Signs That Tell You to Repair or Replace Your Sump Pump

large puddle - signs you need to repair or replace your sump pump

A sump pump is installed in a basement to keep water away from the foundation and basement walls and floors. The pump sits in a pit in your basement or crawlspace. That sump pit collects water that’s draining through the ground surrounding the home (excess rainwater or water that’s rising from a high water table, for example). When water reaches a certain level in the sump pit, the pump moves it outside, through a discharge pipe and away from your home.

Sometimes, however, a pump doesn’t work as it should, and you might wonder whether to repair or replace it. Sump pumps aren’t inexpensive, so this can be a major purchasing decision. To help you make that decision, you should know about some signs that indicate that you need to repair or replace the old pump with a new one.

Signs You Need to Repair or Replace the Sump Pump

Running All the Time

This is probably the most obvious sign of a problem with the pump. If your pump seems to be running constantly, it might be due to a problem with the switch. Sump pumps use a float device that, when water rises to a given level, will trip the switch to turn the pump on.

If the float becomes wedged between the pump and the pit wall, or if the cord becomes tangled or loses its power connection, the pump could end up running non-stop. These can be simple repairs, although if there doesn’t seem to be a reason for the pump to be running, the pump might be undersized and it might need replacing.

Rusty, Slimy Substance

Do you notice the brown color in your sump pump? It might not be rust. It could be an organism called “iron bacteria” that feeds on iron in the water and can turn into a gel substance over time if their colonies get big enough. While this bacteria doesn’t pose any health concerns for human beings, the main issue is that the gel substance can clog the plumbing if it’s left to grow unchecked.

Strange Noises

Often when the sump pump isn’t running effectively, it will make strange noises. If you hear a rattling sound, it might be because your impeller is jammed, or otherwise damaged. You should call a plumber or find a foundation repair company with expertise in repairing sump pumps right away. They will examine your pump and tell you whether there’s a simple fix or whether you will have to spend the money on pump replacement. 

When your sump pump is old, its running parts can become damaged or worn over time from pumping out debris. Whether the impeller is affected, it can imbalance the unit and create further problems, so you need professional help to fix the issue.

Excessive Vibration

Since sump pumps also catch debris and dirt alongside collecting water, over time, this moving debris can bend the impeller or damage it. Once the impeller becomes imbalanced, pressure increases on the shaft, and it can either break down or move out of alignment. Either way, this weakens the pump’s ability to deal with future water issues. Since the impeller can’t be bent back, this is an instance where you might want to consider hiring a professional to replace this pump.

Cycling On and Off

When a sump pump turns on and off frequently, even if this happens during a rainstorm, this is likely a sign that something is amiss with the float or the switch. This could be a simple repair job, but it’s good to have it checked out right away. Cycling is harder on the motor, and if this problem goes unchecked, it could lead to the motor burning out, which might then mean a replacement.

Advanced Sump Pump Features to Consider

flooding around house - signs you need to repair or replace your sump pump

A malfunctioning sump pump will increase the risk of water in your basement as it won’t discharge it out in the way it’s designed to. When purchasing a new or replacement pump, make sure to get two additional features that every advanced sump pump should have.

Battery Backup

During rainstorms, power outages happen. If your sump pump takes its power from the electrical system, it will shut down, and your assets could end up floating in a flooded basement. Setting up a battery backup system means getting peace of mind knowing that the sump pump will keep working no matter whether the power is out or not.


You can install an alarm that will give you an alert if the water in the sump pit is rising too high and the pump is failing to deal with it. This alarm will help you deal with the matter right away before you end up with a mess in your basement.

Feature image: Vlad Chețan; Image 1: MC Brooks

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