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How to install, clean and maintain your basement sink pump

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Clogged pipes are a common hassle for most homeowners. You’ve likely dealt with a debris-filled drain or a blocked pipe that prevents water from flowing. This is where a pump like a Hartell or Flotec can come to your rescue.

These fixtures were traditionally designed to drain water and floating debris from pools and inflated tubs, making them handy in aspects of plumbing like unclogging drains. But did you know you can permanently install a pump system under your sink so you never have to deal with blocked drains again? 

That’s right — a basement sink drain pump, or “sump pump,” is used to drain water from utility sinks, stainless-steel wet-bar sinks, laundry trays, heavy-duty multi compartment sinks, washing machines and dishwashers. This system is an economical way to remove wastewater in areas where the main drain is higher, such as basements. These fully assembled units with higher gallon per minute (gpm) pumps are designed to fit under most sinks.

It’s recommended to install a basement sink pump where gravity drain lines are unavailable, such as for gray wastewater appliances. This article explores how basement sink pumps work and how to install and maintain them.

 

How basement utility sink drain pumps work

A sink pump like one manufactured by Liberty Pump or Zoeller can be found in homes with laundry rooms or basement bathrooms. It sits on a “sump basin,” a pit cut and dug into the ground of your room. 

When the wastewater level in the sump basin reaches a certain threshold, a movable float switch in the utility sink pump triggers it to begin draining the wastewater. As wastewater is pumped from the basin, the float drops back down and turns off the water pump. A typical sump basin can hold roughly 30 gallons of wastewater, the average for a moderately sized house. 

If multiple fixtures are located in the basement area, their drain lines will slope down toward the sump basin. Another essential thing to note for any plumbing fixture is that a vent is vital. Without adequate venting, the flow of drainage water can create negative pressure. This can let sewer gases enter the house as water is sucked out of the drain tap. By ensuring all your plumping structures are vented, these gases can be aired out.

 

How to install a basement sink pump in 8 steps

You can install a drainage pump, like a Saniflo Saniswift, to move wastewater from a range of domestic or industrial sites — from private housing to farmland and even construction sites. 

To start the DIY project of installing a basement sink pump, you’ll need: 

  • Pliers
  • Teflon tape
  • Plumber’s putty
  • PVC pipe saw
  • PVC primer
  • Cement 
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver 

The whole process will take two to three hours and cost roughly $175 to $500. 

1. Prepare the basket strainer

Start by forming a rope by rolling the plumber's putty in your hands. Press this rope to the underside of your basket strainer. Wrap Teflon tape around the threaded portion of your strainer. This tape will help secure the rubber gasket, O-ring and fiber gasket onto your strainer.

2. Insert the strainer into the sink drain hole

Place the strainer, with the putty attached to it, into your sink’s drain hole. Slip the fiber gasket, rubber gasket and O-ring onto the strainer from beneath it. Ensure you do not cross the Teflon tape when attaching these parts. 

3. Attach the laundry tray pump to the basket strainer

Thread your laundry tray onto the basket strainer. Use pliers to tighten the attachment. On the side of the pump, wrap some Teflon tape onto the discharge port. You will use this to attach the PVC adapter to your laundry sink pump.

4. Attach PVC piping to the pump

With Teflon around the pump side of your discharge port, attach your threaded PVC adapter to this port. Start connecting lengths of PVC pipe to the adapter, and add corresponding elbows to extend the length of your pump’s drain line out of the sink’s cabinet.

To glue the PVC pipes together, ensure you use both PVC primer and cement. As you glue the parts, hold the attachment together for a count of five each time. 

5. Attach PVC piping to the existing drainpipe

Use a PVC saw to cut out a section of your existing drainpipe. Glue a PVC Y-fitting to this section. Use a no-hub coupling to join the remaining section of your drainpipe together. Cut and dry-assemble the fittings and PVC pipe so they reach the Y-fitting on your drainpipe from the discharge port. 

