If you're wondering if you need a sump pump in your crawl space, chances are you probably do. If you had a dry crawl space, you probably wouldn't be trying to figure out if you need a sump pump. But then again, not all wet crawl spaces need a sump pump! The only problem is, you can spend twice or three times as much money trying to figure out how to keep the water from entering your crawl space in the first place. So when homeowners encounter water in the crawl space, what they're actually faced with is dealing with the drainage outside the home. Correcting the outside drainage issues will most definitely help their water intrusion issues but may not completely remedy the water within the crawl space; thus, installing a sump pump will at the very least ensure the water is getting out of the crawl space as fast as possible, and they usually go for the sump pump option.
But first, let's go over some options that don't involve installing a sump pump in your crawl space and why they are still a good idea. Probably the most common reason water finds its way into your crawl space is poor gutter drainage. If you don't already have gutter downspout extensions redirecting that roof water away from the house, it will easily find its way under your home either under the footers or through any imperfections in the foundation walls. Second, you're going to want a good grade moving away from the house in every direction. This will limit the amount of water pooling around your foundation and in turn seeping into your crawl space. Only problem is that if the home builder didn't set up a good grade away from the house to begin with, it is usually very difficult to change after the fact. Lastly, you can install a french drain system around your house or just in trouble areas where the water tends to pool around the foundation. The best thing you can do for water intrusion in your crawl space is try to prevent it by handling the problem BEFORE it enters the crawl space. Like I said before, you be thorough and install gutter extensions and french drains, but if you don't have a good grade away from the house or you're in an area with a high water table, you can be left spending thousands and still have water entering the crawl space.
So you may be thinking now that a sump pump sounds pretty good, right? Well let's go over the positives and negatives of installing a sump pump in your crawl space. On the positive side, they are efficient. When a sump pump system is installed correctly, it can remove a large amount of water from your crawl space very quickly. Depending on the set up of the crawl space, they could be fairly inexpensive to install especially if you can handle it yourself. And as long as the pump continues to function, you can be assured that the water is being removed from your crawl space.
That being said, let's look at some of the drawbacks to installing a sump pump. First is that now you have a mechanical pump in an area of your home that is not commonly trafficked and as we all know mechanical pumps will burn out over time. The lifespan of the pump will all depend on how the system is installed and the quality of pump that is installed. So if a 5 gallon bucket is used as the basin for the pump, even if you use a quality pump, it will burn out a lot quicker since it will be kicking on constantly. Also, if you do not have proper drainage running to the sump pump, you will undoubtedly get pools of water in other areas of the crawl space since it won't have an easy path to the pump. Lastly for the DIY'er's, installing a sump pump system can be a daunting task. You'll need an electrical outlet for the pump to plug into, you'll need to plumb the drain line through the foundation wall and away from the house, and the manual labor that goes into digging trenches and a hole for the basin -plus bringing rock in- can be very exhausting.
Overall if you want an efficient system that will last, you will need a combination of outside drainage in addition to a sump pump system. Because just like how having a larger basin will make the pump continue to last through the years, limiting the amount of water entering the crawl space and needing to be pumped back out will inevitably add years to that pump. Also, limiting the amount of water that enters the crawl space will in turn keep the moisture levels down. Because even though you are getting the water pumped out quickly, it is still within your crawl space adding moisture to the air down there and moisture is your crawl space's worst enemy.
I've hinted at it a couple times throughout this article but I want to really hit on the importance of using the right products when installing a sump pump system. So whether you are looking to do this job yourself or you are looking to hire someone to do the work for you, there are a few things you should make sure you are getting. One, a quality pump is a must. If you buy a cheap pump, just expect to replace it every 2-3 years. Second, like I've already said, use a quality basin for the pump, nothing under 15 gallons. Next, buy an alarm that you can attach to the pump so that when it does eventually burn out, you are notified. You can buy pretty cheap ones that just have an audible alarm, but I like the alarms that will text both me and the homeowner if the pump stops working, as well as an audible alarm. I find that they work the best at keeping the homeowners mind at ease, not having to worry about if their pump is working or not. Finally, make sure you always have a drainage system leading to your sump pump or you will get water pooling in other areas of the crawl space.
If you want a little more on what supplies you need, you can watch my video on it here: https://youtu.be/L80_iBn2o44