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Sump Pump Installation for Do-It-Yourselfers

According to recent surveys, over 85% of all homes with basements will experience some form of wet basement problems in their lifetime. Installing a sump pump in the basement can be a great benefit, even if it's only to keep the water from getting deep or to act as a floor drain.

What To Buy

Sump pumps are generally sold according to the horsepower rating of the pump motor. You will see ¼ horsepower, 1/3 horsepower and ½ horsepower pumps available. Although the horsepower of the pump is a good "yardstick" to use in judging which size pump to buy, a more accurate way is to look at the GPH or, Gallons Per Hour that the unit is capable of pumping. For instance, you will find ½ horsepower sump pumps that can pump 3,000 gallons per hour and you will also see other ½ horsepower pumps that are capable of pumping over 7,500 gallons per hour. As you can see, horsepower ratings are not very accurate in judging which size pump to buy. Generally, I like to buy a larger pump than necessary because it will usually last a lot longer because it doesn't have to work so hard.

Choose a pump with a reliable switch. The switch is very important because it tells the pump when to turn on and when to turn off. There are several types of switches available on pumps. Some of the different types of switches you will find are called; "2 pole switch", "mercury switch" and "diaphragm switch". I only buy pumps that have a 2 pole switch. They have proven to be the most reliable over time. After all, what good is a sump pump if it won't turn on?

Sump Wells

A sump well is the container below floor level in which the pump is installed. You will be able to buy a 20 gallon to 30 gallon sump well at you local home improvement store, in the plumbing section. Many people opt for a smaller 5 gallon bucket; don't do it! Your pump will burn out very quickly because it is turning on and off too much, because it can only pump out small quantities of water each time it runs.


You will need to rent an electric jackhammer to break a hole in your basement concrete floor. Ask for a shovel bit when you rent the jackhammer. The shovel bit will make quick work of digging out the hole in which you will install your sump well. The lip of the well that holds the sump well lid should be installed slightly lower than the basement floor surface. This will allow your sump well and pump to act as a very good floor drain in case of a broken water pipe, leaky hot water tank, etc. You will need to buy a bag of sand mix cement to re-cement the floor area around the sump well and the broken concrete.

Most pumps come with a 1 ¼"threaded connection for PVC pipe. Get an adapter that converts it to 1 ½" schedule 40 pipe. 1 ½" schedule 40 pipe is more universal and a lot easier to find fittings for. Next, you'll want to attach a check valve to your piping. The check valve prevents water already pumped up through the plumbing from draining back down into the sump well when the pump shuts off. These are easily attached with a rubber boots and a screw driver.

Make sure to use pipe cleaner before gluing your pipe fittings together. The pipe cleaner actually softens the plastic and allows the pipe glue to bond better. Check with the instructions on the glue can about how long to wait before pumping water through the newly glued connections.

Plug your sump pump directly into a grounded electrical outlet. Don't use an extension cord because it will shorten the life of your pump. The electrical outlet should be on a breaker which is the proper size for your pump. Your electrical outlet should also be on it's own dedicated circuit breaker to prevent other electrical connections from overloading your breaker.


Installation of a sump pump can be a pretty easy do-it-yourself project with some great benefits. By doing it yourself, you can save a lot of money and provide some great protection for your basement and its contents.


You may reprint the above article in your electronic or print newsletter; however, please include my byline and bio and keep the article intact. I retain all copyrights.

Robert Clarke owns B-Dry System NEPA, a basement waterproofing company. Visit http://b-dry for more information. He has also served as President of the B-Dry Owners Association, a nationally recognized group of basement waterproofing contractors. Visit for details.

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