Sump Pump Discharge Extension & Drainage Ideas. No Freezing

What Is a Sump Pump Discharge Pipe?

A sump pump discharge pipe gets the water out of the house where it is normally connected to a discharge hose line.

The discharge pipe is connected to the sump pump and exits out the side of the house just above ground level.

Sump Pump Discharge Pipe Operation

The pipe is used to flush the sump pump water that has been collected out of the building where it can then drain away. This happens when the water in the sump pump basin reaches the level that triggers the float switch on the sump pump, which then switches on the pump to push the water through the discharge pipe to the outside.

One important element in this setup is the sump pump’s discharge valve. This check valve operates as a plug designed to prevent water from running back into the sump basin when the pump is switched off.

A solid PVC pipe is used to get the water out of the house where it is connected to an above-ground hose or a below-ground hose that drains water away from the house.

Where Should a Sump Pump Discharge Water To?

A sump pump normally discharges:

  • Far enough away from the house foundation that the water cannot flow back into the basement.
  • Across the yard and into the street storm sewer system.
  • Into a pond, lake, stream, or river if permitted by local codes.

Pop up emitter for sump pump discharge into the yard. Photo credit HydroHero
Pop up emitter for sump pump discharge into the yard. Photo credit HydroHero

Sump Pump Discharge Ideas

The function of a sump pump is to move excess water from a basement to a safe place outside the home. As people across the world become more aware of how their actions affect the environment, homeowners have started to investigate better solutions to dealing with this excess water.

Let’s look at some earth friendly sump pump discharge ideas that you may want to consider. Also, where discharge and drainage water should not go.

A rain garden like this one can soak up water from the sump pump discharge.
A rain garden like this one can soak up water from the sump pump discharge.

Creating a Rain Garden

A rain garden is simply a slight depression in a yard that can hold and soak in runoff from the sump pump and rainwater temporarily. Flowers, perennials, native shrubs, and other landscaping normally flourish in this type of area.

Plan to put a rain garden close to the bottom of your lawn’s natural slope, downhill from the sump pump, and at least 20’ from the home’s foundation.

To identify the best spot, dig a hole about a foot deep and fill it with water. If the water drains within 24 hours, that’s the perfect spot for a rain garden.

Dig a channel that slopes down slightly from the pump’s discharge line to your rain garden. Install and connect a PVC pipe so the water can run from the house to the garden. Now dig a bowl-shaped hole in the garden.

The higher the slope is, the deeper the hole will have to be. Create raised banks around the hole to prevent water from overflowing. Decide where you want to grow plants and cover the rest of the area with draining stones.

Cover everything with soil and plant indigenous plants in the designated planting areas. Indigenous plants are generally easy to maintain and will also help in soaking up water. They will also attract beneficial insects, butterflies, and birds.

Using Rain Barrels

Rain barrels are big plastic containers that are used to collect rainwater. These can be used to collect water discharged from sump pumps as well as capture roof runoff from downspouts.

Rain barrels have an added advantage in that they will help you save on your water bill by conserving water and using less of the city’s water supply. Rain barrel collections can be used to water your indoor plants, garden, and lawn for free.

If you install a sprinkler system for watering your lawn with this technique you can significantly reduce your water bill.

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A 50-gallon barrel fitted with a valve at the bottom is an excellent option as you’ll be able to connect your garden hose to it. Select a barrel with a top hole where the discharge pipe can be inserted or drill a hole to the required size.

Level the ground where the barrel is to be installed and elevate it at least 12” so the spout can be accessed easily.

Measure the length of pipe required to attach the sump pump discharge pipe extension to the barrel. Connect one end of the pipe to the discharge line and put the other end into the hole at the top of the rain barrel.

Using more pipes or hoses makes it possible to connect multiple rain barrels to the original barrel.

Building a Dry Well

A dry well is a barrel that is perforated to allow water flowing into it to disperse underground and away from the home.

Select a spot downslope from the sump pump discharge line and at least 20’ from the home to install one. Use spray paint to mark a trench line from the dry well to the home. Mark a circle that’s about twice the dry well’s diameter.

Dig a trench wide enough to fit a PVC pipe and at least 12” deep on a slope. The size of the pipe should be twice the diameter of the sump pump discharge line’s diameter.

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Dig a hole twice as wide as the dry well barrel and deep enough for it to fit. Use crushed stones to fill the bottom of the well hole.

Use landscape fabric to layer the sides and bottom of the hole.

Drill a hole in the dry well sized to fit the PVC pipe that will run from the sump pump discharge line and lay the PVC pipe in the trench. Place the dry well in the hole on the fabric and connect the pipe to it. Place the surface drain inlet and cover on top of the well.

Fill the space between the dry well and the fabric-lined walls of the hole with crushed stone.

Fit a 90-degree elbow at the sump pump discharge outlet close to your home. Attach a short vertical pipe to the other end of the elbow and connect a rubber connector to the top with hose clamps.

