a new sump pump can be an expensive and disruptive job. However, if your house experiences regular flooding or you live in a storm-prone area, installing a sump pump just might make the difference in saving your valuables and retaining the value of your home.

Prospective Buyers

If you are interested in purchasing a home that has a sump pump, you can rest assured that it is a good thing. It can help avoid water problems if properly maintained. Additionally, it is recommended that you have a battery backup on the sump pump in the event of a power outage.