What is a sump pump and which type do i need for my home?

A sump pump is a small pump installed in the lowest part of a basement or crawlspace. Its job is to help keep the area under the building dry and to prevent it from flooding. Usually, sump pumps are installed in specially constructed sump pits. Water flows into the sump pit through drains or by natural water migration through the soil. The sump pump’s job is to pump the water out of the pit and away from the building out to a storm drain so the basement or crawlspace stays dry.

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, more than 60 percent of American homes suffer from below-ground wetness [source: Basement Systems]. But even more homeowners are likely to have to deal with a flooded basement at some point. It doesn’t take much water to cause thousands of dollars of damage. A moist basement can also lead to mold and mildew growth, bringing with it all its related health and breathing hazards.

Sump pumps have been a common fixture in some homes for years, primarily in low-lying areas or places where rapid melting of heavy snow can lead to flooded basements. However, legislation, including amendments to the U.S. Federal Clean Water Act in 1987, has made sump pumps a requirement in homes that aren’t necessarily at a high risk for flooding. Today, sump pumps are common in new construction homes.

Keeping your home dry and free of water damage or mold is critical to saving on long-term costs and repairs.  Sump pumps come in a few different types and models, and it’s important to understand the differences in order to choose the one that’s best for your home. Here are some of the main types of sump pumps that you can choose for your basement.


A pedestal sump pump is ideal for smaller pits where there isn’t sufficient room for a submersible pump and its piping inside the pit. Pedestal sump pumps have a motor mounted high (and dry) on a shaft sticking up well above the sump basin, making it easier to access and repair. The vertical float switch is on the part of the unit that sits down inside the pit where the water collects. It’s important to ensure that the motor is mounted in an area where it won’t get wet or submerged since it is not waterproof.


Directly opposite of the pedestal option, a submersible sump pump sits below water level, inside the sump basin. This model is quieter and less obtrusive than the pedestal pump and is safer if children are in the house. Overall, the submersible pump is easier to handle, operates more efficiently and lasts longer than the alternatives. Going with this option could save you money down the road as a result of better performance and longer lifespan.


Effluent pumps are often confused with sump pumps, but they have a different job altogether. Effluent pumps are generally only used if a home has an effluent basin or tank. These fixtures differ from sump pumps because they remove wastewater that collects from laundry, bathroom sinks and showers. These pumps run automatically once installed and can either be installed into the septic tank itself or a separate pump chamber. This option isn’t necessary for every home, so make sure you read the label on each fixture to ensure you’re getting the pump you need.


If the power in your home ever goes out during a storm, your sump pump will stop functioning. This is where a battery backup sump pump can make all the difference to keep your house dry. Although these options may cost more upfront, they pay for themselves during critical situations. They are powered by a marine grade car/boat battery and will continue pumping away ground water from the sump pit for up to 12 hours without a recharge. They also come with alarms that will sound to alert the homeowner that they’ve taken over sump pump duties from the primary pump.

Sump pumps are absolutely essential to a basement home, but it’s important to understand what sump pump type is best for your house. There are a number of options available, depending on your needs and your current plumbing infrastructure. Contact a Discover Plumbing professional to install a sump pump or consult on the model that meets your home’s needs.

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