What To Do When Your Sump Pump Overflows: 8 Steps

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: December 1, 2022

You probably don’t worry too much about the sump pump overflowing. It’s sturdy equipment, and you take care of it with a little routine maintenance several times a year.

What could possibly go wrong?

If the drainage mechanism downstairs does fail, do you know what to do when the sump pump overflows

Understanding how the pump works and how to troubleshoot its different parts can save your basement from serious water damage. Even the best sump pumps eventually go bad, so we want you to be prepared.

Let’s start now.

overflowing sump pump

8 Steps to Take When Your Sump Pump Overflows

Some homeowners opt for early warning systems by installing sump pump alarms in the basement.

Most of us just keep a close eye on the downstairs during bad weather.

The most common cause of a basement sump pump overflowing its basin is a combination of torrential rain and a power outage, but it’s not always that simple.

When the sump pump stops working, one of these eight steps can help minimize basement flooding.

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

If you have power in the house but the pump isn’t turning on, check for a tripped circuit or blown fuse. Consider investing in a battery backup system that keeps the pump running during power outages.

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 make sure it moves freely.

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

5. Inspect the Check Valve

This component is also called the sump pump overflow valve. It prevents water that’s being pumped out from flowing back into the basin. 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

Many submersible sump pumps have a very small, drilled opening on the discharge pipe between the check valve and the unit.

This weep hole allows air to escape during operation and prevents equipment from locking up. If it’s dirty and blocked, carefully clear it out with thin, strong wire.

7. Clean the Impeller and Basin

Be sure to unplug the pump before reaching into the basin. Lift up the unit so that you can check the impeller.

This part of the unit spins and pushes water out of the basin and into the discharge pipe. Make sure 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.

Stay Safe and Protect Your Property

Once you get the sump pump working again, you can still be facing a flooded basement. It’s a big DIY project, but it’s doable as long as electrical and gas hookups into the house aren’t affected.

If you have any concerns about safety in the basement after flooding, call the city to turn off utilities.

Now that you’ve covered basic sump pump troubleshooting, take a look at your homeowners 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.

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

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

How long does a sump pump last?

You can expect an average mechanical life of 10 years from most sump pumps. Factor in how often it fires up, how far it has to pump water and the reliability of its electrical source. Regular maintenance is very important too.

Why does my sump pump run so often?

When a sump pump seems to run more than necessary, it might be an equipment malfunction. It could also be due to a rising water table around the house or undetected plumbing problems.

How can I tell if my sump pump is going bad?

Signs of sump pump problems include rattling noises, thuds and grinding sounds. It might begin cycling on and off. A failing sump pump doesn’t handle water volume as efficiently as it did when first installed.