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Frozen Sump Pump Problems?

Many homeowners depend on sump pumps to take water out of their basements. However, a frozen sump pump can cause significant worry.

During cold weather months, a concern for many is the possible freezing of water in the sump pump discharge line or around the foundation, resulting in potential damage not only to the sump pump, but also to the house.

Grading helps avoid frozen sump pump problems.An important step in preventing any kind of water damage to your home is to create a ground slope around your house so that water will be directed away from the foundation – this is called ‘grading’. Because water runs down hill, landscaping your property so that water flows away from the house will prevent seepage into your basement during a downpour, and will keep the water expelled by your sump pump from leaking back into the house. Walk around your house after a heavy rainfall and check for pooling near the foundation; puddles of water will indicate the sections of your property that need additional grading.

Sump Pump Models
Sump pumps come in two basic models: the upright (or pedestal) model and the submersible model. Both versions are reliable and efficient in eliminating water from your basement. To see more sump pump models we recommend going to

The upright model has the motor on top and the pump at the base; it is installed in the bottom of the sump hole. The motor is turned on and off by a ball float that has a visible sentry light, reassuring you that the sump pump is operating (much like a freezer).

The submersible pump is completely immersed in water. The switch is attached to the pump and comes either with a ball float connected to a pressure switch or with an adjustable mercury-activated float switch.

A back-up battery-powered sump pump is available, starting at $250. The battery is hooked up to your home’s electrical system - always charged and ready to go. The pump takes over during times of power failures. Systems in a higher price range are said to be more effective as they determine the length of time the pump will remain active after power loss.

Tips on Avoiding a Frozen Sump Pump

  • The exit point for water removal should be lower than the pump. Gravity will help the water to run out and keep it flowing during freezing temperatures.
  • Direct the expelled water ten to twenty feet from the foundation. You can connect a flexible, freeze-resistant hose to the end of the discharge pipe for extra length.
  • Use a larger diameter discharge hose to avoid a frozen sump pump problem. It may be an eyesore (especially if it is above ground) but it will definitely help keep the water running freely. The installation is very simple - bend a wire hanger around the nozzle and pipe and secure it with a pipe clamp.
  • Bury the discharge pipe in the ground and insulate any above-ground pipe sections with heating tape and straw. Make sure to dig deep enough so that the sump pump pipe is well below the frost line.

The sump pump has to work harder when water in the discharge hose freezes, often causing the motor to overheat. Listen to the pump in order to determine if it is running more frequently or for longer periods of time. In such a case, it is a good idea to periodically shut the motor off in order to let it cool down.

Regardless of the model of sump pump you choose, following the above guidelines will help you avoid frozen sump pump problems and thereby alleviate your worries.


This article was written by Herb Mansfield:
Herb Mansfield is a master plumber in the province of Quebec, Canada. He has over 35 years experience in the plumbing field. He is now lending his expertise to the Sump Pump Info website.


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