What is a Sump Pit & Should Your Basement Need One?

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If your home has a basement or crawl space, it might have – or need – a sump pump pit.

In this guide, we’ve shared everything you need to know about this essential part of a home’s drainage system.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • A sump pump pit is a container that’s installed below your home’s basement or crawl space, which is designed to collect water and remove it with a sump pump.
  • The main purpose of sump pumps and pits is to prevent excess water and flood damage.
  • It’s worth installing a sump pit and pump if your home has a history of flooding or is located in a low area, your local weather brings heavy snow or rain, or you have an existing sump pump that’s old and needs replacing.

🤔 What is a Sump Pit?

A sump pit, or sump basin, is a small, cylindrical or basin-like container, which is installed below ground level in basements or crawl spaces. Sump pits are constructed from durable materials like concrete, and collect excess groundwater, rainwater, or other liquids that may accumulate in the lowest part of your home.

A sump pit is equipped with a sump pump, a mechanical device that activates when the water level in the pit reaches a certain height. The pump expels the collected water away from your home to prevent flooding and water damage.

Sump pits are an essential component of many drainage systems, helping to protect homes from the worst-case scenario of basement flooding. Even if flooding is unlikely in your situation, a sump pit can also be helpful in generally protecting against moisture infiltration.

And according to the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy “a sump pit should have an airtight cover for indoor air quality reasons; if not covered, the sump can allow soil gases (including radon, water vapor, herbicides, termiticides, methane, etc.) into the home…” so its vital that ensure proper construction.

How a sump pit works

🔎 How Does a Sump Pit Work?

A sump pit works by collecting water and other liquids and is typically installed in conjunction with drain tiling.

Drain tiles are installed horizontally below the floor of your basement or crawl space. These porous pipes are designed to capture groundwater and direct it towards the sump pit.

As groundwater seeps into the soil, it flows into the drain tiles through their small openings or pores. Drain tiles slope downward, using gravity to channel the water toward the sump pit.

Once the water reaches the pit, the sump pump in the pit is activated, removing the water and discharging it away from the building. As a result, water is unable to accumulate around the foundation and in the basement or crawl space, reducing the risk of flooding and water damage.

Purpose of a sump pit

🚰 What’s the Purpose of a Sump Pit?

The purpose of a sump pit is to effectively manage and control excess groundwater or rainwater accumulation in the lowest areas of a building (usually basements or crawl spaces).

By storing and pumping collected water away from your home, a sump pit plays an important role in preventing potential flooding, water damage, and moisture-related problems.

Sump pits are particularly essential in regions prone to heavy rainfall, areas with high water tables, or in any situation where proper drainage is crucial, as they help to safeguard building foundations and their overall structural integrity.

🈁 Why are Sump Pumps and Sump Pumps Used Together?

It’s common to combine a sump pit and a sump pump for the most effective water management.

The sump pit serves as the initial collection point for the water, and the sump pump is activated when water rises to a certain level in the pit, sending the collected water out of the pit through a discharge pipe and away from the building.

Some sump pits have two pumps: a primary sump pump, which does the main legwork, and a secondary or backup sump pump, which provides a secondary layer of protection in case the primary pump fails or there’s a power outage.

Most professional plumbers recommend installing both a sump pit and a sump pump because they work in tandem to prevent flooding water damage, and moisture-related issues in your home.

A few homes have a sump pit but no sump pump installed, possibly to prepare for future pump installation, or perhaps due to budget constraints. However, a sump pump is essential for the system to be fully functional.

Sum pump and sump pit

⚖️ Pros and Cons of Sump Pits

Let’s take a quick look at the advantages and disadvantages of sump pumps and sump pits.

Sump Pit Pros

  • Protects your home from damage. The biggest benefit of a sump pump pit is that it’ll protect your home from water damage, helping to maintain its structural integrity and preventing associated rot, mold growth, and pests.
  • Increases property value. Having a functional sump pit and drainage system can enhance a home’s resale value. Sump pits assure potential buyers that your basement is dry, protected, and well-maintained.
  • Prevents flooding. The main purpose of sump pump pits is to prevent the outcome of a flooded basement during heavy storms. A sump pump system will prevent below-home flooding and the side effects of this damage.

Sump Pit Cons

  • They take up space. While some sump pump systems are pretty compact, you’ll still have to give up some of your basement floor space to install a sump pit.
  • They’re expensive. The average cost of a sump pump alone is around $500-$1,700, and that doesn’t include all the other components that sump pump systems consist of.
  • There’s a possibility of system failure. A sump pit might fail due to power outages, improper installation, clogged or frozen discharge lines, and a lack of proper maintenance. Thankfully, most of these issues are avoidable – but not impossible.

🔩 Should Your Basement Have a Sump Pit?

So, should you install a sump pit in your basement? A sump pit acts as a protective measure against flooding and water damage, but not all homes with a basement need sump pump systems.

The best way to determine whether or not you should install a sump pit in your basement floor is to check moisture levels in your basement after a period of rainfall.

A few other ways to determine the suitability of a sump pump pit for your basement are:

  • Consider your basement’s history of flooding. If your basement floods occasionally when it rains, you could benefit from installing a sump pump pit.
  • Consider your local weather. If you see a lot of heavy storms, including rain and snow, where you live, a sump basin is probably an important purchase for your home.
  • Learn about your home’s location. You might need a sump pump pit if your home is located in a low area.
  • Determine the suitability of existing sump pumps. You might already have a sump pump pit in your home, but if the sump pump is old, it might be time to replace it with a new one.

Still not sure? It’s worth contacting a professional plumber to inspect your basement or crawl space and help you determine whether or not a sump pump is required for your situation.

Plumber installing a sump pump

📑 Final Word

A sump basin is an essential feature of many homes, providing a comprehensive solution for managing groundwater and protecting the structural integrity of your property.

Again, if you’re not sure whether or not you need sump pump installation, arrange for a professional inspection of your basement, then decide on the next steps from there.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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