Why Does My Sump Pump Run Constantly?

A sump pump is a necessary piece of equipment that can protect against basement flooding. But, as with any household necessity, it can be finicky. If you’ve noticed your sump pump is running constantly, then you may have an issue with your hands. In this article, we help you identify why your sump pump is constantly running and tell you what you should do about it.

sump pump installed in a basement of a home

Unfortunately, your sump pump can be continuously running for several different reasons, depending on the conditions of your environment and the sump pump itself.

A continuously running sump pump usually indicates a problem with plumbing, but the specific problem can vary. Potential issues include stuck sump pump switches, a broken check valve, continuous flooding underneath your home, a sump pump that is too big or too small, and more. The important part is identifying your specific issue and rectifying it the right way. Below, we show you just how to do this.

Purpose of a Sump Pump

To understand why your sump pump won’t stop running, you need a basic understanding of the machine’s purpose and how it works.

A sump pump protects your basement (or the lowest part of your home) from flooding. A sump pump requires the installation of the pump itself and the construction of a sump pit that collects water for the sump pump. Water flows into the sump basin from drains in your house and from natural sources (ie. ground water through the soil).

This water pools and collects in the pit, and the sump pump pumps the water away from your home. It gets rid of the water before it rises to a high enough level to flood your basement, crawlspace, or cellar.

A sump pump can protect against flooding, mold, mildew, and a variety of other issues. But what if your sump pump won’t stop pumping?

Reasons Your Sump Pump is Running Non-Stop

Now that we understand how a sump pump system works, what should you do if your sump pump won’t stop running? It’s pretty easy to tell if your sump pump is running continuously, as you can hear it while standing near the sump pit. It’s a problem that needs to be addressed right away because the pump will eventually run out of juice and stop working altogether.

But before you can solve the problem with your sump pump system, you need to know what is causing it. Here’s a breakdown of the potential reasons this is happening:

Stuck Float Switches: This is the most likely reason your sump pump won’t stop. The float switch on your sump pump is triggered when the sump pump needs to pump away water. If this switch becomes jammed, it will stick in the on position, and your pump will run continuously. Unfortunately, this can be a problem within a problem, and the switch can stick for a few different reasons, including:

The sump pit becomes clogged up with dirt and debris, which eventually works its way onto the sump pump and clogs the switch. This type of clog naturally happens over time, but it’s especially likely if the sump pit has no sealed cover. It’s surprisingly common for a sump pit to have an open-air top, allowing dirt and debris to flow into the pit.

Your sump pump was poorly constructed and the switch became jammed over time.

Your sump pump was poorly constructed, and the switch became jammed over time.

The pump isn’t bringing water and debris far enough from your home, allowing it to flow right back and clog up the machine.

Whatever the case, if you think your sump pump switch is clogged, inspect the pump itself to see whether this is the issue (or have a professional do it for you). If the issue is a poorly constructed pump or a poorly constructed pit, the repair process might be more extensive.

sump pump in garden park

Size of the Pump/Pit: Your sump pump or sump pit may be improperly suited to the job. If your pump isn’t powerful enough to handle the water levels, it may need to run continuously just to get the job done. Alternatively, if your sump pit is too small, it may fill up too fast, causing the pump to run continuously. The solution to either problem is pretty extensive. You’ll require a more powerful sump pump, a larger pit, or both!

Leak or Natural Causes: It might also be the case that your sump pit is filling up faster than normal, which is caused by an issue with your home’s plumbing or with exterior water sources.

If it’s an issue with your plumbing, then there may be an underground leak. Some pipes beneath your house may have burst, causing water to flow into the pit continuously. This issue must be addressed by a professional immediately.

Water/Precipitation: Your area may simply receive too much precipitation/water for the size of your pit, causing the pit to fill up too frequently. In this case, you will likely have to expand the pit so it puts less pressure on the sump pump.

Valve Failure: The check valve prevents water from flowing backward into your sump pump, back into the sump pit. The sump pump has to pump water directly upward so that it can reach pipes that carry it to the outside of your home. The check valve is what prevents downward flow back into the pit. If this valve isn’t working, then the pump may be repeating its work over and over again.

If this is the issue, you’ll have to get your pump inspected, and the check valve will have to be repaired (or you need a new pump altogether).


As you can see, the issue might be complex, or it might be somewhat straightforward. Either way, you have to get this issue checked by a professional who can identify your problem and find the solution.

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