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Backfill the well hole and trench with topsoil, leaving only the surface drain’s top exposed.

Finally, attach the discharge line to the rubber connector with the clamps.

The sump pump will now discharge excess water through the pipe to the dry well where it will seep out through the crushed stones into the soil.

Avoid These Places When Determining Where to Send Water

Water is pumped from the sump pump through a pipe and then into a flexible or ridged, weather-proof tube. The end of this tube should be as far away from the foundation as possible as discharging water close to the home is a bad idea.

The discharge point should be a bare minimum of 10’ away from the foundations, although 20’ is better. If it is closer, the soil will reabsorb the water and the pump will have to remove it again. A constant water flow will also damage the foundation, contribute to erosion, and wear out the sump pump quickly.

You must also make sure you don’t pump water close to a septic tank system if one has been installed.

If you are connected to a sewer system, draining your excess water into it may cause flooding. City ordinances often consider it pollution and don’t allow it.

The last place you should not pump excess water to is your neighbor’s lot. This is common courtesy, and in some places, it is also against local laws. If your excess water causes problems for your neighbor, they may hold you liable.

What Type of Hose Is Used on A Sump Pump Discharge Pipe?

Sump pump hoses are flexible tubes made from vinyl, plastic, or rubber, and they are connected to the discharge pipe where it exits the home.

Can A Flat Discharge Hose Be Used for The Sump Pump Discharge?

Yes, a flat discharge hose can be used for the sump once the water has exited the house.

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How Far from The House Should I Place the Sump Pump Discharge?

A sump pump discharge is typically located around 20-30 feet away from the house’s foundation. This is done to prevent the discharged water from flowing through the ground and back into the basement.

What Should the Length of a Sump Pump Discharge Hose Be?

Sump pump hoses are ideally about 30’ long. They should be inspected regularly to make sure they’re not leaking or damaged. Leaking and damaged hoses should be replaced immediately.

Where Should Water from A Sump Pump Be Discharged?

All sump pumps must have a discharge pipe to remove water collected in the sump basin.

This size of the discharge line should be as per the pump manufacturer’s recommendations. Sump pumps normally have a recommended discharge size of 1.5”. However, 2-inch discharge pipes are required for larger pumps.

The discharge line must be taken to the house’s outside. Although homeowners often want to connect the pipe to the sanitary sewer, this is against code. City officials specify that rainwater is not allowed to be pumped into a sanitary sewer, as wastewater has to be treated.

Pushing sump pump water into a sewer system overwhelms those systems and sometimes forces cities to pump untreated wastewater into a river.

Never run discharge lines into your septic system, as this will overwhelm the system and potentially cause a massive mess and damage.

As discharges can’t be run into septic or sewer systems, that only leaves running them out into the yard.

Sump pump discharge freeze guard and underground piping being installed where the water exits through a pop up emitter in the yard near the street. Photo credit HydroHero
Sump pump discharge freeze guard and underground piping being installed where the water exits through a pop up emitter in the yard near the street. Photo credit HydroHero

A professional plumber will be able to help you determine the best location for the discharge so that you can pump water to a place where it runs off efficiently.

Should a sump pump discharge pipe be buried? Here are some sump pump discharge ideas to help you decide.

Note: Not all cities allow flexible discharge hoses. Some cities require solid pipes.

With the pipe running outside, you need to make sure it pumps water where it can run off without causing a muddy mess in the yard. As it is not possible to know how much water your sump pump will eject over time, it’s best to assume the amount will be significant. This will prevent you from having to make changes later.

Numerous Things Can Go Wrong with A Sump Pump Discharge Line:

  • The line can sometimes be removed when the lawn is mown and then forgotten to be put back.
  • The line can be removed or broken. This most often happens to lines that run above ground. If they are in the yard, there is a possibility that they can be broken.
  • The line can be buried by snow or freeze, leading to water flow being blocked.
  • The line can get buried by grass, dirt, or mulch. Although this happens whether it’s above or below ground, it’s good to check the discharge outlet whenever the lawn is mowed to ensure that doesn’t happen.
  • The line runs to a location that doesn’t drain properly or isn’t run far enough from the house. If water is discharged close to the foundation, it will simply flow back into the sump pump and this may overwhelm your system, ultimately leading to a flooded basement. If the grade in the pump discharge area doesn’t slope away from your home, you’ll end up with a swamp in the yard or have the same problem of recycling water.

This device permits water to escape from a discharge pipe when the buried pipe is blocked. This is commonly caused by the pipe freezing, and the discharge will start working again as soon as the discharge pipe thaws.

A good way to prevent many of the potential issues is to bury the discharge line in your yard. This will however only eliminate the problems if it is done correctly. When doing so, keep the following in mind:

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Provide an escape path in case of freezing or clogging. The best option available is the PumpSpy.

The buried pipe diameter must be larger than the discharge pipe. This prevents the pressurized water from backing up in the burried pipe. Why? Because the buried pipe will only be at a slight pitch which enables gravity to drain the water away at a slower rate.

