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Sump Pumps in the Crawl Space? Is it a Good Idea?

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Out of the fear that their crawl space could get inundated during floods or a heavy downpour, some homeowners install sump pumps.

Some homes throughout DC may have been constructed with a small below-the-ground area, otherwise known as a crawl space. Some of the home’s ductwork and plumbing runs through this space. Because of its location and the fact that this area is exposed because of open vents, the crawl space can easily get wet. External moisture isn’t the only threat. Water from heavy downpours or flooding can inundate this space, causing damage.

As a homeowner, a number of crawl space waterproofing systems are available for your crawl space protection. Some are extremely useful, like plastic encapsulation and even a crawl space sump pump. You’ve probably seen this appliance in a neighbor’s home or a friend’s place. Is it of any use or benefit? Should you install it?

Well, you’ll find answers to all these questions and more, including how to install it. At the end, you should be able to decide whether a crawl space sump pump is a necessity for your crawl space.

Is a Sump Pump Really Necessary?

Yes and no. If flooding is a recurring problem or a seasonal issue, it’s a definite yes, but if your crawl space is in no danger of flooding, it’s not a must.

Sections of DC, which lie between the Potomac and Anacostia, experience occasional floods. You’d expect such water to run off, but sometimes it doesn’t. A good example is when gravity discharge is not possible. This may happen if you reside in a low-lying area.

To deal with unwanted water, you may need an interior drainage system to intercept the water, as well as a sump pump system to pump the water out of the space to an exterior drainage system like a dry well or storm drain. This system is often installed at the lowest point. A sump pit is set to a specific level. When a maximum is reached, it will start removing water.

What to Consider When Buying Sump Pumps

If you’ve called a local basement or crawl space contractor and they recommend that you have a sump pump installed, here a couple of things you should keep in mind.

  • Sump pump motor power: An economical unit may just have enough power to drain out water that’s running slowly. But when you’re faced with a real flood, where water gushes in, you’ll want a sump pump with a powerful motor. It will last longer and won’t need to run for hours to pump out huge volumes of water.
  • Clogging proof: When a sump pump takes in water, its ports are likely to clog with silt or debris, slowing action or stopping the pump. This will take you to square one. To stop the intake from clogging, get a sump pump with a durable plastic sump liner and a lid. The sump impeller should also be designed so that it doesn’t let pebbles or debris get stuck.
  • Float & switch design: Sump pumps usually rely on float-type switches to turn on the pump when water reaches a particular level in the sump pit. Get a pump with a column-type float and a solid float that can’t sink. Other floats and switches are prone to malfunction.
  • Battery backup: Powerful storms can knock out power lines, causing outages. When the power goes off, you’ll not be able to pump out water. A good sump pump system should include a battery backup for those stormy days when the power goes off for any reason.
  • Motor housing: Low-cost units come with plastic motor housings, and they don’t respond well to heat when they’re left running for long periods. When the housing gets hot, it creates tolerance that can burn out the bearings of the motor. Go for a unit with a cast iron casing as it will dissipate heat and tolerate heating without affecting the performance of the sump pump.

Where flooding is not a problem but moisture buildup and condensation are, consider installing a dehumidifier. It will help bring down moisture levels in the crawl space and prevent other problems associated with dampness.

Do you have a wet crawl space or experience crawl space flooding from time to time? We strongly advise you to invest in a sump pump. We’re happy to recommend a reliable sump pump system and help you install it properly. Contact us to schedule a free crawl space inspection and consultation.

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