Why Is My Sump Pump Running Nonstop?

A sump pump with an old-fashioned float switch installed in a sump pit.

Sump pumps can run continually for many reasons, including a malfunction in the system, a high water table, or a plumbing issue.

One of the more common reasons for a sump pump failure occurs when the system begins to run continuously in your home.

A sump pump system that's constantly in operation can begin to overheat and break down. This is especially true if your sump pump is running when there's no water in the pit, as that water will help your system cool itself down during operation.

Most issues with continually running sump pump systems have easy causes and common-sense solutions, if the problem is solved in time.

At Basement Systems, we've spent more than 20 years designing and improving our award-winning sump pump systems with the common causes of sump pump failure in mind. As a result, we have we've created the most reliable sump pump system in the industry.

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A pedestal sump pump system installed as part of a perimeter drainage system in a home.

Pedestal sump pumps extend out of your sump pit on a tall stand. This allows the pump to run without being submerged in water.

The vibrations of the sump pump will often cause the stand to "wander", wedging against the side of the sump pit. When this happens, the float switch can jam the pump on the "on" position.

Pedestal sump pumps are also much noisier than submersible sump pumps. And without water to cool them down, they burn out much more quickly than submersible systems.

Jammed Sump Pump Float Switches

Each sump pump system installed on a basement floor includes a "float switch". These are designed with lightweight material (many are filled with air) and are designed to float upwards as water rises in your existing sump pit.

When the float switch floats upwards to a certain level, it triggers a switch that turns your sump pump on. As the water drops, the float switch lowers again, turning the switch off.

The most common cause of a sump pump system running continuously is when the sump pump float switch is stuck on the "on" position in your sump pit. This will cause it to run even when all water has been removed, which will burn out the pump prematurely.

These switches usually fail for two reasons:

The Sump Pump Wanders In The Pit: As sump pumps operate, they vibrate. Over time, this vibration will cause the sump pump to move around the pit.

If the float switch is pressed against the side of the liner as a result of this, it can become forced into the "on" position permanently, causing it to run nonstop.

The Float Switch Becomes Stuck: The float switch sometimes hooks on to something in the sump pit, such as a wire or pipe. Alternatively, debris in the sump liner jams the float switch in an "on" position.

Other Causes Of Continuous Sump Pump Operation

While a sump pump that is running nonstop usually has a simple float switch issue, this is not the only cause of this kind of failure. Sometimes a different -- or deeper -- problem is the real issue.

Other causes of continually running sump pumps include the following:

A pedestal sump pump system installed in a basement floor to waterproof the space.

The Sump Pump Check Valve

Your sump pump system is designed to collect water that would flood your basement and pump it upwards into a discharge line, which directs the water out of your house. These discharge lines often run straight upwards for five to eight feet.

So what happens when the sump pump system empties the liner of water and turns off? The water in that length of pipe will fall straight down again. If it lands back in the pit, your sump pump may turn back on and shoot it back up, starting an endless cycle.

To prevent this, contractors install a "check valve" in the discharge line the stops water from flowing back to the pump. However, if there is an issue with the check valve, then your pump might be pumping the same water out over and over again.


A large sump pit installed in a basement floor.

Drainage System & Plumbing Issues

There are a great many plumbing issues that can lead to a sump pump running constantly. If you have a sprinkler system in your yard that's broken somewhere underground, it may be providing a continuous supply of water for your sump pump system to pump. Other plumbing leaks, such as a broken sewer pipe underneath your home, may also be the cause.

Problems such as these can also lead to foundation heaving and other damage to your home -- if you suspect that this might be the case, contact a waterproofing professional right away.

Alternatively, you may simply have a sump pit that's too big and too deep. You only need to keep the water out of your basement -- if the pump is too deep, it might be running nonstop to remove more water than it needs to.


A home with a high water table that can lead to a sump pump running constantly.

Your Home Is Built In The Wrong Place

While it's unfortunate, there are some very rare cases where the house was just built in the wrong spot. Your home may have been built just above a water table line. When that water table rises due to heavy rains or the wet season, it might be above your basement floor.

In other scenarios, a shelf of natural rock in the are might be directing groundwater to collect around your home, or a natural underground spring might be sending an endless supply of water into the soil around your foundation.

In cases like this, it's your sump pump against the entire water table -- and while it might keep your basement dry, it's going to be running nonstop to do so.

We Can Help You Solve Your Sump Pump Problems!

At Basement Systems, our dealers are trained experts at identifying sump pump issues of all kinds -- and finding effective solutions to each one.

Our sump pump systems are designed with a special fixed float switch that is designed to avoid failures of all types -- minimizing the chances of any potential problem. Each of our drainage lines also includes a reliable check valve, and each system includes our WaterWatch alarm that can sound off in the remote chance of a system failure.

Call us today to sign up for your free, no-obligation sump pump system quote! Each free quote includes an on-site inspection and measurement, a written cost quote, and a complimentary copy of our full-color waterproofing book.

If you live in Canada, the United States, or the United Kingdom, our trained, experienced and certified Basement Systems dealers are standing by to help you!