Simple Steps For Maintaining a Sump Pump

Sump pumps malfunction due to two primary reasons – falling into disuse due to long periods of inactivity and suffering from clogging and damage due to debris. Further, even if the pump itself does not malfunction, the stagnant water in a sump can lead to the growth of insects and worms, thereby undermining the overall hygiene of your basement. To avoid these, it is important to know how to maintain a sump pump. The good news is that if you know how to use a sump pump, maintenance is an incredibly simple procedure.

maintain a sump pump

Preparing the Sump Pump for maintenance:

Before you learn how to maintain a sump pump, it is vital that you make it for maintenance. Please note that maintenance should not be carried out if there is a chance of the pump being used within two hours of the maintenance being completed. Hence, sunny days when chances of rain or snow are minimal are ideal for carrying out much-needed maintenance.

To prepare the sump pump:

Switch off the power supply in case of a primary sump pump. Remove the water or battery connectors in the event of backup sump pumps. In the case of water-driven backup sump pumps, allow the sump pump to remain at rest for about 15 minutes. Remove the sump cover and use a flashlight to see if there are any snakes/insects in the sump. Unscrew the check valve that connects the PVC pipe to the discharge. If there are multiple check valves, begin with those farthest from the sump pump and move towards the sump pump. Keep a bucket ready before unscrewing the last valve as some water may fall out. Following the reverse of what you did while installing the sump pump, remove the sump pump from the sump. Some water will come out along with the sump pump.

If you have an another sump pump installed, ensure that removal of the sump pump does not disturb the float switch or any other trigger mechanism that the other pump may have. Indeed, it would be a good idea to pour some water quickly into the sump and reconnecting the power source of the backup pump, see if the sump pump is working well. If it is, replace the sump cover and take the sump pump you wish to perform maintenance upon to a nearby table.

Steps For Maintaining a Sump Pump:

Before learning how to keep a sump pump, there is one final task to be completed – put on a pair of goggles and a pair of gloves, as these would be needed to protect your eyes and hands from any dangerous debris or insects that may still be present in the discharge of the sump pump. Inspect, the exterior of the sump, pump carefully before looking through the release with a flashlight. Search for signs of damage (dents, peeled off paint, etc.), blockages or debris presence and build-up of insect cocoons or rust. Wipe all possible surfaces of the sump pump thoroughly using a piece of cloth. Once they are all dry, wipe the surfaces with a dry cloth dipped in petroleum jelly or kerosene oil. Most dirt and insect matter should be removed in this step.

If there is rusting, rub the surface with sandpaper till the rust has been removed. Most of the best sump pumps would not have exposed bearings or rivets. In case your sump pump is old or follows a design that requires such exposure of vital connecting parts to water, the chances of rusting of such parts is increased manifold.

If some parts are rusted to the point of becoming brittle and weak, it is not a good idea to continue with them. Dispose them and replace with new parts so you don’t have to repeat the steps in this how to maintain a sump pump guide again at short notice. If oiling/greasing of any parts is required, follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding the oiling process. The user manual should also contain the time intervals at which oiling should be carried out. If the time span is less than six months, you should perform maintenance at each oiling interval.

Once these steps are completed, you may run into one of the common sump pump issues – a slightly dislocated float. To avoid having to fix the float within the sump, take a bucket of water and place the sump pump inside it before connecting to the power source/water source. Note that because you haven’t connected a pipe to the discharge the water in the bucket won’t be drained, but the overall effect should prove whether the pump is working or not. If the float is dislocated, the functioning would be impaired. Take out the pump, fix the float by moving it gently upwards or downwards and then test again.

Post-Maintenance Checking Processes:

Replace the sump pump in the sump and reconnect the check valve and then power connection. Reconnect any other valve/pipe connectors that you may have removed. Now disconnect the power connection of any other sump pump that may be present in the same sump. Empty a bucket of water into the sump such that the float switch is completely submerged.

Ask someone to turn on the power/water connection when asked. Go outside to where the sump pump outlet is. When the person turns on the power/water supply, carefully watch how the water present in the sump is drained out. If there is any coughing or spluttering involved, you should have the sump pump turned off, take apart the final section of the PVC discharge tube and see if any problems or blockages exist.

Reconnect and Retest:

When all processes have been run without any problems, it is safe to carry out the last step of how to maintain a sump pump – checking and cleaning the sump cover and replacing it on the sump.


Sump pumps are extremely sturdy warhorses and on the outside, have precious little that the user is supposed to or can do. Given that you must never dismantle a sump pump without supervision or proper expert skills, we can say that maintenance is by its very nature a simple and short process. However, given the importance of draining your basement and the difficulties of repairing a severely damaged sump pump, it makes good common sense to carry out regular maintenance. While there are companies that will provide trained personnel to carry out such maintenance, the answer to how to maintain a sump pump is simple enough for you to be able to conduct by combining an hour of your time with the steps we have outlined above.



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.

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