When you are as totally immersed in an industry like ours for as long as we have been, sometimes we forget just how something that seems easy for us can be very challenging for folks who are not exposed to these things on a daily basis.
The short answer is “No”.
A State licensed journeyman plumber would be able to tell in about the 2nd minute of a visit to the home if there is a sump pump, but it got us to thinking that maybe there are some clients out there who are interested in figuring this out for themselves.
Read our article on how to identify sump pumps & when to replace them if you haven’t seen one before.
So, without further ado, let’s see if we can cover every single way you’d be able to tell if you have a sump pump.
Where to check for a sump pump
If your house is built on a concrete slab (no basement) then odds are there is no sump pump. Sump pumps are designed to take water that surrounds your foundation and pump it outside before it can seep into your basement. So—no basement—no need for a sump pump.
A sump pump will usually be in a pre-formed pit made of fiberglass or clay (we’ve seen them in a plain hole in the floor too!). So when you do find the pump you will see a pit in the floor with a pipe coming out of it then exiting the home or going to the main sewer pipe.
In most areas it is not allowed (by codes) to attach the sump to the sewer line so it will usually discharge outside the house.
If you do have a basement or crawlspace, the easiest (but not only) way to see if you have a sump pump is to take a walk around the exterior of your home. Look for a pipe that’s at least 1-1/4” in diameter sticking through the wall and just hanging out in space.
If you find one, that may be a sump pump discharge line. These are usually (not always) directly above the location of your sump pump. If you find a suspected discharge pipe, you can go to the basement or crawlspace directly below the pipe to see if the pump is there.
Keep in mind that sometimes the discharge line is attached to the sewer or is buried outside and directed to a lower point on the property. So just because you don’t see it outside doesn’t mean it is not there.
Once in a very great while the sump pump is found in a pit outside the home. Usually that pit is pretty deep. The discharge pipe from the pit is usually buried and goes to a lower point on the property where it lets the water flow out of an open end. These pits will usually have a solid steel lid with no pipes sticking up.
What if you find the pit but it has two pipes coming out of it instead of just one?
That could indicate several differing scenarios. It could simply be that you have an extra pump (like a back-up pump designed to kick in if the first pump fails or if the power goes out).
Or it could mean that you have found an ejector or utility pump which is completely different from a sump pump.
We won’t get into a discussion of why the three pumps are different and what their functions are. That will be a topic for another article. Let’s just tell you the easiest ways to determine what you are looking at.
You might be seeing a utility pump. Utility pumps are exactly like sump pumps but they have sealed lids and the lid will have two pipe penetrations. One pipe is the pump discharge pipe and the other is a vent pipe.
The utility pump is designed to pump grey water wastes (without solids) like washing machine water and air conditioners condensate and humidifiers overflow.
That pit has to be sealed and vented because it carries sewage, and sewer gas is harmful to humans and pets. These 2 pipes will usually be 1-1/2 inches inside diameter.
If the pump has two pipes and is an ejector (sewage) pump, you can identify that by the sealed lid, 2 pipes penetrating the lid, discharge pipe attached to the main sewer and the pipes will be at least 2 inches inside diameter.
This type of pump will handle waste from toilets and is usually found in basements or crawlspaces. The pit receives the discharge from the basement bathroom including sinks, showers tubs and toilets. Again, the lid is always supposed to be sealed although we have run across many that are not.
The purpose of the sump pump is to collect rainwater which falls against and around the home, and discharge it to a place where it will do no damage to the foundation/footings of the home.
If the home is not protected in this way the ground under the footings could get soft from being soaked with rain water. If that occurs the foundation can settle resulting in cracked foundation walls, water seepage into the basement, and structural, ceiling and wall damage in the parts of the home which are sitting on the foundation.
As usual, if you aren’t sure if you have or need a sump pump and need a little help, call Yes! Plumbing today. We’re open 24/7. We’ll be happy to help out!