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What is a Sump Pump?

What is a Sump Pump?

A sump pump is generally a small pit (also called a crock or vault) that extends through the slab and into the ground below to provide a drainage place for excess water. Accumulated water can cause interior damage and encourage the growth of mold, mildew and fungus.Water management strategies that help remove excess water from the foundation often include the installation of a reservoir, called a sump, in the basement or crawlspace of the home.  Pumps should be maintained and equipped with all their necessary components in order to ensure their reliability.

New Construction
When building a home, the best way to protect the foundation from moisture issues is with proper site grading, the installation of gutters and downspouts, and the installation of an exterior footing drainpipe that drains to daylight, a dry well or a storm sewer. This will ensure that there is no excess water that could damage the foundation.

When renovating a house that has evidence of water issues, if it is not feasible to construct an exterior drainage system, a drainpipe can be installed along the interior footing that drains to a sump pump, which collects the water and sends it to the storm water, sewer, dry well, or other approved location. A sump pit is sometimes installed in the basement floor slab as a precaution. If there are future changes in groundwater levels, a pump can be installed in the sump pit.

Sealing the Sump Pit

The sump pit should be covered with a gas-tight lid. While sump pumps are very effective in removing water, if they are not covered and installed properly, they can create additional water management issues, as well as indoor air quality concerns for the house. Sumps usually have standing water. If the sump pit is open or has a loose-fitting lid, this water can evaporate into the air, raising the relative humidity inside the home, basement, and crawlspace. This can promote mold growth, which is a health concern, and can increase the moisture level of wood framing, inviting fungal decay and wood-eating pests.

Uncovered or improperly sealed sump pumps can also allow radon and other soil gases to enter the basement and crawlspace, and then mix with the air inside the home. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive, carcinogenic gas found in varying levels in the soil and air. In high-radon areas, if soil gases are allowed to enter the home, radon can accumulate inside the home at potentially toxic levels.

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JPR Home Inspections, LLC

Serving Greater Milwaukee


  • Waukesha
  • Sheboygan
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