Cut-out view of a sump pump next to a home.
Trade Talk

Do all houses need sump pumps?

Whether you’re plumbing new construction or repairing/replacing in an older home, knowing when to use a sump pump is critical. A sump pump can help safeguard a home’s foundation, prevent water damage like cracks, mold and mildew, and protect the homeowner’s belongings from getting soaked.

That’s not to say that every house requires one. Here are three quick guidelines for when homes need a sump pump:

  • The home has a basement (finished or unfinished) or crawl space.

  • The home is in an area with a high flood risk or periods of heavy precipitation.

  • The foundation is vulnerable to excess ground water from poor soil drainage.

Discover the benefits of sump pumps, how to tell if they’re failing and what to consider when choosing a type of sump pump so you can present the best options to your customers.

Why do basements or crawl spaces need a sump pump?

Without a sump pump, excess water that seeps or pours into a home can damage the foundation, creating cracks and issues throughout the house. The more water accumulates outside of a foundation, the more pressure builds up, and water can find a way through concrete. If the moisture isn’t removed quickly, mold can set in, potentially causing structural damage and health concerns for residents.

A sump pump moves water away—whether to a well, municipal drain (where allowed), pond or even a grassy area—so it can’t cause damage. Sump pumps are almost always paired with a sump basin, or pit, at the lowest point of the building.

The Building America Solution Center, from the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, recommends placing the outflow far away from the foundation to prevent the system having to pump the same water continuously. It also recommends covering the sump pump basin to keep soil gases from accumulating in the home.

If a home doesn’t have a basement, a crawl space accumulating water can be just as detrimental. If there is an excess of water, it will pool at the lowest part of the crawl space. Basements or crawl spaces, even in homes with both, may need a sump pit and pump.

What are the signs a sump pump is failing?

The most obvious sign of sump pump failure is a flooded basement, but there are usually indications a homeowner can look for before disaster strikes. Schedule an inspection if your customer tells you about any of the following:

  • Loud or unusual noises from the sump pump

  • Sump pump running either non-stop or irregularly

  • New puddles in the basement or crawl space

A water alarm makes a loud noise when water is too high so people inside the house can check on the pump. “Smart” or Wi-Fi-enabled sump pumps can alert the homeowner via text or email that the water level is getting too high and there may be a problem.

Why do sump pumps fail?

A well-maintained submersible sump pump can last about 10 years, but there are a number of reasons they can fail, triggering flooding and water damage.

  • A primary sump pump can fail if there’s a power outage, so some contractors recommend a secondary, or backup, battery-powered sump pump.

  • If the sump pump’s horsepower (HP) is too low or too high for the sump pit capacity, the mismatch can cause it to run too hot or too long, shortening the sump pump lifespan.

  • A discharge line can get blocked or freeze, causing the water to back up into the basin and make the sump pump run continuously.

  • Weep holes are blocked or non-existent, making the sump pump work hard to pump out air instead of water.

  • The float switch gets stuck or malfunctions.

  • A leaky or malfunctioning check valve can cause premature pump failure.

Some of these problems can be avoided if the right sump pump size is chosen for the job.

Sump pump size considerations

For a replacement sump pump, the label on the side should have a model number and date code. Often, the model will still be available. To be on the safe side, run some calculations to make sure it’s the right size. There’s no guarantee that the original installer chose the proper size, which may have caused the sump pump to have a shorter lifespan.

For a new installation, take a look at a few important factors before selecting a sump pump size.

Sump basin size, gallons per minute/hour, vertical lift and horsepower

How deep is the sump pit and how wide is it at the top? This information helps you calculate how quickly the system reaches capacity and how many gallons per hour need to be pumped out when it’s most active.

In addition, determine how high the water needs to be pumped as well as how far out from the home. The discharge pipe size also informs how much friction the system has to handle. The vertical lift (static head) and friction head help identify the maximum feet of head you’ll need in a new sump pump.

Choosing the right size pump is important for a long lifespan—either too little or too much HP can cause the pump to burn out too quickly.

In general, a 1/3 or 1/2 HP pump can work for sump pits that only fill up with heavy rains or thawing. For basins in areas with a higher water table or that fill up often, a 1/2 HP or 3/4 HP pump could be the right choice.

Find the sump pump size you need with Ferguson

Our knowledgeable associates can help you talk through the right size for the installation or replacement job you’re working on. Explore a wide range of sump pumps and filter by brand, HP, flow rate, discharge line pipe size and more.