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Sump Pump Kit: Keeping your basement dry (and your neighbour’s too)

flickr-magnolia-field-flooding-by-doc-searls-cc-by-2.0
(image credit: Magnolia Field Flooding by Doc Searls. Licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY 2.0)

It’s 2 am. Your neighbour bangs on the door. Their house is flooding, and their sump pump just broke. The hardware store is closed. Can you help?

..

If you live somewhere with a basement and water, you may use a pump to keep your basement dry. This kit contains everything needed to get water out of your house.

This kit may seem expensive, because you are buying a pump. But it’s cheaper than an emergency call to a plumber. And it’s cheaper than an insurance claim and a flooded basement.

A sump pump is a perfect example of something worth preparing in advance. When you need it, you *really* need it. And chances are – everyone else may too. Better to have a kit ready than to be part of the crowd, rushing to the out-of-stock hardware store during a flood.

How To Use It

Usually you want to send the water one of two places: into the storm drain system (in a city) or out onto the lawn or road. The farther away from the house, the better – at least 20 feet.

Note it is illegal in many areas to permanently connect your sump pump to the _sewer_ system (it should connect to the _storm drain_ system), including a floor drain. But in an emergency, if choosing between a floor drain and a flooded house – put the water wherever it needs to go. You can point the hose at the floor drain and remove water, if the hose is not long enough to reach outside of the house.

How To Store It

You have several ways to store this:

  1. One Bucket, stuff sticking out. If you use a standard hose kit, it is unlikely everything will fit into one bucket. If you’re not concerned about being neat and tidy, this is the cheapest, easiest way to do it. You could also measure the hose length to your floor drain and cut the hose to save space.
  2. Two Buckets, one for hose, one for pump. If you coil it nicely, 20 feet of 1-1/2″ hose will juuust fit inside a 5 gallon bucket. Put the pump and other items into a second bucket. This lets you put lids on top, to keep it all together. You must carry two buckets around.
  3. One Bucket, smaller hose. If you buy an adapter, you can use a marine hose (strong garden hose) instead of a regular hose. This lets you fit everything in one bucket. The marine hose may be longer, but have a smaller diameter, so it will move water more slowly.

Can I Really Use A Garden Hose?

You should *not* use a garden hose for a permanent setup. But in an emergency a hose will move water. It’s an option.

I spent twenty hours of research and one hour of testing creating this kit. I found a dozen people online and one person in my real-world prepping circle who have used (real life) or claimed to have used (online) a pump with an adapter and garden hose. I called three pump manufacturers and two plumbers to ask about pumps, PSI, and setup. All of them recommended *NOT* using a garden hose as your permanent pump setup.

A garden hose or marine hose has a smaller diameter, so it will move the water more slowly.
Your first bet should be the main discharge hose that is sized for your pump.
But if you want to buy a $15 adapter, you can.

References

Related Threads

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  • Comments (12)

    • 4

      Excellent article, Brownfox. I’m new to site-built home ownership (vs. condo or apartment or mobile home living). There’s been a lot to learn. In early spring when the ground was still frozen, water came into part of the basement. I used a shop vacuum and emptied it into a floor drain that reaches the sewer system.

      You said that’s maybe OK in a pinch but many municipalities prohibit it and want people to drain water to the gutter in the street so it reaches the storm sewer system. Why is that? Are municipalities concerned that the sanitary sewer system will receive so much water that it can’t handle it? Thanks!

      • 2

        > Why do many municipalities prohibit [sump pumps going to the floor drain]?
        > [is it because] the sanitary sewer system will receive so much water that it can’t handle it?

        Hello, thank you for the kind words. Yes, precisely as you say – many cities try to separate storm water and waste water to try and avoid too much water entering at once, which can cause the whole system to overflow.
        When this happens you get combined storm water with untreated sewage and other materials flowing back or out where they shouldn’t. It’s not healthy.

        Some places call this “CSO” for “Combined Sewage Overflow”

        Some potential references:

        Your strategy of using a shop vac and getting rid of the water seems sound. Do you also have a sump pit in your basement? (i.e. a hole dug deeper than the basement floor level)

      • 4

        Brownfox, thank you for the CSO (combined sewage overflow) references. My shop vacuum process for moving water that infiltrated the basement when the ground was frozen last spring didn’t actually do the right thing from a CSO perspective. I just moved water from one low spot in the basement to a different low spot where the floor drain connects to the sanitary sewer. 

        I don’t have a sump pit, just two long, narrow, shallow probable French drains cut into the cement on the basement floor. The house was built in a hurry around World War II to house shipyard workers. The homeowner and friends put on an addition decades later, mostly over lumpy bedrock (or at least over rock and dirt, now covered with black plastic). 

