What is a Sump Pit?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 February 2020
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A sump pit is a hole that is designed to collect water and other spilled fluids. One of the most classic locations for one is a basement, where is can wick water away to ensure that the basement does not flood. Typically, a pit is outfitted with a sump pump, a pump which is designed to periodically remove liquid from the pit to ensure that it does not overflow. Regular maintenance of both the pit and the pump is required to ensure that the system continues to work as it should.

In a basement, a sump pit can be vital. When the water table in the surrounding area is higher than the basement, water can leach into the basement, causing a variety of problems. Water can also drain into the basement during periods of heavy rainfall, especially if a home's gutters are not well-maintained, allowing water to drain freely in a variety of places. If water is allowed to flood a basement, it can cause significant water damage, encourage the growth of mold, and potentially create a health hazard, if allowed to stand.


Basement sump pits are drilled into the floor and typically lined with brick or concrete. A grill or grating allows water to flow into the pit while allowing people to walk over it, and the sump pump connects either to a storm drain, or to the municipal sewer system. Typically, the pump is equipped with a float that causes the pump to click on during periods of flooding. It may also have a manual lever which allows people to pump when the power goes out.

Sump pits are used in locations other than basements to catch a variety of materials. Auto body shops, for example, may use one to trap spilled oil, fuel, and other fluids. They may also be used to catch hazardous waste in hospitals and other medical facilities, in which case special care must be taken when maintaining them.

In addition to collecting fluids, these pits can gather small debris, and sometimes algae may grow inside. Therefore, it is necessary for someone to periodically scour a pit and to clean the components of the pump, taking special care to ensure that the tubes of the pump are not clogged. While this task can be unpleasant, flooding is far more undesirable, and if done regularly, cleaning the system should not take too long.

When cleaning a sump pit, individuals should make sure that the pump is disconnected from a power source and wear heavy gloves to keep their hands clean. They may also want to bring a portable workshop light so that they can clearly see the area, along with a tarp to lay the pump out on while cleaning the pit. When the pit is clean and the person has replaced the pump, he should check to make sure that the float is moving freely.


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Post 8

If the bottom of sump is plumbed to sewer, the waste water will also flow from sewer to sump pit during heavy sewage.

Post 4

The sump pit is below the sewer or storm line, that is the reason it exists. Above the drainage lines you will not traditionally have a sump.

Post 3

Most homeowners insurance policy do not include sump overflow coverage so be sure to check and see if you're covered for this type of loss!

Post 2

@PerturbeD: If the storm drain or sewage line is buried at a level higher than the bottom of the sump pump pit, water that accumulates in the pit needs to be sent uphill to be diverted away from the house. Also, in areas that periodically receive heavy rainfall, the 4" pipes typically used for drainage can get overwhelmed and water needs to be removed from the pit faster than a small channel like that will allow.

Post 1

If the sump pump has to send the water to a storm drain or sewage line, why not have the bottom of the sump pit plumbed to do the same? Wouldn't that eliminate the need to install a sump pump?

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