Sump pumps are an important piece of equipment in many homes, used to help protect basements and crawl spaces from flooding. In this article, we’ll explain what sump pumps are, the different types available, like covered sump pumps, how to determine the right size pump for your needs and more.

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a device used to remove water from an area, such as a basement or crawlspace. It is usually installed in a sump basin, which is a hole in the basement floor that collects water. The water is then pumped out of the area, usually to a drainage system or to the outdoors.

Sump pumps are most commonly used to help keep basements and crawl spaces dry, but they can also be used for other applications, such as to remove water from a hot tub or pool. Sump pumps are also absolutely vital if you live in a flooded area. They can be used as an additional device for proper basement waterproofing.

Types of Sump Pumps

There are several different types of sump pumps. They mostly vary in how they are installed and powered.

Submersible pumps

Submersible pumps are designed to be submerged in the sump pit. They are the most common type of sump pump and are typically the most reliable and efficient. Since they function underwater, they produce less noise, yet they are harder to maintain and more expensive to install.

Pedestal pumps 

Pedestal pumps are mounted above the sump pit and are usually less expensive than submersible pumps. However, they produce more noise since their motors aren’t designed to get wet. Additionally, they are easier to reach for repairs, but some plumber experts consider them less efficient and reliable. Both types of pumps should be covered and installed accurately in order to function properly. A covered sump pump will make less noise and will be more protected to withstand any unforeseen situation.

Battery-operated backup pumps 

Backup pumps are designed to be used as an additional item in case of power outages. However, they can’t replace the main pump and turn on only in case of a power failure. One thing is for sure: battery-operated backup pumps provide peace of mind in case of a power outage.

Water-powered backup pumps

Water-powered backup pumps operate using water power and are typically more reliable than battery-operated backup pumps. They provide unlimited runtime and require strong and steady water flow. However, in a home with low water pressure, it is highly probable that it won’t work properly. 

Combination sump pumps 

These pumps combine a submersible pump with a battery-operated backup pump. They provide the most reliable protection from flooding but are also the most expensive option. Combination pumps are cost-effective, but they also tend to be large and may not fit in smaller sump pits.

What Size Pump Do I Need?

The size of the sump pump you need will depend on the size of your sump pit and the amount of water that needs to be pumped out. Each pump comes labelled by two inversely proportional figures:

  • Head (the vertical distance that water must travel from your sump pump to the outlet pipe);
  • Flow (volume of water that the pump can displace (in gallons per minute)).

This is because a pump should work harder to push water further, thus decreasing its efficiency.

Determine Flow Rate

The flow rate of a sump pump is measured in gallons per hour (GPH). To determine it, you need to measure the sump pit and calculate the volume of water it can hold. You can then use this number to determine the GPH rating of the pump you will need. To do so:

  1. Wait for a rainy day;
  2. Turn your pump on and make it push water until it drops below the shutoff level;
  3. Disconnect pump from electricity;
  4. Measure the distance the water rises in one minute.

We hope you did it right! A small tip: multiply the result you get by 2. This ensures your basement’s safety in case of severe storms. 


Once you have determined the flow rate of the sump pump you need, it’s time to measure the vertical distance from the bottom of your basement to the outlet pipe. You need to do this to be sure that water will be quickly removed from your basement. Take into account every small detail: valves, joints, narrow pipes since they increase friction and may require a more powerful sump pump. We recommend addressing plumber experts in case you have any doubts.

Sump Pump Costs

The cost of a sump pump can vary greatly depending on the size, type, and brand. The average price can be anything between 130 to 670 CAD. Additionally, installation costs can vary depending on the difficulty of the job. If you don’t already have a sump pit, digging it can be costly. Expect to pay 3,358 – 6,717 CAD.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Sump Pump?

A basic submersible pump replacement costs approximately 670 CAD, including the pump’s price. If you are comfortable installing it yourself, you are free to pay only for the pump. Read this post to learn more about basement underpinning cost in case you want a bigger renovation project.

Sump Pump Life Expectancy

Sump pumps typically have a life expectancy of five to ten years, depending on the type and quality of the pump. Regular maintenance, such as cleaning the sump pit and checking the float switch, can help extend the pump’s lifespan.

Maintaining a Sump Pump

Scheduled sump pump’s maintenance is vital for its proper and efficient functioning. Luckily, it is not that hard to do it yourself. Here are some tips for maintaining your sump pump:

  • Keep the sump pit clean and free of debris;
  • Check the float switch to make sure it is operating properly;
  • Check the power cord for any signs of wear or damage;
  • Make sure the pump is properly connected to the power source;
  • Inspect the check valve and make sure it is in good working order.

