How to Install a Sump Pump

Keep your basement dry with this simple weekend project

Sump Pump
Frances Twitty/E+/Getty Images

Sump pump installation is easy enough to do on your own; you don't necessarily need to hire a professional plumber. However, there are several different types of sump pumps, and each one comes with a slightly different set of installation instructions. Avoid potential headaches by keeping these tips in mind when you're ready to take the plunge and install your own sump pump.

Effective for Keeping Water out of the Basement

Installing a sump pump can be an effective way to keep water from accumulating in the basement. The pump is set in a basin, or a sump pit, located at the lowest spot in the basement floor or where water first accumulates. Sump pits, which can be purchased at home centers, are most often made of plastic or fiberglass. As the water level beneath the basement floor rises, it fills the pit, activating the pump and causing the water to be discharged to the outdoors. Once the water level falls, the pump shuts off.

If your basement has occasional water problems, a sump pump can be an inexpensive and relatively easy-to-install aid. But keep in mind that installing a sump pump will not address the source of your water problem. And if your basement is seriously flooded on a regular basis, a sump pump may not be the best solution.

Types of Sump Pumps

There are two types of sump pumps usually installed in houses: submersible pumps are fully concealed in the sum pit, while pedestal pumps are only partially concealed, with the motor resting above the water. Pedestal sump pumps tend to cost a bit less than submersible models, and they are easier to repair and maintain. But submersible pumps are quieter, and therefore a better choice for living areas.

Sump pumps usually come with long cords, allowing you to plug them into a receptacle protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Do not use an extension cord with a sump pump unless it matches the recommendations of the pump manufacturer.

Plumbers can usually install sump pumps, but a motivated DIYer can also handle the job. If you want to install your own sump pump, plan to spend $300-$500 for materials and the better part of a weekend for the installation.

Digging a Sump Pit

You will need a jackhammer to break through the concrete. Electric jackhammers are usually available at rental stores or in the tool rental department at home stores. They are easy to use and can be plugged into regular household outlets. Be sure to get a flat spade bit to use with the jackhammer.

Set your sump basin upside down on the floor, then draw a circle about 4 to 6 inches outside the perimeter of the basin. Be sure to stay at least 10 inches from the walls to avoid the foundation footing. Use the jackhammer to break through the slab along the line.

With the concrete out of the way, dig the hole to the required depth. You want the top of the basin flush with the top of the floor. Set the basin in the hole and fill the gaps around the perimeter with gravel. Level the gravel 1 inch above the bottom of the floor slab, then fill the remainder of the perimeter gap with concrete. Smooth the surface of the concrete with a trowel and allow to set for at least a day.

Installing the Sump Pump

Once the concrete has cured, set the sump pump in the basin as directed by the manufacturer. Connect the check valve and attach PVC discharge piping. Run the piping up the wall and out through a hole you drill in the rim joist.

Extend the piping to the outside, allowing water to drain away from the foundation. If the grade is not suitably sloped away from the house, you may need to install a dry well outside of the discharge piping to empty into. Do not run discharge into sewer or septic systems unless you are sure this is permitted by local building codes.

Seal around the hole in rim joist with caulk. Now plug the sump pump into a GFCI receptacle. Fill the basin with water and test the pump.

From time to time you will need to clean debris out of the basin, and if your pump is not activated very often, periodically test it by pouring some water in the basin.