How to avoid clogging and ensure proper drainage for your sump pump


Considering the fact that sump pumps are the easiest to replace and/or repair, many users focus solely on the pump itself. While it cannot be denied that the sump pump has a substantial role to play, its efficiency depends directly on the ability of the sump to collect water and the pipes to remove it once the pump has pushed it upwards. In other words, the pump’s efficacy is a direct function of the efficiency with which water is drained into and out of the sump. Below we offer some tips for proper sump pump drainage that should enable you to maximize the pumping potential and hence the benefits of the sump pump regardless of the downpour occurring outside.

Sump Position and Diameter

Basement floors might contain holes for a number of reasons but many believe that the holes are present solely to act as a sump hole. Real sump holes, however, have a few distinguishing characteristics:

  1. Located at the lowest part of the basement
  2. Located in a corner, usually near one of the foundation pillars but not directly in contact with it.
  3. Is roughly cylindrical in shape.
  4. Does not have any materials located inside it.drainage for your sump pump

If the hole you’ve found in your basement does not fit into the above criteria, it is most likely not a sump hole and should not be used as one. You should instead drill one keeping the above points in mind. This would ensure that the water entering the sub-stratum of the basement flows naturally in the direction of the sump and percolates into it.

Speaking of percolation, it is important to ensure that the water does not rise above a certain level under ordinary circumstances. This level should generally be such that at least 1/4th of the sump remains dry. While there is no hard and fast rule for deciding what diameter should be chosen to ensure this, many areas have plumbing rules that are geared to this requirement. Further, inquiring about sump pump metrics from neighbors might provide a good idea about the ideal size of the sump.

Positioning of Pipes

Most pumps require a number of pipes to remove the water from the basement. One of the tips for proper sump pump drainage is to ensure that the pipes rise to moderate heights but then turn at right angles. Ideally, the maximum height of the pipes should not be more than 3/4th of the maximum head supported by the unit. If this rule is followed, the pump would have some surplus capacity left for handling heavy water flow and thus the risk of motor burnout would be substantially reduced.

Pipe connectors, on the other hand, must always be of the L or T-type as these help ensure that the pipes “turn” at right angles. Such turns reduce chances of backflow and valve failure leading to motor failure due excess workload. Of course, just because the pipes turn at right angles, they don’t have to remain parallel to the basement floor/ceiling. In fact, a slight downward slope might be useful for discharging water when the amount is not very high.

Drainage Outside the House

As we mentioned while discussing basement waterproofing techniques, it is vital that excess water does not collect around the building’s foundations. To ensure that sump water does not flow back to the foundations and thus undo much of the hard work put into waterproofing, it is important to ensure that the water drains at a sufficient distance from the house.

For most houses having no gradient around them, drainage at a distance of 10-20 feet should be sufficient to prevent backflow. If the house sits in a depression though, the distance should be increased to 30 feet or a safe distance from the edge of the depression, whichever is greater. If you find that your property’s dimensions do not allow for drainage at such distance, you should construct a special drain that ensures that water disposed of by the drainage pipe does not flow back towards your foundations.

What should the water drain into?

While some folks are content to allow the water to flow along the ground once it has been removed from the vicinity of the house, many plumbers decry this practice as harmful to the overall water table of the region. Further, such water tends to flow into local depressions and create swampy conditions.

The good news is that there are a number of alternatives. Let us look at the pros and cons of each:

  1. Flood drains:These drains are meant to remove large quantities of water from ordinary drains. They would typically drain into reservoirs, lakes or rivers, thus removing the water from the locality entirely. If your local laws permit, draining into the flood drains is your best option.
  2. Septic Tanks:If your area does not suffer from excess rain, you might consider draining the sump water into the septic tank. Note however that if there are signs of moisture around the tank, it is likely that the tank is already handling a lot of water (from rain or from other sources) and overburdening it would definitely not count among the tips for proper sump pump drainage.
  3. Sewer System:Unlike flood drains, sewer systems are not meant to handle a large amount of sump water. As such, draining into them is not recommended unless you have express municipal permission.
  4. Neighborhood lots:Some localities and cooperative housing socieities designate a certain plot for disposing their sump water. Such disposal is carried out with the express approval of the plot owner and the cooperative’s management. If your locality has such a provision, you might inquire as to whether you can avail of this service as well.

If your locality does not have such a system, you might discuss without your neighbors whether one of them would be willing to collect and dispose of your sump water in return for some benefits or payment. You should not, under any circumstances whatsoever, drain water into a neighbor’s lot without his/her permission.


While the above procedures may appear somewhat complex, you should keep in mind that they are one-time adjustments that you shouldn’t need to revisit unless there is an incidence of damage to the pipes or change in local laws. Of course, to ensure maximum dividends from such adjustments, you would need to carry out frequent cleaning of the sump pump and associated maintenance procedures. Combined together correctly, good maintenance and diligent following of the tips for proper sump pump drainage should be enough to ensure that the basement and foundations remain dry and thus, do not end up demanding far costlier repairs in the long run.



Bill is a DIY plumber, handyman, and homeowner with more than a decade of experience. He has replaced and repaired sump pumps, backup pumps, float switches, check valves, and many other things around his family home. An engineer and tinkerer at heart, he is always looking to see how things work and taking on new home projects that help him grow his skillsets. He is a husband and father of two boys, has a bachelors degree in Computer Engineer and minor in Mathematics and likes to make homebrew beer in his free time.

      Sump Pump Advisor