Article No: 114

2006-05-02 08:55:42
By: Christopher Brooks


Choosing a sump pump for your home need not be a complicated matter, but there are some considerations that must be made, the first of which is deciding on the type of pump.

"The most popular today is the automatic submersible type, although the traditional 'vertical' sump pump constructed with the motor up out of the sump basin and a long shaft connected to the impeller in the pump head in the basin is still used in some areas," says Charlie Utley, president of the Sump and Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association (SSPMA) based in Northbrook, Ill.

The next consideration should be the size and working capacity of the sump pump. "The size of a sump pump for basements in most homes is usually specified by the pump horsepower - one-quarter, one-third and one-half being the most popular. Normally, pumps are described by their capacity — amount of flow — and their 'head in feet,' which is the height they can push the water in a pipe. Typical performance characteristics would be 3,000 gallons per hour (gph) at a 5-foot head and a 20-foot shut-off head."

An important thing in choosing a sump pump to remember is that it is an electrical-mechanical device and as such will fail at some time in the future. "The pump is also rendered useless in the case of a power outage," Utley says. "Many times people remodel their basements, spending thousands of dollars to put in carpet, furniture, stereo and TV or other equipment, and then try to spend the least amount of money they can on a sump pump that may be called upon to protect their investment. We always recommend an alarm and a 12-volt DC back-up system for sump pump installations where a low outage or the failure of a sump pump could cause property damage."

Utley, product and programs training specialist at Little Giant Pump Co. of Oklahoma City, Okla., which is a manufacturer of sump, sewage and effluent pumps, points out the alarm will warn the homeowner that the water in the sump basin is going to overflow if action is not taken soon. "The 12-volt DC back-up system will pump out the basin in the event power to the main pump fails. This system also sounds an alarm to alert the homeowner that there is trouble of one kind or another. One option that is also a good idea is to use two sump pumps in the same basin with an alternator/alarm control panel. This 'duplex' system alternates the pumps providing for a back-up pump should one of the pumps fail. However, this does not help in a power outage situation."

Installing the sump pump
Utley offers the following tips for installing a new submersible sump pump:

  • The sump pit should not be less than 18 inches in diameter and 24 inches deep, unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer. The pit should be accessible and located so that all drainage flows into the pit due to gravity. The sump pit may be constructed of tile, concrete, steel, plastic or other suitable materials as approved by local codes. The pit bottom should be solid and provide permanent support for the pump. The sump pit should be fitted with a removable cover adequate to support anticipated loads in the area of use and to prevent refuse from entering the pit.

  • Locate the sump approximately 6 inches from the basement wall in the lowest point of the basement floor.

  • With chalk, mark out the diameter on the floor.

  • Cut through the floor with a masonry drill or other concrete cutting tool and excavate below the floor to the required depth.

  • Level the bottom and set the sump pit in place. Tie in any sub-floor drains. Backfill and mortar tile the sump pit in place. The top should be flush with the floor for surface drainage unless otherwise specified by codes.

  • It is recommended that the bottom of the tile be provided with a concrete base. However, a concrete block or bricks may be used to provide a support for the sump pump.

  • Locate the pump in the pit so that the pump housing and any float control will not come in contact with the side of the pit and create operational problems.

"Sump pumps can be piped to discharge into the house drainage system, to a dry well or splash block, or to a storm drain, depending on local plumbing codes. Do not connect the sump pump discharge to the sewer system," Utley says.

Check out the various sump pump manufacturers' Web sites. Remember that the best interior drainage, below-grade waterproofing system can only perform well with an adequate sump pump system.

Based in Bucks County, Penn., Christopher Brooks writes about the home for trade and consumer magazines.