Sump pumps have recently become mandatory for new builds in many municipalities. But what exactly are they?

Water that collects around your home’s foundation, or under it, can seep into the concrete and freeze, causing cracks, or penetrate and cause flooding. A sump system includes a pit in the corner of your basement that collects water from under and around your foundation, usually from the weeping tiles that surround the foundation. When the water in the pit reaches a certain level, it is pumped out and away from your home.

Generally, two kinds of pumps are used for this. A pedestal pump is like a pump on a stick. It is placed in the pit and is easily moved. A submerged pump sits under the level of the water in the pit. They tend to last a bit longer and be more powerful than the pedestal variety. If your area is prone to flooding and electrical outages, you may also want a backup system to prevent the sump pit from overflowing in a blackout.

Years ago, water from laundry machines was often connected to the sump pump system. Today, this practice is against building and municipal codes almost everywhere as ‘grey water’ isn’t sanitary and should be treated before being introduced to the environment. Some homes may still have sanitary lines connected to their sump system. These should be disconnected and run through the home’s regular sanitary system pipes. Often, municipalities offer financial incentives to have this done, so it’s worth checking with your local building office if you have an older home with this issue.

Sump pumps need little maintenance. Ensure the cover is sealed and keep debris out of the pit. Check your owner’s manual for warranties on the pump and any regular service requirements.