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Do I Need a Sump Pump in My Crawl Space? (Pros and Cons)

Do I Need a Sump Pump in My Crawl Space? (Pros and Cons)

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One of the first questions I asked myself when I bought my new home was, “Do I need a sump pump in crawl space?”

At the time, I didn’t really know the value a sump pump could add to a home. I had put off the installation against my plumber’s wishes, which I later paid dearly for.

To prevent you from making the same mistake, I’ve written this comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about sump pump installation.

What are its benefits and disadvantages, and more importantly, do you really need one in your home?

Let’s find out!

What Is a Sump Pump and How Does It Work?

A sump pump is a submersible device that’s installed in a sump pit (i.e., a hole dug into the lowest part of a basement or crawl space).

It keeps an area dry and prevents it from flooding in the event of heavy rain, plumbing leaks, improper drainage system, and the like.

Here’s how it works:

When the water reaches a certain level, the sump pump automatically turns on and directs water away from the house’s foundation via the discharge pipe.

Using centrifugal force, the pump’s spinning impeller forces the water towards the sides of the pipe and creates a low-pressure area at the center.

Water would rush into the center to fill the void, and the impeller would push it out through the pipe.

The pipe is usually connected to the house’s drainage system and discharged to a designated area, like a creek, pond, dry well, or neighborhood drain.

Do Crawl Spaces Have Sump Pumps?

Unless it was installed by the home’s owner, crawl spaces don’t typically come with a built-in sump pump. It’s usually added after the house was built and only if the crawl space or basement experiences frequent flooding.

Do I Really Need a Sump Pump in My Crawl Space?

Though not a necessity, a sump pump is an extremely valuable asset to a home because of all the benefits it provides. It’s so valuable that most plumbing consultants recommend installing it regardless of the state of the house.

Here are some notable benefits of installing a sump pump in crawl space:

Prevents Flooding and Water-Related Damage

The most obvious advantage is that it removes excess water that gets into your crawl space or basement. It protects you and your home from being flooded due to heavy rains, backed-up or collapsed drains, leaking pipes or appliances, cracked foundations, clogged gutters, and the like.

Remember: it doesn’t take much water to cause hundreds if not thousands of dollars in damage. That’s not even considering the health issues a wet crawl space or basement can bring due to mold-related breathing hazards.

Better than Waterproofing

External waterproofing methods are great and all, but they don’t do nearly as good of a job of protecting your home from water-related damage like a dedicated sump pump.

Waterproof coatings have a tendency of cracking, weakening, or failing over time, which results in untimely water damage. As long as you regularly maintain the sump pump (which doesn’t take much effort or money at all), it’ll always do as it’s meant to do.

Cheap Installation

Installing a sump pump is significantly cheaper than waterproofing your whole crawl space or basement. Prices range from city to city, but it doesn’t usually exceed the $3,000 mark—and this is if it was installed by a high-end professional with a long-term warranty.

The average cost of installation and labor is between $600 to $1,000, while the unit itself costs an average of $250 to $375. Considering that this is a one-time fee, that’s a pretty good deal.

In comparison, waterproofing your crawl space or basement can easily cost double or even triple that price. The cost of waterproof coating alone can reach the $500 mark, and this is without miscellaneous fees and the cost of labor.

Plus, you’ll have to waterproof the basement or crawl space at least once every six months to ensure optimal performance. A sump pump doesn’t need that much maintenance, only a routine check every three to four months and a comprehensive check annually.

Highly Reliable

Most sump pumps turn on automatically with the help of a pressure sensor or float activator. As soon as the machine detects water, the sump pump turns its motor on and works on removing liquid from the crawl space or basement’s surface.

Sump pumps are active systems, which is why they’re so valuable to a home. They’re constantly working to keep water away from the crawl space before it damages furniture and makes its way to the rest of your home.

Sump pumps are sort of comparable to fire sprinkler systems; they stay dormant until they detect anomalies in their system. They’re not like passive systems like drains or external waterproof coating, which are just present to whatever situation that happens.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Sump Pump?

Though extremely useful in scenarios where flooding is concerned, sump pumps do come with several disadvantages that might deter you from having one installed.

Unsightly Appearance

There’s no easy way to sugarcoat it: sump pumps make a crawl space or basement look ugly. The installation process leaves an exposed hole, which many homeowners find off-putting.

The hole can be covered up, but that completely defeats the purpose of a sump pump.

Cost of Installation

Though cheaper than external waterproofing, one can’t discount the fact that sump pumps cost a bit of cash to install.

If you live in an area that experiences constant flooding, the sump pump pays for itself after a couple of years. However, it can be a bit too expensive to install in areas that rarely experience flooding, especially if you consider the annual maintenance.

Powered by Electricity

Unless you have a water-powered sump pump, the sump pump needs electricity to run.

If it runs only once or twice every few months, it’s unlikely to take a lot of electricity. But if it runs more, the electricity cost can add up.

There is also the fact that an electric-powered sump pump won’t work if a power outage occurs, at which point you could end up with a flooded crawl space or basement.

When To Install Sump Pump in a Crawl Space

When it comes to installing a sump pump in a crawl space, there’s no better time than the present. Prevention is better than cure, so it’s always best to install a sump pump before you notice any water or humidity damage in your crawl space or basement.

Here are some signs that you need a sump pump installed in your home:

  • Your crawl space or basement has flooded at least once in the past due to harsh weather conditions
  • You live on a low-lying property that can get flooded easily without waterproofing
  • You live on a property with a lot of standing water
  • You live in an area that sees high amounts of snow or rain annually
  • Your crawl space or basement stores expensive electronics or is being used as a livable space (guest room, entertainment room, etc.)
  • Your house experiences regular plumping issues
  • Your house’s plumbing is over 10 years old

What Size Sump Pump to Use for a Crawl Space

The sump pump size is determined by several factors, including the depth of groundwater, the depth of the crawl space or basement, the size of the crawl space, and the area of drainage connected to the sump pump.

Most homes benefit from a 1/3 HP (horsepower) sump pump, but a 1/2 hp pump doesn’t cost that much more and is often the go-to choice of most plumbers. A 1 HP sump pump is a good choice for homeowners with a large crawl space or basement.

Final Thoughts

A sump pump is an investment every homeowner should make. Though it’s more valuable in areas where flooding is an issue, it’s still a worthwhile addition because it protects the home from moisture damage.

A sump pump is significantly better than external waterproofing because it’s reliable and works 100% of the time as long as it’s properly maintained. Plus, it’s relatively cheap to install.


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