Sump Pump Maintenance: How to Avoid a Wet Basement

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 1, 2024

Just like every other mechanical device in your life, it needs regular attention. Unlike other appliances around your home, the little unit stays tucked away in a dark corner downstairs. Overlooking sump pump maintenance is easy. Dealing with a flooded basement is a nightmare.

Did you know that your sump pump’s upkeep is actually pretty simple?

We often see situations where routine maintenance could have prevented serious water damage. Make room in your DIY reference files for this overview covering how to take care of your sump pump.

Sump Pump Maintenance is Easier Than You Think

If you’ve had any kind of problems with this important piece of equipment, you need to ask yourself, “Am I showing my sump pump the respect it deserves?” Upkeep isn’t complicated. It just takes routine maintenance, occasional cleaning, and timely testing.

Practice Simple, Preventative Care

It’s a good thing that sump pumps aren’t high-maintenance because we really depend on them here in Chicago. Safeguard your home by keeping flood waters at bay with these three simple steps every few months.

  • Confirm that the float mechanism is clean and moves freely so that it can activate the pump’s motor.
  • Make sure that the basin is clear of anything that might clog the check valve or discharge pipe.
  • Lift the pump up several inches, and then reseat so that it’s securely positioned and not tilted.

If you’re not familiar with the inner workings of a sump pump, check out this blog.

Power Tip: If you use a battery backup pump, put it on the same schedule as your home’s smoke alarms for annual battery replacement.

Clean from Pump to Pipe

Treat the sump pump to a good cleaning at least twice a year or more depending on how often it has to do its job. When you see the mess left behind by basement flooding, you can be sure that your pump needs attention too.

1. Take It Outside

Unplug the pump, disconnect it from the discharge pipe, and take it outside in a plastic bucket to an area where you can hose it off.

2. Scrub It Clean

Put muscle into your elbow grease with a mild detergent or vinegar and water solution. Scrub off accumulated dirt and slime with a stiff brush.

Power Tip: Bust up stubborn sludge with a plastic ice scraper.

3. Vacuum the Basin

Pull standing water out of the pump basin with a shop vac, and then scour the area with a vinegar solution to discourage mold growth.

4. Check Your Pipe

Remove and clean any screening at the terminus end of your discharge pipe. Back inside the basement, run a vinegar and water solution through the discharge hose.

5. Firmly Reseat the Pump

Clamp its discharge hose into place, and plug the unit back in. Test the equipment to make sure that you’ve secured all connections.

Test Ahead of the Weather

Testing the sump pump is part of preventative care, so it needs to be done several times a year. However, always verify operations when the weatherman predicts severe storms headed our way.

1. Test the Pump’s Connections

Unplug the unit’s cord from the wall outlet, and then disconnect the pump cord from the float cord. Plug the pump cord back into the outlet. This should activate the equipment’s motor. Reassemble the plug and cord configuration, and plug the unit back in.

2. Test the Pump’s Mechanism

Remove the pump lid, slowly fill the unit with several gallons of water, and keep an eye on the float. This should activate the switch and motor so that the pump empties water from the basin. When you finish the process, test one more time to be sure.

Power Tip: On your second pass, add 2 cups of white vinegar to the water. This helps keep the system free of slimy mold and algae buildup.

Your Care Pays Off

For so many of us, living in Chicago means living with a sump pump in the basement. The little appliance earns its keep year-round, so treat it to basic care and occasional cleaning.

Even though the equipment holds on to a solid reputation for low-maintenance, routine upkeep extends its mechanical life. Your small investment in sump pump-chore time pays off in a dry basement and peace of mind.

When Good Sump Pumps Go Bad

sump pump problems

If you’ve ever had to wade through the mess of flooded basement cleanup, you can appreciate the importance of regular sump pump maintenance.

If you have any experiences or additional tips you’d like to share, we invite you to join the conversation here through our Comments Section.

As the city’s leading restoration contractor, we know that even the best sump pumps can go bad. We’re ready to respond to any water disaster 24/7, and we specialize in flooded basement cleanup across Chicago and the suburbs.

When you want the very best, call ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba first.