How to Install a Sump Pump

If you have a wet basement, installing a sump pump can have significant payoffs. Not only will it help control basement moisture and protect your home and foundation, but it will also add to your peace of mind.

By Theresa Clement and Joe Provey and Bob Vila | Updated Sep 28, 2021 1:46 PM

sump pump installation

Photo: homedepot.com

In an ideal world, there’d be no basement flooding. But in reality, despite our best efforts to address the underlying issue, basement moisture remains a sometimes expensive and always exasperating difficulty for many homeowners.

In one way of looking at it, by installing a sump pump you may be treating the symptom and not the disease—the source of the moisture. But in the absence of superior inexpensive options, sump pump installation is an effective stopgap.

Bear in mind that sump pump technology doesn’t do anything complicated: Essentially, it collects floodwater and then pumps it away to the outdoors, where it can rain safely into the ground. Although—or perhaps because—a sump pump operates so simply, installing one can make a world of difference. Read on to learn how to DIY a sump pump installation in your basement.

sump pump installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

Tips for a Smooth Sump Pump Installation

If “install sump pump” is on your DIY to-do list, it will be much easier if you take the time to gather all the necessary materials, read all the instructions, and then set aside enough time to complete the sump pump project. For experienced DIYers who have already gathered all the supplies, it may take only 1 day to complete the project. It will take additional time for the concrete to fully cure, so it’s best to check the weather forecast to make sure you have a string of clear days ahead.

While a sump pump installation is most effective before the rainy season hits your area, it’s always best to install it on a clear day when there hasn’t been any recent flooding. It will be easier to dig the hole and set the pump if the ground is relatively dry.

When installing a sump pump, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure the pump is unplugged while installing it.
  • Don’t use the discharge hose as a handle, because it may break.
  • Prepare the hole properly to prevent dirt from clogging it.

Installing a Sump Pump in the Basement 

sump pump installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 1: Select a location and prepare the site. 

Identify the lowest point in your basement; the area where you usually first notice moisture accumulation. Here, dig a hole wide and deep enough to accommodate the sump pump (the top edge of which should ultimately sit flush with floor level).

Of course, when your basement floor is concrete, digging a hole is more easily said than done. To break through concrete, you need to use either a sledgehammer or jackhammer. After penetrating the masonry, continue digging until the cavity can fit the pump basin.

STEP 2: Prevent possible clogs and place the sump pump in the hole.

The most effective sump pumps typically feature weep holes, which allow water to enter from the sides and from beneath. If yours doesn’t have these important perforations, take the time to drill them yourself. Next, wrap a layer of filter fabric around the basin exterior to prevent silt and sludge from clogging the basin.

Add 2 or 3 inches of gravel to the bottom of the hole you created, then place a paver or fieldstone over those pebbles in order to establish a stable platform. Now place the sump pump into the hole, backfilling around its perimeter with excavated dirt. At this point, the unit shouldn’t wobble even if you gently jostle it.

sump pump installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Test the sump pump’s float valve.

For the sump pump to do its job, its float valve must be able to move freely up and down. When the water level rises, so too does the float—and when it does, the pump turns on. It’s crucial to test the float valve before going any further. Move it up and down with your hand to make sure there’s nothing obstructing it.

sump pump installation

Photo: homedepot.com

STEP 4: Run a hose or pipe from the home’s exterior to the valve.

Of equal importance is the check valve, which channels water away from (never back into) the sump. Between the valve and the home exterior, run either a flexible discharge hose or a span of PVC pipe (with glued joints and, if necessary, elbows).

Where the output meets the basement wall, make a hole big enough for the hose or pipe to fit through. To do so, use a drill/driver fitted with a hole-saw bit. Once you’ve run the pipe through the hole, caulk around it to fill any gaps, large or small.

sump pump installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 5: Test the sump pump and inspect for leaks. 

Finally, plug in the pump and give it a test run. Fill the basin with water nearly to the top. The float should rise, the pump should turn on, and the water should pump out. Inspect the connections for leaks, and if all is in working order, place the lid over the basin.

sump pump installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 6: Cover the area around the sump pump with concrete.

The very last thing to do is cover the hole surrounding the pump. This typically involves concrete: Mix up a small batch of concrete mix to the consistency of peanut butter then spread it around to conceal all but the sump pump lid.

Finished! The next time a big storm comes your way, you can rest assured that you won’t have to run downstairs in a frenzy to rev up the wet/dry vac!

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