Monday, May 11, 2009

Crawlspace Sump Pump in 5 gallon bucket

Before every inspection, I like to speak with the homeowner about what they know about their basement or crawlspace. Somewhere in that conversation, I nearly always ask, "Do you have a sump pump". I'll hear back, "Yes, but it doesn't work; or Yes, but the crawlspace or basement is still wet". I'm always amazed by some that consider a crawl space sump pump in a 5 gallon bucket a viable option as a "sump pump". Don't get me wrong, its an honest answer to the question.I'll start with why a sump pump in a 5 gallon bucket is not really a viable option. For starters, it is such a small cavity, that nearly ALWAYs the float switch gets hung on the sidewall of the bucket pit. If it has a diaphragm switch, then it will never build up enough water in the bucket to collapse the diaphragm on the sump pump, unless the whole crawlspace floods. If whatever switch the pump has never activates, it will cause the pump to never turn on to pump out any water. Very rarely do I see a pump in a 5 gallon bucket operate properly. Second, since the pump is placed in the ground only about a foot deep, it only pumps surface water that makes its way to the pump. This water bleeds in around the perimeter of the crawlspace, pools and puddles in low spots, and eventually floods the crawlspace until it reaches the bucket. Third, very rarely is the bucket drilled for water infiltration, so the bucket will float up out of the ground from water pressure. Fourth, if the bucket is drilled, it rarely has a good gravel backfill that will prevent silt from entering the bucket and clogging the pump's impeller. Fifth, it has no lid to prevent silt or mud from surface water filling up the bucket and clogging the pump. Trust me, there are many more reasons why a 5 gallon bucket is a bad idea to house a sump pump. A 5 gallon bucket was never meant to be a sump pump basin.

If you have a pump in a 5 gallon bucket, give us a call 1-877-409-2837 or SIGN UP ONLINE for a FREE CONSULTATION. Also, visit our website to see our many options of permanent sump pump solutions @

Thanks for reading the thoughts of a crawlspace sump pump inspector,
Larry Ralph Jr.


1 comment:

  1. Larry, I saw a system like you are talking about once in a place you wouldn't expect to see it - in the middle of the desert in the Mideast. I was in the Air Force and doing a four month tour in Abu Dhabi. We had a small section of an airbase that belonged to the United Arab Emirates. I made good friends with an Emirati officer, and he had serious issues in one of his buildings with groundwater infiltration.

    The building had a basement, and we were fairly close to the coast. There was a high water table, and it was salt water. The water had flooded the basement and shorted out transformers, catching the place on fire.

    Mohammed didn't have any kind of a repair budget, so he rigged up a series of sump pumps using salvaged washing machine pumps, and some home made float switches, some pipe that he scrounged, and yes, five gallon buckets! It was the strangest looking system I've ever seen, a combination 30's horror film and Rube Goldberg type contraption. It actually worked, which was even funnier. The building has since been renovated and the pump system has been replaced with a more conventional system.


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