Do I Need a Sump Pump in Crawl space, Basement, or on A Hill?

I live in Minnesota the Land Of 10,000 Wet Basements. I do not have a wet basement or even a sump pump to keep it dry. However, all of my neighbors have sump pumps. I will explain why. Also, depending upon where you live in the USA, I will answer your question: Do I need a sump pump?

Practically every house in Minnesota and in the northern USA has a basement. That is because we must dig house footings at least four feet deep to prevent frost heaving of the house. So, it is economical to put in a full basement when building a house.

If you live in the warm southern states, you might have a crawlspace or a slab on grade foundation. You may still need a sump pump depending upon local weather conditions and soil conditions.

For example, Texas gets heavy rains that causes local flooding. In that situation an outdoor French drain and sump pump system might save your house from being ruined.

Have You Ever Put Sand Bags Around the House?

If you have ever put sand bags around the house because of flooding, then you need a sump pump. It could be a temporary sump pump put between the sand bags and the house to pump out the water that gets past the sand bags.

Even if the sand bags keep the flood waters away, you still need to pump out the rain water that runs off the roof.

Two men placing white sand bags to protect a home from flood water. Image credit LA County Public Works.
Two men placing white sand bags to protect a home from flood water. Image credit LA County Public Works.

Do I need A Sump Pump in My State?

Maybe and maybe not. I am not a lawyer, but I did browse the Minnesota plumbing code about sump pumps. I did not see any mention that sump pumps were required. Your state might be different.

However, there are cities in Minnesota that do require sump pumps for new construction. Such as the city of Plymouth MN which is a suburb of Minneapolis MN.

I lived in Florida for a few years. A fella I knew planted some palm trees and hit water at one foot of depth. Also, many streets in Florida are flooded after a heavy rain. So, it would be a good idea to have drain tile and a sump pump to prevent water from entering the house.

Do I need A Sump Pump Where I Live?

Always check with your local code authorities. That could be a city, township or county government authority. Generally, homes are grandfathered in when new regulations are adopted.

However, where I live, anything concerning remodeling and new plumbing must meet current codes. The same is probably true where you live too.

Got A Musty Smell in The Basement or Crawl Space?

This is very common in Minnesota basements. Water seeps through concrete walls and floors for numerous reasons. The result is a musty smell from the damp concrete.

A dehumidifier can remove excess moisture out of the air but can’t deal with flowing water. Also, it won’t solve the problem of why the walls or floor are damp.

The interior walls can be sealed to keep them dry but that might force water to push up through the floor.

The typical solution is to install drain tile and a sump pump. This is very effective but not a total solution to protecting your home.

The real solution is to permanently seal the exterior foundation wall and install an exterior drain tile. The water collected by the drain tile is then pumped out by in interior sump pump.

Alternatively, you could use an external sump pump. However, that is really only practical where you never have freezing weather.

Roller painting a basement wall with regular paint will not stop a leaking wall as proven by the old paint. Waterproofing paint will force the water to collect at the bottom of the wall and will seep out through the floor.
Roller painting a basement wall with regular paint will not stop a leaking wall as proven by the old paint. Waterproofing paint will force the water to collect at the bottom of the wall and will seep out through the floor.

Do I Need a Sump Pump in My Crawl Space?

I once owned a house in Michigan that was a short distance from Lake Michigan. Normally, when living near a lake you would expect to have a high-water table that would require a sump pump.

That house had a partial basement and a partial crawlspace. Even though I was close to Lake Michigan there was never any sign of water under the house.

That house was built in the early 1920s before there were any local building codes. I have not lived there for many years now, but I would expect that new construction would require sump pumps.

Do You Have Mold or Dry Rot in The Crawl Space?

Those are sure signs that you need to deal with a moisture problem, which may include a sump pump. The solution required depends upon the amount of water involved.

Many times, you just need to seal the bare earth with a plastic sheet to protect from damp ground. However, if you have running water, you need drain tile and possibly a sump pump.

My Basement Floor Is Damp. Do I need A Sump Pump?

There are several causes of damp basement walls:

  • Rain water runs down the exterior of the foundation and under the floor.
  • Water enters the hollow concrete blocks and seeps out at the floor level.
  • The water table rises and forces water through the basement floor.

Do you need a sump pump? Yes!

This wet concrete basement wall and floor requires a draintile and sump pump system. Does your basement look like this? Are you asking "Do I need a sump pump?" The answer is "Yes"
This wet concrete basement wall and floor requires a draintile and sump pump system. Does your basement look like this? Are you asking “Do I need a sump pump?” The answer is “Yes”

I Don’t Need a Sump Pump but My Neighbors Do.

The area where I live is rather hilly. My house is on the highest elevation of the entire block. About 2 to 3 feet higher than either of my neighbors. All of the houses on the west side of the block are higher than the houses on the east side of the block. Which means that all of the surface rain water flows downhill to the east.

A lot of the rainwater soaks into the ground and flows underground to the east. So, all of those houses down there have sump pumps that run quite often during the spring snow melt and spring rains.

The earth on our block is a mixture of sand and clay. I suspect that there is a channel of sand that is surrounded by clay that guides the underground water towards the house on the northeast corner of our block. That house has a sump pump that constantly runs during the spring.

Why My House Doesn’t Need a Sump Pump in The Basement

My house sits higher than the neighbors and the water flows away from the house foundation. Also, half of my lot is mostly sand and gravel and the other half is mostly sandy clay.

I built the house with an all-wood foundation basement. The wood is pressure treated to prevent rot and there is a thick plastic sheet wrapped around the foundation.

Outside of that plastic sheet is a two-foot-wide band of washed gravel. That gravel runs all the way down to and under the footings.

Under the house is 8 inches of washed gravel. All that loose rock can hold a lot of water as it percolates into the earth below. Effectively, that rock acts like a giant dry well.

I wanted to make sure I didn’t have water pushing up through the concrete basement floor. So, the front of the house has a roof gutter that drains onto my driveway.

On the back roof there is no gutter. However, I put a plastic sheet over the washed rock and put down drain tile. The drain tile was covered with black dirt.

The drain tile takes all of the water off the roof and lets it drain into a shallow swale. The swale acts like a rain garden. However, if the swale overflows the water runs into the street.

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