Replacing a Sump Pump

If you just need to replace a sump pump (that is already installed), you DON’T need to call a plumber.  This project was really easy– aside from having to install it in, what I lovingly refer to as, “Lake Eagleson” (aka: the periodic lake in my cellar).  I love swimming, I just prefer not to have a pool in my own cellar…

About a month and a half ago, parts of the Pacific Northwest were hit with torrential rain and flooding.  Although I admit, I’ll take flooding over hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis anyday…  Regardless, I don’t live near a body of water (small or large), so I didn’t think I have much to worry about.  Until I came home from work one day to nearly FOUR feet of standing water in my cellar.  The water table in our region had risen so quickly, that water had literally “seeped” out of the ground and risen up four feet (still below ground level).  Getting the water out was a giant headache, and I told myself that I would learn more about my sump pump (that I had finally gotten working) so that this never happened again.

Fast forward a month:  My sump pump had been working almost 24/7 for over three weeks at this point, and then finally I didn’t hear it running anymore.  I checked the ground of the cellar for standing water, but figured that the water table had dropped enough that the unit didn’t have to work nearly as hard anymore.  I did check it out though, realized that, after checking several things, the motor had probably just died– old age or over-use I guess.  I did some research, picked out a nice model (Zoeller 98) and ordered it.

The even better part is that it took me less than two hours to install and less than 30 minutes to clear the cellar of water.

Here are the important things to note before purchasing a sump pump:

1. Pick a reputable brand.  Read the online product reviews.  Buy something that is going to last– not just something with a lifetime warranty.  Zoeller, for example, had only glowing reviews online– heavy-duty, USA-made, and reliable.  All things that were important to me (when it comes to keeping my house safe!).  You might pay a little extra, but it’s worth it.  Use a brand that a plumber recommends.

2. Choose your HP (horsepower).  If you don’t get much water (so the pump doesn’t run much), or if you’re not pushing water very far (piping), then you can probably buy a 1/3 hp unit.  My current unit was a 1/3, but knowing the water issues at my house over the last year and a half, I knew that upgrading the HP was probably my best bet.  My current unit is 1/2 hp.

3. Plastic or cast-iron?  The Home Depot or Lowes sell some pretty dinky-looking plastic pumps.  You get what you pay for here.  It’s called a “submersible” pump because the unit WILL be under water– in fact, it’s best that it has some water around it– it cools the motor down.  My unit is cast-iron and it just feels more solid and dependable.

Here’s what you’ll need to purchase:

  • Sump pump
  • PVC pipe (probably 1.5″, that’s the standard width for these units.  But check your current pipe to make sure you don’t need to connect pipes of different sizes.)
  • PVC male connector piece (check your sump pump before purchasing)
  • PVC primer & cement
  • Check valve (this is what keeps the water–once sucked up the pipe– from returning back down the pipe when the pump turns off.  You NEED one of these.  VERY important.  If you don’t have one, you could cause undue stress/overwork to your new pump and burn it out early.)
  • Hacksaw
  • Screwdriver
  • Union connector (this easily connects two sections of PVC with simple twisting– it’ll make it easy to remove those pipes again if I ever need to replace my pump in the future) Not pictured above (I bought the wrong piece), see picture below.

Now here’s what to do:

1. Use a hacksaw to cut the pipe.  There will be some water in the pipe as you’re cutting–FYI.

2. Remove sump pump from hole.

3. Take new sump pump and screw in the male connector PVC piece.

4. Cut a piece of PVC pipe to a length longer than you’ll need it.

5. Use PVC primer & cement to attach the PVC pipe you just cut to the male connector already on your sump pump.  Give it at least 15 minutes to cure.

6. Above the unit (the bar, on mine), or less than a foot and a half from the male connector, cut the PVC pipe again.


8. Connect the rest of the PVC pipe to the top of the check valve.

9. Place the new pump in the sump pump hole/pit.  Make sure that the float device isn’t restricted by the walls of the pump, and that the unit is setting on a flat paver stone.

10.  Cut the PVC pipes so that they almost touch.

11. Connect the two PVC pipes with the Union Connector piece.

12. Plug the unit in.

Easy easy easy.

Now, if you don’t have a lake in your cellar to test the new unit with, pour a five-gallon jug of water into the pit to make sure it’s working.

Any lakes in your cellar/basement lately?


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