How to Install & Maintain a Sump Pump


How to Install & Maintain a Sump Pump

How to Prevent Basement Water – Part 3

Flooded Basement3

If you have ever experienced a flooded basement, you know how much damage water can produce. Cleanup is time consuming, and the damage caused can be in the thousands of dollars. There are several causes for basement flooding:

  • Improper Grading away from your Home’s Foundation
  • Cracks in the Foundation
  • Defective or NON-Existent Drain Tiles
  • Clogged or Defective Sump Pump


If improper grading is an issue, see my post:   How to Prevent Basement Water – Part 1


If foundation cracks or defective drain tiles are issues, click the following Link to see my post:   How to Prevent Basement Water – Part 2


If your sump pump is the issue, then please continue to read on . . . . .

Sump pumps generally have a life-expectancy of about 7 – 10 years. If your sump pump is older than that, you should definitely consider replacing it, even if it seems to be operating effectively. They can go out at any time, so procrastination on this repair is NOT recommended.

Also, if you happen to experience quite a few power failures on a regular basis in your area, it most certainly would be a good idea to install a battery backup sump pump, in addition to your regular electrically operated sump pump. There is usually enough room for both in most sump holes.

Keep in mind (2) things if you are intending to purchase a battery backup sump pump:

  • Backup Sump Pump are generally less powerful (usually only 1/4 – 1/2 horsepower, compared to most electric pumps which are usually 1/2 – 1 horsepower)
  • You will also need to also purchase a marine battery for operation.

If you are usually at home when these power outages occur, you might opt for a gas-powered generator instead of a battery backup sump pump. That way, you can simply fire up your generator and plug your regular sump pump into that, in order to keep things functioning.

Keep in mind, that a generator is only beneficial if you are at home to fire it up (unless you have a whole house generator). You will also need a long enough heavy-duty extension cord and will need to keep a supply of gasoline on hand in order to operate the generator. On the plus side, you will NOT only be able to operate your sump pump, but can also run additional cords to be able to keep your refrigerator, TV, and lights going as well.

Whatever your choices are, it is always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected. The following will be the information needed to maintain and/or replace your sump pump, as well as for installing a battery backup sump pump:


Materials & Supplies Needed:

  • Sump Pump
  • Battery Backup Sump Pump
  • Marine Battery
  • Gas-Powered Generator
  • Heavy-Duty 50’ – 100’ Extension Cords
  • Gas Can
  • STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer Gas Additive

Purchase Sump Pumps at:

Purchase Battery Backup Sump Pumps at:

Purchase Marine Batteries at:

Purchase Gas-Powered Generators at:

Purchase Heavy-Duty Extension Cords at:


Tools & Supplies Needed

  • Work Gloves
  • Safety Glasses
  • Large Pipe Wrench
  • Flathead Screwdriver

Purchase Tools & Supplies Needed at:




Step-by-Step Instructions


Step 0 – Check Your Existing Sump Pump, Piping, & Determine What Items to Purchase

Before you can decide on the Materials & Supplies that you wish to purchase, you must first check to see if your sump pump is operating properly and is clean, or if it is time to replace it. You will also need to decide on whether you are also going to also install a battery backup sump pump, a check valve, an air gap fitting, and if you will be purchasing a generator.

If the sump pump does NOT seem to be working at all, the first things to check are the electrical connections. Make sure the sump pump is plugged in properly, check your circuit breaker to make sure that it has NOT tripped, and if your pump is plugged into a GFCI outlet, make sure that the outlet has NOT tripped (check the reset button).

Most sump pumps are either float activated, or are diaphragm activated. It is common for sump pump problems to be float related. The float is a very vital part of the sump pump, as well as one of the most vulnerable. The float rises with water in the sump pit, and when it reaches a certain height, triggers a switch to activate the pump to start pumping water out of the pit.

Sump Pump Float with Cord

Sump Pump & Float with Cord

Diaphragm Sump Pump

Diaphragm Sump Pump











To check the float, slowly pour some water into the pit, until the level has been reached to turn the switch on. If it does NOT activate the pump, your cord may be preventing the float from rising properly, or you may just have a defective float switch. If the cord is becoming tangled, you can take a zip tie and tie the cord up out of the way. Make sure that you only do this on your power cord, NOT on your float cord. The float cord needs to be able to move freely.

If your pump is not that old, you can usually simply replace the float and switch assembly to solve your problem. It is NEVER recommended to lift the float with your hand, in order to avoid the possibility of being shocked.

Your pump should also shut OFF when the water in the pit has been dispersed, and the float has returned to it’s lower position. If your sump pump does NOT shut off when all of the water in the pit has been discharged, then your switch is also bad, and should be replaced.

If the water that is ejected returns back into the pit after the sump pump stops, you probably need to replace your check valve (or install one if none exists). A check valve should be located on the discharge pipe, less than 12” above your sump pit.

