Help! My Sump Pump is Overflowing – What Do I Do?

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: December 18, 2023

Imagine this: It’s a cold, rainy night. The power just went out, the basement is starting to flood, and your sump pump – your last line of defense against water damage – is overflowing. 

Sounds like a nightmare, right? Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common.

Fortunately – you don’t have to face it alone.

At ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, we have more than 85 combined years of experience helping Chicago-area homeowners deal with water damage.

In this blog, we’ve compiled our extensive experience to help you learn the exact steps to take when your sump pump overflows.

Before You Get Started

Before you go to work on an overflowing sump pump, do these things:

  • Focus on safety. Broken, flooded sump pumps can create safety hazards, especially when electrical elements are in the flooded area. With this in mind, avoid entering a flooded basement with lots of standing water. In case of severe flooding and water damage, contact a professional like ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba to help you remove the standing water and ensure the area is safe to enter. 
  • Gather your equipment. To fix an overflowing sump pump, you will need a sturdy bucket and a portable pump to remove excess water. You’ll also need tools like a screwdriver, wrench, and pliers to take the pump apart and a flashlight to provide some visibility. Finally, having a replacement pump or pump parts (like a switch or valve) on hand can be helpful in case the existing ones are beyond repair.
  • Put on your PPE. At a minimum, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from contaminated water and sharp objects. Use goggles or safety glasses to shield your eyes from splashes and a face mask to protect you from inhalation of harmful bacteria. You’ll also want to wear waterproof boots to protect your feet while you work. 

What to Do When Your Sump Pump Overflows

1. Make Sure It Has Power

sump pump battery backup
A sump pump battery backup is essential if you experience power outages. Photo: Jeff Covey via Flickr

Check for a tripped circuit or blown fuse if you have power in the house, but the pump isn’t turning on. 

2. Reset the Unit

Pull the sump pump’s plug. Let the unit sit for a few minutes, plug it back in, and try to activate the mechanism.

If this trick works, you still want to have the pump inspected by a qualified technician as soon as possible.

3. Try to Restart the Motor

Lift the cover off the basin and pull upwards on the float switch.

If this doesn’t restart the motor and you’ve already checked the power and tried a reset, you could be dealing with a mechanical sump pump failure.

4. Take a look at the Float Switch

Water can seep into the plastic housing of the float switch through tiny cracks and punctures. 

Inspect the float for signs of wear and check its bracket to ensure it moves freely.

Otherwise, it can’t activate the pump. You may need to replace the float switch.

5. Inspect the Check Valve

The check valve on a sump pump prevents water from flowing back into the pump once it has been expelled, ensuring the pump’s efficiency and longevity. 

Inspect the valve for debris and clean away any buildup.

You might have to remove the pipe over the valve to access bad clogs.

6. Carefully Clear Out the Weep Hole

The weep or vent hole is critical to ensuring your pump functions optimally. To clean it, disconnect your sump pump from its power source. 

Locate the weep hole (usually found in the discharge pipe, around the area where the pipe comes out of the pump housing). 

If it’s dirty and blocked, carefully clear it out with thin, strong wire.

7. Clean the Impeller and Basin

sump pump overflow chicago

Sump pump impellers spin and push water away. Since they mitigate flood risk by removing accumulated water in the sump basin, they’re critical to the pump’s operation.

To clean the impeller and basin, be sure to unplug the pump before reaching into the basin. Lift the unit so that you can check the impeller.

Ensure the impeller isn’t clogged, and remove any debris in the basin.

8. Check the Discharge Line

Over time, the sump pump discharge line can develop clogs. Unplug the unit, pull the pump from the basin, and disconnect the discharge pipe.

Try unblocking the line with a plumber’s snake. Make sure its terminus outside the house is clear of leaves and debris.

9. Call a Restoration Company

Call a restoration company immediately if your basement is flooding and your sump pump has failed. 

As a trusted Chicago-area restoration company, we have the tools and expert technicians needed to respond to water emergencies promptly. 

Our comprehensive services include water removal, drying, dehumidification, and sanitizing. 

Don’t risk your safety or sanity in a flooding basement – contact our team for help. 

How to Prevent Sump Pump Overflow

Preventing sump pump overflow is crucial to keep your home safe and avoid water damage. 

Here’s how to do it:

  • Maintain your sump pump. This involves cleaning the sump pit, checking for correct float switch operation, and inspecting for any clogs or obstructions in the pump. 
  • Check the check valve. In some cases, check valves are installed improperly, which could cause flooding. When installed correctly, the check valve’s arrow should point away from the sump pump.
  • Clean the pump’s impellers. To keep the impellers working properly, check and change their filters regularly. 
  • Check the float mechanism. In some cases, debris can get into the sump pump basin and damage the pump’s float mechanism, which can cause it to drain improperly or not at all. To check the float mechanism, fill the sump pump’s basin with water and ensure it starts up and drains independently. 
  • Clean the weep hole. Use a thin, sturdy object such as a toothpick or paperclip and gently insert it into the weep hole to dislodge debris. After removing the debris, flush the hole with clean water to ensure it’s clean, and then reconnect the sump pump to its power source.
  • Make sure the pump is large enough for your needs. Ensure the pump’s capacity is suitable for your home’s needs. During heavy rainfall, an under-capacity pump can easily overflow. 
  • Consider adding a backup. Installing a backup pump or a backup generator can keep your pump operating even during power outages, thus preventing possible overflow scenarios. If it’s too late and the power is out, and you don’t have a generator, though, avoid running water in the house and monitor the pump in case of overflow (it’s also a great idea to have a large floor squeegee ready to route water to a drain or out to the door).

Is Your Sump Pump Overflowing in Chicago, IL? We Can Help!

sump pump failure restoration chicago

When the sump pump fails, you can’t always get it running in time to save the basement. Flooding downstairs often causes more problems than you can solve by yourself, so we’re standing by.

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can count on ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba for flood damage cleanup, regardless of the cause.

Let us restore your home today! Call: 773-647-1985

Why is my sump pump overflowing?

Sump pump overflows happen for a few different reasons. The most common include power outages, debris, and worn-out components.
Overflows can also happen, however, when the pump is overworked, which occurs when heavy rain or rapid snowmelt overwhelms the pump and outpaces its ability to discharge water. 
Other causes include clogs from dirt or debris in the sump pit or in the discharge line, frozen discharge lines, and power outages (particularly during severe weather events), which can stop the pump from functioning and lead to potential overflow situations.

What does a sump pump do?

A sump pump is a critical component in preventing basement flooding, especially in areas where basements are prone to accumulating water. The primary function of a sump pump is to drain water from your basement, keeping it dry and safe from water damage.

My basement flooded – what do I do now?

Once you get the sump pump working again, you can still be facing a flooded basement. 
While it is possible to DIY the repairs for a flooded basement, it’s a big job. 
It can also be hazardous (thanks to mold and contaminated water), which makes it outside the skill set of most homeowners. 
With this in mind, we always recommend leaving flooded basement repairs to a professional. 
Once you’ve called in the pros, look at your homeowner’s policy. Different carriers offer different options for water backup and sump pump overflow insurance coverage.
It might be worth the additional investment to protect your basement as well as personal belongings and appliances downstairs.