Make sure the discharge leaves your house in a location where the buried pipe can slope downhill to the discharge exit.

Close off the end with a screen that will prevent debris, leaves, and animals from clogging the line. Several good options are available depending on the yard’s slope:

Pop-Up Drain Emitter

This outlet has been designed for flat yards. If daylight can’t be reached because the yard doesn’t slope, the outlet will fill with water and overflow, allowing water to escape. 

A Pop-Up Drainage Emitter is an excellent solution for sump pump discharge lines in a yard that has little or no slope. Its grate prevents leaves and animals from clogging it.

Use this if your yard is flat. NDS 430 Pop-Up Drainage Emitter with Elbow and Adapter for 3 in. & 4 in. Drain Pipes. Click Here

Angled Sump Pump Discharge Drain Emitter

This outlet has been designed for yards that have some positive slope. Although it has the advantage of water being able to drain out continuously, it can only be used in scenarios where you can get to daylight.

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What Causes Sump Pump Discharge Pipes to Fail?

One discharge pipe fault that may lead to a sump pump failure is a leaky or broken check valve. If the check valve can’t prevent pumped discharged water from draining back to the sump pump, this could lead to a pump burning out.

If enough water were to flow back into the sump pump, the pump would never turn off or continuously turn back on. This will lead to the motor pumping water constantly that won’t exit the discharge line. If the motor fails, the water won’t be discharged, and the basement may easily flood.

Another cause for a discharge pipe failing is a pipe that is blocked. This may happen for several reasons. Plant or tree roots may have managed to grow into the pipe and block it completely or the discharge pipe may freeze inside during the winter.

A blocked pipe may result in a potential burst or a massive backup in the sump pump. As either scenario will be a huge disaster, you need to make sure that if your pipes are blocked, a plumber must be hired to fix the problem as soon as possible.

How To Winterize Sump Pump Discharge and Prevent Freezing

During freezing weather, sump pump discharge lines can become blocked with ice, and this can lead to various problems with a pump. Let’s explore what you can do to prevent a sump pump discharge line from being blocked with ice.

When Do Drainage Lines Freeze?

When outside temperatures drop to lower than 32°F (0°C), water freezes and you can often find frozen puddles and ice on various surfaces. Water discharged from a basement by a sump pump will also freeze when it reaches the outside. Most homeowners however don’t realize that freezing also takes place on the inside of the pipe.

A layer of ice will form within the pipe after each water discharge from the basement. As these layers build up, they will start blocking the water trying to move through the line. The entire pipe will eventually ice over, and your basement’s water won’t be able to go anywhere.

What Happens When a Sump Pump Drainage Line is Frozen?

The most obvious sign of a frozen drainage line is that there is flooding in the basement. The sump pump may also start running continuously and will eventually stop working due to overheating.

How To Prevent Discharge Pipes or Hoses from Freezing

There are steps you can take to prevent the discharge line from freezing. Sump pump discharge pipes are typically extended either above the grade of the land or buried.

Buried Sump Pump Discharge Pipes or Hoses

A simple way to prevent the freezing of a buried pipe is to bury it below the frost line of the ground. The ground’s frost line is the maximum depth to which ice will penetrate the soil.

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Above-Ground Discharge Pipes or Hoses

To prepare for winter, you need to disconnect extension hoses that are attached to the sump pump’s discharge pipe before winter starts.  

When these pipes are installed, ensure that they slope downward to keep water flowing. Water standing in a pipe will more likely freeze, and the simple fact that water keeps flowing in the line can make a big difference in preventing ice from building up in the interior of the pipe.

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A discharge pipe should also have a freeze-resistant, rigid, and smooth hose that takes the water at least 20′ (6m) away from the foundations.

What To Do About Pipes or Hoses That Are Already Frozen?

However, sump pump discharge pipes seem to freeze at the worst times. So, to be ready, you need to know what to do beforehand.

One option that provides a non-intrusive method of thawing ice is using a hand held portable heater. Although the heat output might be small, it can have an effect over time. 

Some people suggest using a blowtorch on the pipe, but that will likely lead to even more problems.

The rapid heat change will cause metal pipes to become brittle, and this could lead to them snapping or breaking completely.

Plastic and PVC pipes may be burnt through, leaving leaks and holes in the line that must be repaired before being used again.

If the situation is dire and you don’t know what to do, consult with a professional plumber so you don’t end up causing irreparable damage to the sump pump system.

Using a Sump Pump Antifreeze Device

Contractors sometimes install a sump pump antifreeze device to prevent the drainage line from freezing. These outlets permit water to exit the discharge pipe even if the line is frozen.

They operate similarly to overflow valves, and as they’re installed vertically, they won’t freeze over.

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Normally they are installed right next to the house. The water is spilled onto the ground and it should run away from the house if the ground is frozen.

If the ground isn’t frozen, the water could enter the basement again. Fortunately, that rarely happens.

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