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Choosing the Right Sump Pump for Your Basement

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

We install a lot of sumps pumps here in Toronto. They are usually the last line of defense to stop a flooded basement and choosing the right one for your basement is an important decision.

If you’re having repeated bouts of water leaking into your basement, a sump pump is probably the first step to a remedy. Conversely, water through foundation cracks or basement window that don’t close properly are signs of a problem with your foundation, needing a complete cure. And if your water troubles are minor and infrequent, you may not need a pump.

A sump pump is a sort of body guard for your basement. It is there to head the water off, trap it, and get rid of it. It’s almost like living on a mound with the sloping land all around directing the rain away. A sump pump sits in a little hole dug for it in the basement’s floor—the sump pit. If water enters the pit, the rising water level trips a switch that turns the pump on, which escorts the water out through a drain pipe.

Varieties of Pumps

SubmersibleThis one is the Cadillac. These are installed under your basement (in the pit) as described above. They are made from zinc, bronze, stainless steel or cast iron, and the best models can pump up to 7,000 GPH, gallons per hour. You’ll likely get a good 25 years or more from your submersible. Go with this design unless you absolutely can’t afford it.

Pedestal - This is your average used sedan. These actually sit above the pump and may serve you only about 10-15 years. They’re generally not as powerful, and it’s the cost that causes most people to choose them. Some buyers are attracted to the idea that the motor, up above the water itself, should not face the threat of damage.


Once you’ve chosen the type of pump to go with, let’s look at the factors to consider when shopping. The biggest ones are: horsepower, switch quality, pumping capacity, quality of construction

1. Horsepower

Hooking an actual horse up to the pump will get the animal cruelty people out to your place so fast you won’t believe it. So you’ll have to settle for a bit less. Pumps are usually sold in small increments of 1/2 hp, 1/3 or 1/4, which gives you plenty of flexibility.

Basically, the 1/4 hp variety is for a household that isn’t having water problems at all, but just wants a no-nonsense approach to stopping any possible threat. If you live in a low-rainfall area, this is for you.

1/3 hp is a good option for folks whose foundation is at or above the water table, and who live in areas with average rainfall. The majority of you will probably go with this option.

The 1/2 hp is for a house in a low-lying area or one that is susceptible to high quantities of water for any reason.

2. Switch Quality

You probably wouldn’t buy a car without researching the engine or a golf club whose head design you don’t like. As we mentioned above, the switch is activated by the water level, and it makes the pump act. Therefore, dazzle your local store employee by going in with some knowledge of the different kind of pumps.

Electronic – These switches are powered by electronic sensors. Electronic vs. mechanical means less worry about physical parts that can wear out. Word has it that sometimes these switches can outlast the pump itself, sometimes working for more than a million cycles.

Float –These are fairly common. The floating mechanism sometimes moves up and down on a rod. As outlined above, it’s the floating mechanism that detects rising water and turns on the pump mechanism. As you can guess, this set-up can require occasional maintenance—switch failure is probably the most common problem with sump pumps. While a good float switch is just fine, you may try to go electronic when possible.

Diaphragm – These use water pressure to alert the pump to water. Some varieties of these are adjustable, while some are not. That’s something to give serious consideration.

3. Pumping Capacity

How much water the pump can handle is pretty important, particularly if you live in an area with flood threats. There’s probably no reason to monkey around with a product that lists a max capacity of less than 3,000 GPH. You should also see a listing of “flow at 10’ lift” and you’ll want one with as high a ratio of this to maximum capacity as possible. This is affected by the length of the discard pipe.

4. Quality of Construction

Your sump pump is made up the housing, which is the outer shell of the machine; the impeller, a small motor at the bottom of the rod that runs the machine’s center and activates the pump, and the cover.

Naturally, you’ll want the housing to be as strong and durable as possible. Cast iron or bronze are the best materials. Thermoplastic materials are good for housing since they are non-corrosive. But be sure not to buy a pump with internal materials made of thermoplast. These are not good alternatives to stainless steel and other heavy-duty material.

Choose a quality sump pump and contractor

To conclude, many sump pumps come with warranties and quality of pumps can vary. You can purchase a sump pump from your local hardware store, though you may need some expertise when it comes to choosing and installing the one that is right for your situation. Sump pumps don’t last forever and require some maintenance to get the most out of it. It’s usually your last line of defense when it comes to having a dry basement or a flooded basement, so it’s important to choose and install the right one.

Feel free to contact us here and ask questions you may have about the sump pump or basement waterproofing in Toronto or the surrounding GTA.

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