What to Do if Your Sump Pump Quits During a Storm

July 01, 2018

The whole reason to have a sump pump is to help ensure your basement doesn't flood. There's no time that your basement is likely to flood more than during a storm. During a storm is when you count on your sump pump more than ever to send water away from your basement and your home's foundation.

Most basements sit below the water table level, and especially during a storm, as groundwater levels rise, the water is diverted to the sump pit, where a float activates a switch when it rises above a certain level.

There are many reasons your sump pump might fail. For example, without a battery backup, during a storm there might be a power failure, or your sump pump is the wrong size and can't keep up. Perhaps it was improperly installed, or a lack of maintenance allows debris to clog vents and air holes, or the float switch becomes shifted and doesn't operate effectively.

Ways to handle sump pump failure

When the pump stops working, you need to start working. With a dormant pump, there's going to be water coming into the basement. If the amount of water is manageable, you can mop it up, deposit it to a bucket, and dump at least 20 feet away from the house. The faster you remove the excess water, the better. The longer water stands in your basement, the more damage it's going to cause, providing an optimal environment for mold and mildew to stain walls, and damage furnishings, creating a musty odor.

If you have a wet/dry vacuum, this will save on the elbow grease. A 5 to 10 gallon wet/dry vacuum is a good size to help take care of this task.

Power outage pumping - If you have a wet/dry vacuum, a power outage will render it useless. You can remove the water using a hand pump instead. Put the hand pump into the sump pump hole, then attach a garden hose to the threaded discharge end of the hand pump. Run the hose outside the nearest window and drain the water outside. If your hose doesn't reach 20 feet, you'll need to let it drain into buckets and then carry it out.

When the flooding is more serious

In the case of serious flooding you might require a trash-water pump, a portable powerhouse that can pump large amounts of water that also contains soft solids (e.g. mud, organic debris, sand, sludge). This type of pump is gas-fueled and can remove thousands of gallons of water per hour.

You may not own any of this equipment - but here again you have a couple of options.

  1. You can hire water removal specialists to pump the water out of your house. Be warned, however, that if there was widespread flooding in your area, they may not be able to get to you for several days.
  2. You can rent the equipment you need from hardware or construction rental stores. Again, there may be a rush on the demand for these items, so keep looking until you find available equipment because it's imperative to get that water out as soon as possible.

While it's important to get water out as soon as possible, if flooding leaves water standing in your yard around the house foundation, you won't be able to pump effectively until it recedes.

Drying out

Even after you get all the water and moisture removed from your basement, experts recommend replacing any drywall and carpeting to avoid mold growth. Your local health department can provide tips on reducing the risk of mold.

Make your sump pump a priority

Having an adequately-sized sump pump, properly installed with a battery or gas generator backup is your best bet in most situations. Consult a trusted local plumber to advise you on the right equipment for your needs and help make sure it's maintained and ready for when you need it.

Last Updated: July 06, 2023