        I’m waiting for contractor availability to do other work reinforcing floor joists (I think that’s how to describe it), which will hopefully happen in fall. I am working with a structural engineer. I may ask him if there’s something I should do regarding a sump pit. Thanks again.

    • 3

      $172 for this kit is so much cheaper than the after effects and damage that water can cause. Very nice summary showing the benefits of this kit.

      How do you safely power a pump like this without the power cable getting into the water?

       I don’t know anything about electricity or home wiring, so could a possible safety measure be to upgrade your wall outlets in the basement where electricity and water might meet with a protected GFCI outlet like is in your bathroom?

      • 3

        >Could a possible safety measure be to upgrade [to] a protected GFCI outlet like is in your bathroom?

        Excellent question. I believe asking about GFCI is a common next step.
        The proponents of GFCI claim that it is safer and you can avoid electrocution.
        The proponents of regular outlets on sump pumps claim that GFCIs can cause the pump to accidentally trip and turn off, so the pump won’t have power and won’t actually pump when you need it.

        I am not an electrician, so my official advice would be: talk to an electrician that knows the electrical code for your area.
        I spoke to to a master electrician about GFCI for sump pumps and their answer was “No” – “I would not put your sump pump on a GFCI. They are prone to nuisance tripping”.

        YMMV. Our house is not on GFCI, and after speaking with the electrician I intend to leave it that way.

        >How do you safely power a pump like this without the power cable getting into the water?

        You are correct to note that you want to keep the live end of the power cable out of the water.
        I would hope that manufacturers of submersible pumps have designed and build the pump correctly to be able to handle this – the pump itself (and one end of the power cable) are built to be submerged.
        If you have so much water in your basement that it gets up to the level of the electrical outlets – you likely have a bigger problem on your hands and would need a bigger pump or other tools.

      • 3

        Thank you for that information. I would have thought the correct course of action would be to plug it into a GFCI, but if there is accidental and unnecessary tripping, that could mean your basement would flood even though you have the right tools to prevent it.Glad I know now.

    • 4

      Brownfox-ff,

      Great article.

      I used to live in eastern Pennsylvania and needed this setup on very short notice.

      Believe it or not, Eastern Pennsylvania gets lots of damage from hurricanes. Not the winds, the rain. Eastern Pennsylvania is very hilly and lots of rain turns into terrible flooding.

      About 20 years ago my wife and I woke up at 4am in September to pounding rain – we thought the roof would give in. The remnant of some hurricane dumped 8 inches of rain on top of our mountain in 2 hours. Lots of roads washed out.

      More to the point, my drain field backed up into my unfinished basement through the lowest outlet – and that was the washing machine. We had 3″ of #1 and #2 in the house.

      I sent my wife and kids to our friends house for 3 days while I put on my industrial mask and cleaned it out.

      My neighbor’s sump pump failed and he lost almost everything in his finished basement.

      Some lessons: his sump pump failed because it was running constantly and it simply burned up. It burned up because it overheated in the ambient temperature. My pump kept going because it was submersible and stayed cool in the colder water.

      Sump pumps

      Second lesson is to have a plan ahead of time to discharge your pump. I couldn’t discharge into my yard from my basement because that ground was waterlogged and it would have come right back into the basement. It would have been a continual loop. I needed 60′ of discharge hose to get it away from my house and out to the road on a down slope.

      A garden hose would not move the water quickly and would have caused the sump basin to overflow onto my newly cleaned floor. My sump pump was plumbed with 2″ PVC out to my yard. I had an adapter and 75′ of 1.5″ low pressure discharge hose and the problem was solved.

      Right now, 25′ of 1.5″ discharge hose is less than $20 at Lowes/Home Depot/Menards.

      You need the barbs and clamps too.

      hose barb

      SAFETY: water is a big problem but sewage in your home will give off deadly gas and kill. I addressed this by opening the ‘barn doors’ to my basement, running several large fans OUT of the basement and using an industrial respirator. I wore my painting Tyvec and heavy rubber boots and gloves but it was still a disgusting task.

      My sump pump sits in a big plastic bucket, basically. The bucket has large (3″ diameter) holes in it to allow the water into the bucket. Silt and mud can come into the bucket and clog your pump. To fix this, I wrapped nylon screening around the bucket to filter that out. Secure it with small diameter wiring and replace it every few years as needed.

      If you lose power and you don’t have a generator…

      • 2

        Thank you for sharing your story. That is fascinating if the submersible pump stayed cooler due to being in the water itself! That makes sense, but is useful to see it verified.