If you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where your sump pump isn’t working and water keeps coming into your basement, we recommend that you service your pump every six months. 

What to Do When Something Goes Wrong

If your sump pump stops working, there are a few things you can do to try and diagnose the problem.

Debris in the Pump

One of the most common causes of sump pump failure is debris clogging the pump. This can be due to a buildup of dirt, leaves, or other debris in the sump pit. Debris can reduce the pump’s efficiency, causing it to fail. To prevent debris from clogging the pump, it is important to regularly check and clean the sump pit.

Clogged or Frozen Discharge Lines

When discharge lines become blocked or frozen, they can prevent the pump from properly draining water away from the home. To prevent this, it is important to check them regularly and to make sure they are draining properly. If the lines are frozen, it is crucial to thaw them as soon as possible.

Wrong Sized Pump

If the sump pump is the wrong size for the sump pit, it can fail to adequately move water out of the sump basin. This can lead to water remaining in the sump basin and eventually overflowing. 

Missing or Broken Check Valve

A check valve prevents water from flowing back into the sump basin after it has been pumped out. If the check valve is missing or broken, water can flow back into the sump pit, causing it to overflow. It is important to make sure the check valve is in good working order at all times.

Improper Connection to Sewage Line

If the sump pump is improperly connected to the sewage line, water can back up into the sump pit. This can lead to water overflowing from the sump basin and damaging the home. Consider designing a new outflow path if this is your case.

Float Switch Stuck On

If the sump pump’s float switch is stuck in the ‘on’ position, it can cause the pump to run continuously when it doesn’t need to and eventually fail or even cause the motor to burn out. Debris can clog it, so you can clean it and check whether the switch is unstuck.

When working, sump pumps vibrate and can move from their initial position. Try moving it a bit inside the pump pit. This may help you unstuck the switch. 

Not Turning On

If your sump pump isn’t turning on, there could be several potential causes:

  • It is disconnected from the power supply, or there was a power failure;
  • The switch or float could be stuck in the off position;
  • Debris damaged or clogged the pump;
  • There is a leakage in the check valve, or it is blocked.

You can find dozens of videos on youtube for proper maintenance and for solving any pump issues. However, we recommend contacting plumber experts. Remember, miser pays twice.

Final thoughts

Sump pumps are essential for keeping basements and crawl spaces dry and free of water damage. They come in a variety of styles and sizes and are used to pump water out of an area and into a nearby drain or another area. Understanding the basics of sump pumps, how they work, the different types available, and how to know if they’re right for your home can help you make the best choice for your needs. Additionally, having a battery backup for your sump pump can provide peace of mind in the event of a power outage.

Sump Pump FAQ

  • How Do I Know If I Need a Sump Pump?

    If you live in an area that experiences a lot of rain or flooding, you may need a sump pump to keep your basement or crawl space dry. If you notice water collecting in certain areas or if your walls or flooring are damp, it could be a sign that a sump pump is needed. A leaky basement is a much more severe problem than it seems at first, so it is better to prevent it with proper basement waterproofing.

  • Why a Sump Pump Shouldn't Work Non-Stop?

    A sump pump should normally run intermittently and only when water enters the sump pit until the water level is below the pump's suction level, typically about 1/4 inch. It is generally recommended that a sump pump be inspected and serviced yearly or more often, and the sump pit be cleaned out every two to three years.

  • What is a battery backup for a sump pump?

    A battery backup sump pump system is an important part of keeping your basement dry by providing an additional layer of protection against a power outage. This system includes a separate battery-powered sump pump that is installed alongside your existing sump pump.

    When it senses a power outage, the battery backup pump will automatically turn on and begin pumping water out of the sump pit. The battery backup pump is connected to a deep-cycle marine battery, which provides the power to operate the pump during a power outage. These batteries typically have a lifespan of 5-7 years and should be replaced when needed.

    The battery backup sump pump system also includes an alarm system that will alert you if the power goes out and the battery backup pump needs to turn on. This feature is especially important in the event of a severe storm, as it will give you the opportunity to take action if necessary.

  • Is Sump Pump Failure Covered by Insurance?

    The answer to this question depends on your individual home insurance policy. Generally, most home insurance policies will cover water damage resulting from sump pump failure, but you should check with your specific provider to verify coverage.

  • When Its Time to Call Your Home Insurance Provider and What Will He Want to Know?

    If you are considering installing a sump pump in your home, your home insurance provider will want to know a few things:

    • Sump pump type;
    • Does it have battery backup or not;
    • Sump pump capacity;
    • Does it have proper maintenance or not?

    A flooded basement insurance claim, on average, is almost 60,000 CAD! Thus, insurance providers are highly interested in sump pump installation, especially in risky areas. 

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