What Is a Sump Pit?

A flooded basement or crawl space can be a nightmare. The cleanup alone can cost the average homeowner between $500 and $1500! You may have heard from a plumber that installing a sump pump could prevent flooding and excess moisture in your basement or crawl space, but that you would also need to install a sump pit. What is a sump pit?

What is a sump pit? Read on for the answer!

Sump Pit

A sump pit is essentially a hole filled with a gravel base that is dug into your crawl space or basement, often lined with a vertical pipe, where you are likely to get a lot of water runoff, usually in the lowest part of your house.

Want to know more about sump pits? Keep scrolling for more information!

What Is a Sump Pit Tank?

While “sump pit tank,” “sump tank,” or “sump basin” is often just used interchangeably with “sump pit,” this may refer specifically to a container or pit liner that contains the sump pump and collects the runoff water instead of just the hole in the floor.

Often, something like a 5-gallon bucket is used as a sump pump pit liner. A pit liner like this should contain holes that allow the water to enter it, but the holes should not be so big that they let gravel or other debris to get into it, too, as this can clog the sump pump.

Related: Types of sump pump float switches

What Is the Difference Between a Sump Pump and a Sump Pit?

In short, a sump pump sits in a sump pit. A sump pump is placed into the pit to pump this runoff water out and away from your basement or crawl space. A check valve is connected at one end of the pump to prevent water from flowing back into the sump pit.

fecal submersible drainage pump blue

There are two kinds of sump pumps, submersible pumps, and pedestal pumps, and each has slightly different requirements for its sump pits.

Submersible pumps are placed below the water in your sump pit. This means that you will need to contain it in a deep pit.

Pedestal pumps have their motors above the water. Therefore, they are appropriate when you have a shallower sump pit.

How Do You Install a Sump Pit?

To give you a better idea about sump pits, here is an overview of how you would go about installing one.

Step 1: Gather Supplies

  • Electric jackhammer with a flat spade bit
  • Sump basin
  • Hearing protection
  • Particle mask
  • Shovel
  • Trowel

Step 2: Break Through Ground

Put your sump basin upside down on the floor and draw a circle around it, about 4-6 inches around the outside. To avoid the foundation footing, make sure the circle is at least 10 inches away from the walls. Put on protective gear and use the jackhammer to trace along the circle and break through the slab.

Step 3: Dig Hole and Place Basin

The top of your basin needs to be at the same level as the crawl space or basement floor surface. Put the basin in there and fill any gaps around it with gravel.

Step 4: Add More Gravel and Fill Hole

Put in more gravel to level about 1 inch above the bottom of the floor, and then fill the rest of the excavation with concrete. Use the trowel to smooth the surface of the concrete, and allow 24 hours for it to set.

How Does Water Get into Sump Pit?

Natural Movement

If your crawl space or basement sits below the water table, runoff groundwater will likely seep into your house foundation and settle there in the lowest part of your house. This is why installing your sump pit in the lowest, wettest part of your basement or crawlspace is ideal.

Drain Tile

Drain tile refers to a system of perforated pipes that are installed underground to collect water from around your home’s foundation and prevent it from entering your basement or crawlspace. These plastic PVC pipes or flexible plastic pipes guide the water into the sump pit.

It is typically a better idea to have these drainage pipes installed instead of just relying on the natural movement of water because then you do not have to worry about water getting anywhere but directly into the sump pit.

Does a Sump Pump Have to Have a Pit?

If you really want it to do its job properly, then yes, a sump pump typically needs to have a pit. Sump pumps are only turned on when the accumulated water level around them is high enough, which is indicated by a float switch or valve. The float switch automatically turns the sump pump on when the water is at a certain level, and then the water is pumped out of the pit and into drainage pipes.

If you do not have a pit that is collecting the water, the sump pump will not turn on until the whole basement or crawl space has a water level that is high enough to move the float arm. Having this whole area covered in water to activate the float arm kind of defeats the purpose of having a sump pump!

Do Sump Pumps Need Maintenance?

Since sump pumps may go for long periods of time without use, it is a good idea to get in there and make sure everything is still working properly. Try and do a surface clean every 3-4 months and a deep clean of the pump and pit at least once a year. Also, if you have a battery backup in case your power goes out in a storm (a good idea), make sure it is charged and replace it if necessary.

Is It Normal to Have Water in Sump Pit?

rusty pump

Yes, it is. Since the sump pump is only activated when the water reaches a high enough level in the sump pit to activate the float arm, it is normal to have at least a little bit of water in there.

On the other hand, if your sump pit is always full of water and the sump pump continuously runs, you may have a problem. This would indicate that water is constantly flowing into your pit or your pump is not working properly.

How High Should Water Get in Sump Pit?

Generally, the water in your sump pit should not get any higher than 2-3 inches.

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