        Amazing setup with the 1.5″ discharge hose and bucket filter. Great idea. What made you think of adding a filter like that?
        I agree that a garden hose would likely not move the water quickly enough. I will look into this type of discharge hose. Thank you.

        Did your pump have any difficulty moving the water an additional 60 feet?

        Congrats on having a clean basement. I hope you never have to clean it like that again.

      • 4

        Submersible pumps are encased in machine oil. Most water that runs into the sump pump basin comes in from the soil around the house and is cooler – often in the 60’s – so it keeps the pump cool and prevents overheating.

        I saw mud and silt in the bottom of the sump bucket and the idea to use nylon window screening just popped into my head. I thought about it and realized I could attach it tightly with twisted wire (or a long heavy zip tie) and replace it if it got clogged with mud. It worked nicely and does not impede water flow.

        Any difficulty pumping water is related directly to the ‘lift’ – the vertical height the pump has to lift the water to get it to move horizontally away from your house. My lift was 6′. All pumps will advertise their lift capacity. The horizontal distance I pumped it – 60-75′ puts almost no stress on the pump itself and should not be a consideration for sizing the pump. It is very important to match the discharge hose diameter to the size of the pumps’ discharge nub. Anything tighter will put additional pressure on the pump and restrict flow speed.

        Cleaning that basement was disgusting and I couldn’t get the smell out of my nose for a week. The smell was not just the refuse either. I had to scrub the floor and spray the stone walls with bleach to be sure it was entirely clean.

    • 2

      Surprised to see you deleted my lengthy post about how to prevent flooding in the first place, even though I wasn’t arguing against the original post.

      Disappointing.

      Now tacitly recommend against using GFCIs. They are in fact lifesavers and are required by the national electrical code in basements and crawl spaces (NEC 2020, Sec. 201.8(A)).

      I’ll save you the trouble of deleting my posts in the future and go elsewhere.

      • 3

        Hey Pops, I talked it over with the other moderator of this site and neither of us have deleted any posts that you have made. I looked through things on the back end and don’t see any deleted posts either. 

        Sorry that you took the time to write up a lengthy post about how to prevent floodling, that is very critical and important to avoid the issue in the first place, I bet it was a good post. But it seems like you might not have clicked that submit button because I don’t see any record of it.

      • 3

        Hi Pops, if you’re willing to re-type or re-post your message, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    • 2

      Thanks so much for this. We’re moving back to the house we own in the fall. Drainage is a major issue there and we don’t have sumps under the house or even a proper crawlspace, so it would be very hard to install one where we actually want it (also, the foundation is really weirdly shaped due to a really stupid addition on the house, making things even more complicated). So, along with several other repairs, we jury-rigged a sump in a pit next to the house that was left over from a water line repair before we bought the place, but plan to revisit that setup and install at least one more before this winter. We definitely have a garden hose hooked up to the sump (which we bought at one of those Habitat For Humanity Re-Stores on the cheap), so clearly we have room to improve. (If you’re getting the impression that the house is a fixer… accurate.)

      On the bright side, we replaced the roof in 2019 and upgraded the roof drainage (gutters and downspouts) relative to what we have before. Then we ran tubing from the downspouts to the part of the yard that actually drains well, and cut a wider drain in the cement in front of the garage. The tenants haven’t reported the kinds of problems we had in Winter 2018-2019 while we’ve been gone. After three years in the PNW worrying about a subduction zone earthquake that could kill all utilities for months, I feel like we are going to be a bit overprepped for our specific location within California, but the area where we will have work to do is drainage improvements and flood prevention.

      Fortunately, we’re not in a flood hazard zone per se— i.e., no flood risk per FEMA, not in a floodplain, etc., but I don’t really trust those given the pace of climate change. A warmer atmosphere means more precip gets stored in the sky/clouds and more intense rainfall, so mere drainage problems in the neighborhood are worrisome even if there isn’t a lake, lagoon, or river nearby to back up into our neighborhood (and the nearest streams are both a safe distance away and natural, with vegetated buffers and lots of space for infiltration). We had one storm in 2018-2019 where it looked like the tropics, it was coming down so intensely. The thing that really freaked us out, though, was when the neighborhood playground was rebuilt: We walked over there with the dog each evening to see the construction and the drainage system they put in beneath it was the most intense such thing I’ve ever seen, by a significant margin. The pipes were so enormous that my husband and I could have gotten in side-by-side, easily. What does it say that local gov thought this was necessary for a playground??

      When we move back, my husband and I will be spending time with your post and all the detailed replies on this page. Hope the TP community keeps the latter coming!