6. Install a check valve

As a preventive measure, install a check valve to stop any water from draining back into the sink. You can install this on your discharge pipe about halfway or a third of the way up on your discharge pipe. Ensure your drainage pipe and check valve are of the same diameter for a good fit. Additionally, install a ball valve to help control the water flow. 

7. Glue all the PVC parts together with primer and cement

Now glue all the PVC portions together using PVC primer and cement. You will have about 10 seconds to apply the cement after applying the primer, so swiftness is key. 

Once the cement is applied, immediately insert the PVC portions into their respective fittings. Work without taking a break when gluing your PVC pipe together. If the cement begins drying before you are ready to attach the parts, reapply it.

8. Plug the pump into a GFCI outlet

Plug your pump’s power cord into a GFCI-protected outlet, and proceed to turn on your sink’s faucet. Adjust the ball valve to match the flow of water from your sink. This will ensure the pump runs continuously and prevent it from over- or under-working.

 

How to clean a basement sink pump

To clean your basement sink pump, you’ll need a tarp or plastic sheeting, a large empty bucket, a garden hose, a tool for scraping debris, and a dry/wet vacuum for your final cleanup. 

  1. Disconnect the pump’s cord from the power outlet. This will turn off the circuit breaker at the power source and prevent electrical accidents when you clean your pump. Do not skip this step; cleaning your pump without disconnecting its power cord is extremely dangerous. 
  2. Wrap the bottom of your pump in a tarp. You can also use a plastic sheet to protect the surface. Consider setting up your pump in an area that will enable easier cleaning. 
  3. Clean your pump. Now for the fun part. Begin spraying your pump with a garden hose to remove any loose residue. Once you’ve removed the visible residue, use a scraping tool to remove any stuck-on gunk. 
  4. Rinse your pump. Spray the pump with a hose to rinse off the last of the residue. 
  5. Drain your check valve. Place the bucket under your drainage pipe and ensure it catches any water from the check valve. 
  6. Use a vacuum to remove any stagnant water from the sump pit. You can also use a vacuum to clean any residue that creates a mess during the cleaning process.
  7. Reconnect your pump. Reattach your pump to the sump pit and ensure all components are the way they were originally. Reattach your pump’s power cord to its source and turn the breaker back to the “on” position.

 

Basement sink pump maintenance tips

Regular maintenance of your sink pump can prevent indoor flooding and increase the longevity of your pump. Here are some essential tips to keep your sink pump functioning well.

  • Know when to replace parts. Every portion of your sink pump has a shelf life. Know when to replace new parts by learning your unit’s approximate age. 
  • Clean your sink pump regularly. This increases its life span and can help you spot potential issues. 
  • Look for signs of wear and tear. If you hear rattling noises, this could indicate a jammed impeller. If your motor vibrates loudly, this could mean the impeller is bent. If your pump turns on and off on its own, there may be issues with its internal wiring. Keep a lookout for these potential signs of wear and tear so you can resolve them by calling an expert immediately. 
  • Keep all equipment covered. This can prevent solid debris, lint or sediment from falling into your pump or clogging in between spaces. Your covering should only have holes for your drainage pipe and any wiring.
  • Check the status of your sink pump once a month. Connect the pump to its power source and pour water into the sump pit. Watch how your pump works and take notice of any odd sounds. Assess whether your pump is working properly every 30 days.

 

Plumbing systems are covered under the Cinch Built-in Systems warranty plan

Maintaining the health of your submersible sump pump is essential. Repairing it can be expensive, with average costs being about $475 as of 2022. Alternatively, by getting a Cinch Built-in Systems warranty plan for a budget-friendly monthly fee, you are covered against repair or home improvement costs like these. 

Regardless of the age of your fixtures, the Cinch Built-in Systems plan will cover the repair of plumbing systems, including permanently installed sump pumps, plumbing lines and valves, and drain and sewer stoppages. The plan also covers heating and cooling, electrical elements and more. Learn more about what the Built-in Systems plan covers. Get an instant quote today!

 

Basement sink pumps can prevent clogging that disrupts the water flow to your basement sink. Learn how to install, clean and maintain your basement sink pump.