If you're buying a home for the first time, you may have encountered a sump pump in the basement. A sump pump is an essential machine that keeps your home safe and dry. Although it sounds complicated, it actually works much like a vacuum cleaner for water. How does a sump pump work? The answer to that question depends on the type of pump you have, but most of them function in a fairly similar manner.
In order to understand how a sump pump works, you need to understand why one is necessary in your home. If you have a basement, the ground level probably falls below the water line as it sinks deep into the ground. Normally, this won’t be an issue, since many basements are lined with concrete. However, water always takes the path of least resistance, which means it will wear away at the concrete over time and find a way to sneak into your basement through any holes or cracks. In dry weather, this is usually not a problem, but it can be a big issue during a heavy rainstorm. As heavy rains sink into the ground, dirt can't filter and absorb the water fast enough, meaning water will try to find its way into your basement.
Your sump pump serves to manage any water flow below the foundation line in your basement, and it's designed to operate in a hole below the foundation called a crock or basin. If you live in a flood plain, you will need a heavy-duty sump pump; otherwise, you should be able to get away with a basic pump. Your pump may rest on top of the water line or it may be designed to fully submerge into your crock. An automatic pump has a sensor or float in it that trips the circuit when the water level gets too high and turns on the pump.
When the pump is turned on, the motor sucks the water out of the crock and propels it up a pipe that diverts the water to a safe location. Some sump systems will hook into your existing sewage pipes, while others drain outside your home. Your sump pump should drain the water at least 15 feet away from your home, well away from the foundation, so the water doesn't drip back down to your basement.
Basement flooding is a common problem for many homeowners, but it can easily be resolved with a proper sump pump system. Purchase a pump that can handle the regular volume of water running underneath your home and install it in such a way that it will kick on when you need it and keep your lower levels bone dry whether the weather is fair or foul.