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What is a Sump Pump and How Does it Work?

When it comes to protecting your home from water damage, especially if you have a basement, the sump pump stands as an unsung hero.

This blog post will deep-dive (no pun intended) into everything you need to know about sump pumps—how they work, the different types available, and crucial maintenance tips.

Whether you are a homeowner or property manager understanding sump pumps can be invaluable and this guide will educate you on all you need to know.

So first…

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is a device that removes accumulated water from a sump pit, which is typically located at the lowest point in your basement or crawl space. They are often also known as a basement pump. Water may enter via the perimeter drains of a basement waterproofing system, funneling into the pit for removal.

How does a sump pump work?

sump pump

Operating on a relatively simple mechanism, a sump pump activates when the water level in the sump pit reaches a certain height. The pump then expels water away from your home through a discharge pipe to a designated drainage area, ensuring your basement stays dry.

Where should a sump pump discharge?

It’s crucial for the sump pump’s drainage system to discharge water away from your home’s foundation to prevent flooding. Ideally, the discharge point should be at least 20 feet away from the foundation to a well-drained area.

Do I need a Sump Pump?

This is a question many homeowners may ponder. If you live in an area prone to flooding or your home’s basement regularly collects moisture, investing in a sump pump can be a wise decision.

What is the best sump pump for my home?

Selection largely depends on your specific needs. Factors to consider include the volume of water to be managed, the size of your sump basin, and whether you need a primary sump pump or a backup pump.

Consulting with expert sump pump installers and plumbers is  recommended to ensure you get the right equipment for your unique situation.

Different types of sump pumps

There are two primary kinds of sump pumps—submersible pumps and pedestal pumps. A submersible sump pump is placed inside the sump pit, while pedestal pumps have the motor located above the pit for easier maintenance.

Pros and cons of submersible and pedestal sump pumps

Submersible Pumps


  • Quiet operation: Being underwater muffles the motor noise, making submersible pumps quieter than their pedestal counterparts.
  • Efficient cooling: The water helps to keep the motor cool, potentially extending the lifespan of the pump.
  • Space-saving: Since they are placed inside the sump pit, they take up less space in the basement.


  • More challenging to service: Accessing the pump for maintenance can be more difficult since it requires removing the pump body from the pit.
  • Higher cost: Generally, submersible pumps are more expensive than pedestal pumps both in initial purchase and potential repair costs.

Pedestal pump


  • Easier to maintain: With the motor positioned above the pit, pedestal pumps are easier to inspect, maintain, and repair.
  • Lower cost: They are typically less expensive compared to submersible pumps, making them a budget-friendly option for some homeowners.
  • Longevity: Pedestal pumps can have a longer operational life since the motor is not subjected to water.


  • Noisier operation: The motor is exposed, which means it can be louder than a submersible pump.
  • Not as effective in deep water: Pedestal pumps may not be as effective in deep sump pits because the pump itself sits above the water line.
  • Takes up more space: Since the motor stands above the sump pit, it can be more obtrusive and take up valuable space in your basement.

Types of sump pump switches

Sump pump switches are critical components in the operation of a sump pump, acting as the control system that dictates when the pump turns on and off. These switches are designed to respond to the water level within the sump pit; as water rises and reaches a predetermined point, the switch activates the pump, prompting it to start removing water.

Conversely, when the water level falls below a certain threshold, the switch turns the pump off. This automated mechanism ensures efficient water management, preventing the basement from flooding while also avoiding unnecessary running that could wear down the pump over time.

There are different types of switches, including float switch, manual, and pressure switches, each with its own set of advantages and ideal use cases, but float switches are commonly preferred for their reliability and ease of use.

Average cost of sump pump Installation

The cost of installing sump pump systems can vary widely based on several factors, but homeowners can expect to spend between £400 and £1,200 for a professional sump pump installation service.

As with any home improvement project, it’s always a good idea to get a range of quotes from different installers and take the time to find the company that has the best reputation, appropriate experience and offers the most competitive prices.

Key factors that impact sump pump cost

Location, pump type, power source, and additional features like battery backup systems can all affect the overall cost of installation.

Sump pump maintenance & repair

To ensure optimal performance, regular maintenance is essential. This includes checking the operation by pouring water into the pit, cleaning the grate, and verifying the discharge line is clear and free of debris.

How long do sump pumps last?

On average, a well-maintained sump pump can last about 10 years. However, lifespan can vary based on model, usage, and maintenance frequency.

Do I need a battery backup sump pump?

For added peace of mind during power outages or primary pump failures, a battery backup sump pump is a worthwhile investment.

Signs of a faulty sump pump

Common signs include unusual noises, the pump running continuously, or water not being properly expelled. Immediate attention may prevent a minor issue from becoming a costly problem.

Sump pump alternatives

While sump pumps are effective, alternative water management techniques like French drains or grading your property can also help mitigate water issues.

Portable sump pump options are also available for temporary use during times of significant flooding or to supplement an existing sump pump system. However, they are not a permanent solution and may not be as effective in managing water accumulation over time.

As we’ve suggested previously, if you’re unsure of the best solution for your particular environment you can’t beat tapping into the expertise of a professional sump pump installation company. They will be able to assess your property and give you a clearer idea on the best solution for you. Often you’ll also be able to get a free quote at the same time.


Understanding the ins and outs of sump pumps adds an essential tool to your home maintenance kit. It’s not just about keeping your basement dry but protecting the structural integrity of your entire home.

By considering the different types of sump pumps, switches, costs and maintenance requirements, you can make an informed decision on the best solution for your specific needs. And with regular upkeep and professional assistance when needed, you can ensure that your sump pump continues to work efficiently and effectively for years to come.

Aquatek – your experts in sump pump installation and maintenance

At Aquatek, we are dedicated to providing top-quality sump pump services to all that need them. Our team of experienced professionals can help you choose the right sump pump system for your property and provide expert installation, repair, and maintenance services.

Don’t wait until water damage strikes – contact Aquatek today for all your sump pump needs or learn more.

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