What is a Sump Pit? | How does a Sump Pit work?

A sump pit is used in most houses and industrial sites to collect water to be pumped out to a distant location. It helps in the maintenance of your house and keeps the property safe from any water damage. But there are various misconceptions among people about this drainage system. So, here is a detailed description of the sump basins and how to use them as an effective water removal technique.

Sump pit

What is a Sump Pit?

A sump pit, also known as a sump basin, is a hollow construction that collects underground water seepage for the sump pump to remove it to the desired discharge point. The vertical standpipe in the center catches the water filtered into the pit. The sump pump inside this basin pumps out the water to prevent it from overflowing. Usually, the sump pumps are installed in these sump pits located in the basement. It is the ideal location that can collect the maximum amount of water and prevent the basement from flooding.

During heavy rain, storms, or other extreme weather conditions, or if the level of groundwater rises unexpectedly, water may flow into the basement and cause damage. Water flooding in the basement causes property damage and even encourages mold growth which leads to various health issues. So, removing the excess water systematically from the basement improves the quality of your house.

How Does a Sump Pit Work?

The sump pump pit is a hole that absorbs water from the surrounding ground. The most common method of sump pits is drain tiling. In this, the tiles with holes are installed horizontally below the basement. The discharge is facilitated by the specific angle at which these tiles are installed. These tiles are usually installed around the construction of the house so that water will collect at the required place. The water-saving capacity of a pit is different from one another. As the water level inside the sump basin rises, the float switch activates the sump pump to start removing water.

The Design of a Sump Pit

The design considerations of a sump basin include withdrawing water from the standpipe and draining it to a suitable spot. You can discharge the water to a sedimentation trap or a sedimentation tank. You should fix a filter cloth around the standpipe to ensure clean drainage if your sump pump sends the water directly to the drainage system. Wrap the cloth around the filter and then wrap another mesh hardware cable of 0.25 – 0.51 inches around the standpipe. This increases the speed of water entering the standpipe. The sump basin needs to have a layer of gravel with a thickness of a few inches. The sump pump sits on this layer of gravel. But these pebbles should not be too small cause they may get carried into the pump with water and clog the pump.

Common Misconceptions About Sump Pump Pits

Just like about most other equipment, people have certain misconceptions about sump pump basins too. So, you need to be aware of these wrong ideas to make the best out of the sump pump system. Here are some of the common ideas that misguide you. 

Sump Pits Take a Lot of Room

Of course, the room in the basement is always important to homeowners. But installing a sump basin does not take a lot of room. Sump pump systems are compact and are located under the basement floor if you are using a submersible pump. So, they do not consume any space from your basement. The pedestal sump pumps could consume a little more space as it has a standalone motor that is above the basement floor. However, in general, the sump pumps are not bulky structures that shrink the useful space in your basement.

Sump Pits Are Complicated

Sump pits are very simple if you understand how the sump pump system works. It consists of two primary parts; the sump pump and the pit. The whole process is a simple water removal mechanism involving a pump. The discharge line takes away the water from the pit to the desired location away from the house. There are other water-removing methods, such as French drains, gutters, and catch basins. The only difference in a sump pump is that it removes water actively by pumping it out.

Sump Pumps Don’t Need a Sump Pit.

This is another common misconception that disguises homeowners. Sump pumps need a sump basin or pit to collect groundwater that seeps in through the basement. This is one of the best ways in which you can protect your house. Having a pit for the sump pump eliminates the risk of flooding in homes with basements. Get your sump pump and pit installed by a professional expert to make sure that it works perfectly.

Sump Pits Could Fail Easily

A sump pit drainage system is not prone to failure so easily. They may fail due to certain reasons such as power outages, product defects, or float switch stuck with debris. Improper installation, wrong pit size, and frozen or clogged discharge lines may also lead to sump pump failure. Most of the time, lack of maintenance is the reason behind a non-functional sump pump.

Why Should You Maintain the Sump Pit?

Different types of pits are used around different locations to collect spills and hazardous waste. Having a pit for collecting groundwater seepage is similar to this. Maintaining this pit under ideal conditions is important to ensure that the sump pump removes water from the basement. Different organic matter, oil, and sediments could block the pit over time. So, remove any dry leaves and foreign matter that may fall into the pit. Inspect the sump basin after heavy storms and remove anything blocking the process.

If there are any clogs due to debris or algae growing inside, it may block the water from entering the pit. So, the water removal is obstructed, and this will cause various other issues. Clean the pit regularly by flushing the pit to remove unnecessary silt and debris accumulations. Also, follow scheduled maintenance routines to clean the sump pump. Inspecting the sump basin regularly and cleaning it helps reduce the overall tasks that need to be done during annual maintenance. 

How to Clean Sump Pump Pit?

To start the cleaning process, you should first disconnect the sump pump from power. You can either pull out the plug from the power socket or turn off the designated circuit breaker. It is hazardous to clean the pit without disconnecting it from power. Make sure to wear necessary safety equipment, including gloves, boots, and eyewear to prevent injuries.

  1. The first step is to disconnect the power supply of the sump pump and unplug it from the power outlet. Then disconnect the drain pipe and remove it from the sump pump.
  2. Remove the sump pump from the pit and place it outside. Wrap the bottom of the pump in a plastic sheet so that you don’t need to clean it again. Then keep it in a suitable location so that you can access all parts around it for easy cleaning.
  3. Once you clean the sump pump, drain the check valve by using a bucket to collect any spills as you remove the valve water.
  4. Clean the sump basin and use a vacuum to remove any water remaining at the bottom of the pit. Remove any residues in the pit along with this and make sure the pit is clean.
  5. Finally, you can place the pump back in the pit and reconnect the drainage lines and electrical connections. Turn on the power and test your sump pump to confirm that it’s working properly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Does a Sump Pit Drain to?

The sump pump should remove the water from the pit to a suitable discharge point which is at least 20 feet away from the house. This is to ensure that it doesn’t add to the groundwater and seep back into the basement. Make sure to discharge it toward a downward slope so that water doesn’t pool around the foundation of your home.

What is the Purpose of a Sump Pit?

The sump basin or pit is used to collect excess water that seeps in so that it can be pumped out to a distant spot. The sump pit in basement is usually located on the floor, at the lowest position. It is easy to collect water since water flows naturally to the lowest spot in the area.

Can I Discharge My Sump Pump Into the Street?

You should not drain your sump pump into the street unless there is a flooding emergency. Usually, there are various restrictions on draining your sump pump to the local storm system. You should contact the local authorities of your region and clarify the regulations before installing the sump pump system. This is to make sure that the rainwater from households does not degrade the structural quality of the roads, pavements, and sidewalks. So, always abide by the law and you may even be charged if you violate any legal requirements.


As you are aware of the structural construction and maintenance of a sump pump system, you can use the knowledge to improve your basement. Contact a professional sump pump installer to get your sump pump installed. Here’s a guide on the sump pump installation costs so that you can have an estimation of your budget.