How to Unclog a Sump Pump

Since you’re reading this, then you know how important a sump pump is to our homes. There are times, unfortunately, where we encounter trouble that can stop our pumps from working as intended. This can spell disaster to a completely healthy home. 

If you notice that your pump isn’t effective in removing water in your pit, you may have a clogged sump pump. There may be objects trapped in the discharge pipes or the pump itself and it’s keeping the water from being pumped out. That’s a problem but not exactly something you can’t fix.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to unclog sump pumps effectively. Before we start, make sure to unplug the pump from the outlet.

How to Unclog Sump Pumps

Total Time: 45 minutes

  1. Clear out the discharge pipes

    Check if there’s anything blocking the outlet of the discharge pipes. It could be ice from the winter or a stuck animal. You can also use a plumber’s snake to dislodge any clogs inside the pipes. Remove all objects and try to test the pump by letting a hose fill the sump pit with water. If the water level goes down, then you’ve cleared the clog. If not, move to step two.

  2. Clean the sump pit and intake strainer

    Open the lid of the basin. Check the sides and bottom of the pit for heavy accumulation of silt or any objects blocking the intake strainer of the pump. Try to remove as much silt as you can and clear out the surroundings of the strainer. Test the pump for any improvement.

  3. Unclog the pump’s inlet and impeller

    Disconnect the pump’s connections and take it out of the pit. Inspect the suction eye for any debris and remove it. Check also the impeller inside of the suction eye and remove the objects trapped inside it. Return the pump and its connections then test it.

  4. Check for other possible issues

    If your pump still doesn’t remove water, it may not be a clogging issue. Do you have a weeping hole drilled at the discharge to remove trapped air? Is your check valve installed correctly? You may want to see our troubleshooting guide for other possible causes.

  5. Contact your plumber

    When all else fails, it’s time to call the professionals. It might cost you but it’s guaranteed to be cheaper than the cost of water damage repairs.

What causes a sump pump to clog?

The most common causes of a clogged sump pump include an open sump pump lid, silt buildup, clogged strainer, corrosion or scaling, and a frozen discharge.

Open sump pump lid

An open sump pump lid invites all kinds of objects into the sump pit where the pump resides. Toys, plastics, and other items that you’ve kept for storage will likely go to the pit which is installed at the lowest part of the basement. 

Try to install an air tight sump pump lid. Not only does it keep objects, pets, and kids from falling, it also keeps the moisture and gases inside. On top of that, if you have a submersible, the noise levels will improve significantly.

Silt buildup

Groundwater from outside your home tries to enter the building through micro cracks in your homes. As it goes through this process, it brings along tiny dirt particles that eventually settle at the bottom called silt. Once there’s enough of it, it will cause clogging. 

Make sure to clean out the bottom of the sump pit once or twice a year for silt and other debris that may get into the pump. If there’s too much silt, try to install a sump pump stand or an inch or two of gravel. You may also want to inspect for the source of the silt if there’s anything you can do about it.

Clogged strainer

Some sump pumps have strainers at the water intake at the lower portion of the pump. This part is used to screen out larger solids that can get stuck in the impeller of the pump. Dirt, rust, pebbles, and other items might cover the strainer if it hasn’t been cleaned for a long time.

Clear out the strainer once or twice a year as it can impede the effectiveness of your pump even if it’s yet fully covered by debris.

Corrosion or scaling

After a few years, the inside surface of a metallic discharge pipe will corrode or produce scales from all the water that passed through it. Treating this can be quite tricky and may need the help of the right chemicals to produce the needed result. More serious cases may even require complete replacement of the pipes to avoid future problems.

Frozen discharge

The discharge pipe is prone to getting frozen during winter. An easy way to counter this is to have a downward sloping pipe outdoors. This ensures the water clears out of the pipes completely. 

A more serious alternative is to have the pipes buried below the frost line. Not only does it diminish the chances of frozen pipes, it also preserves the look of your home. 

Ways to prevent further trouble

Backup your sump pump

When you backup your sump pump, it makes sure you still have protection even when things go wrong. It keeps your basement dry while you try to fix the problem.

Sewage pump

Sump pumps are only designed for clear groundwater only. If you can’t avoid having solids coming into your pit, you may want to consider a sewage pump to avoid any trouble. It can handle up to 2” in diameter of solids without a problem.