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Sump Pump Basics: Protect Your Home from ineffective rain gutters and downspouts

The remnants of Tropical Storm Karen have been drenching Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC.  We went from a rainfall deficit to plenty of rain this week.  While it continues to fall, you may have areas of standing water on your property or water overflowing your rain gutters. And if you have a basement or crawl space, you can bet there’s water finding its way down there too, causing your sump pump to work overtime.


Sump pumps collect water that enters your basement or crawlspace and drains it out of the house.  Your drainage system can be set up in various ways to drain the water.  Many set ups pipe the water out of the home and into the yard or a drainage ditch.  You can also divert the water to a collection system to be used to water your lawn and garden areas.

You can potentially reduce the amount of water entering your basement by looking at the outside of your home.  Be sure that rain gutters and downspouts properly drain away from your home’s foundation.  Clean gutters will prevent water from overflowing and potentially entering your basement through the foundation.  If you have large trees close to your home, monitor the condition of your foundation since tree roots can cause cracks in the foundation.

There are two types of sump pump set ups a home may have depending on the source of the water entering your basement.  Surface water entering a basement or crawlspace usually requires a concrete or plastic pit containing the sump pump.  Water that enters from underground seepage requires a plastic pit liner with collection ports.

Be sure to regularly inspect and maintain your sump pump system.  Every few months, pour a bucket of water into the sump pit, make sure the float rises, and the sump begins pumping water.   Your sump pump should have an inlet screen that should be cleaned out.  Be sure that the power cord is in good condition with no damage or cracks in the cord or plug.

If your area tends to lose power during storms, you know that your sump pump won’t operate without electricity.  You might consider installing a battery powered sump pump backup system.  Many are nearly as powerful as your main electric sump pump.  It’s also good to have a backup in the event that your primary sump pump stops working or to help in the event of a lot of water entering in a short amount of time.  Most battery backup systems automatically switch on when the power goes out and run for about 10 hours of pump time.

Keeping your basement or crawlspace dry is important.  Making sure that rainwater drains away from your home, performing regular maintenance on your sump pump, and installing a battery backup pump to protect you during a power outage can help ensure that your basement doesn’t flood.