Check to make sure that there are no leaks or cracks in the discharge pipe, and that the discharge pipe extends for at least 6’ away from your foundation. If it does NOT, the pumping cycle will just unnecessarily repeat itself, shortening the life of your sump pump, NOT to mention, raising your electric bill.

You discharge pipe can drain the water above or below grade. Whether you are draining the water above or below grade, it is best to have an air gap fitting installed in the pipe, so that the water can still escape if the pipe happens to clog with ice and/or snow in the Winter. You should also make sure that the discharge pipe slopes downhill away from your foundation.

Floats that are connected with a cord can become tangled. This can prevent the pump from turning on, or OFF. A pump which fails to turn OFF will burn out.

A build up of debris in your sump pump pit can cause your inlet suction screen to become clogged or your Impeller to become jammed. If your pump is not working, check to make sure that there is no blockage. First, unplug your pump, then disconnect it from the piping and remove the pump from the pit. Disassemble the pump to access the screen and impeller. Remove any debris from the screen, impeller, and from the pit, then, reassemble and replace the pump.

Unusual amounts of debris in your sump pump pit are usually a sign of cracked or broken drain tile. See my post:   How to Prevent Basement Water – Part 2   to see how to correct this problem.

If you spot an oily film on the surface of the water in your sump pump pit, this usually indicates a faulty oil seal which may cause the motor to burn out. You should replace your pump ASAP.

Once you have determined the condition of your existing sump pump and piping, and have decided on whether you will be also purchasing additional items, such as a backup sump pump, generator, etc., then proceed as follows:

Click the following Link to see my page:   Steps Common to All Projects   for completing Steps 1 thru 4 for that PageWhen those (4) Steps have been completed, return here and begin with Step 5.


Step 1 – Create a Materials & Supplies Needed Sheet

Step 2 – Calculate Project Cost

Step 3 – Order Your Materials & Tools Needed

Step 4 – Inspect Your Delivery


Step 5 – Replacing Your Float & Switch Assembly and/or Your Sump Pump

Replace your Float & Switch Assembly and/or your Sump Pump according to the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the product that you have purchased.

If you are only replacing your float & switch assembly, you will need to know the exact make and model of your sump pump in order to get the proper replacement parts. Follow the installation Instructions provided from the manufacturer. New sump pumps come with new float & switch assemblies.

If you are replacing your sump pump, you should probably replace it with a like styled pump. You will need to measure the distance from the bottom of the sump pit to the beginning of your discharge pipe in order to replace the sump pump with one of equal size if possible. If the exact size can NOT be found, you will have to reconfigure your PVC discharge pipe to allow for the size variance. This may require you to either cut the discharge pipe down to size, or replace a portion of the pipe to make up the difference. Follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions for installing the sump pump.


Step 6 – Installing a Backup Sump Pump

If you are Installing a Backup sump Pump, you will need to first place your main sump pump into your sump pit before adding the secondary pump. Reconfigure your discharge pipe according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and zip tie both power cords out of the way.

Begin by removing your old sump pump and replace it with your new one. Do NOT hook up the discharge pipe yet. Then, install your new backup sump pump according to the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

You will need to reconfigure your discharge pipe to be able to hook up both pumps simultaneously. A PVC ‘Y’ Connector will be needed for this type of installation, and you will need to reconfigure the length of your discharge pipe as is necessary. Make sure to install your check valve in the discharge pipe just above the ‘Y’ Connector, so that it will work for both pumps. Also, zip tie your power cords from both of the pumps to your discharge pipe to prevent any snagging on the floats.

Once all connections have been made for both pumps, and your marine battery has been installed, unplug your main sump pump, slowly fill your pit with water, and make sure that your backup pump kicks on and shuts OFF properly. Also make sure that your secondary float is at the proper height. When both pumps are plugged in, the backup float should be slightly higher than the main float, preventing the secondary pump from turning on unless the main pump fails.


Step 7 – Gas Up and Test Your Generator

Fill your generator with fresh gasoline, adding ‘STA-BIL’ gas additive to insure that the gasoline will NOT go bad if it is NOT used for awhile. Start your generator to test it, and plug in your heavy duty extension cord to your generator and sump pump. Fill your sump pit with water until your sump pump kicks on. When it kicks OFF, you can disconnect the sump pump from the generator, plug it back into the electrical outlet, and shut your generator OFF.


Nice Job! You should now be prepared for any Water related emergency!


Please take the time to leave a Comment, letting me know how your project went.



CJ Dodaro




  1. Kevin Meyer

    Hello, CJ
    I wish I had come across your website a couple of weeks ago. I had to replace a sump pump at my place of employment. The instructions you share in your post would’ve saved me a lot of time and effort. I decided to bookmark your website in case I run into another situation of this type of repair.
    Thanks again,

    1. CJ Dodaro (Post author)

      Sorry it wasn’t timely enough for you, but what can I do? Thanks for visiting and your kind words. Sign up for my Newsletter for timely monthly Tips. Have a great year, and Best of Luck in all that you do!


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