Sump Pump FAQs

A sump pump plays an important role in preventing flooding in your home.  It is usually located in the basement under floor level, and its role is to pump water from the basement to the side of the house or backyard.  Submersible sump pumps are recommended as a safer alternative instead of a stem or column style. A sump pump sits in a tank, called a sump pit that is installed at the lowest point of the basement floor. The walls of the sump pit are usually made of concrete, clay, tile or fiberglass. Water that collects around the foundation of the house is funneled through weeping tile and drainage rock channels the water into the sump pit. When water fills the pit to a certain level, the pump is activated. It draws water out of the basin and discharges it through a drain with a check valve to prevent back flow.

Maintenance of sump pumps is the responsibility of the homeowner, the Town has no jurisdiction or responsibility for private plumbing issues. Here are some answers to questions you may have about sump pumps.

Why is the sump pump located so far from the discharge point?

The sump pump is typically located in the lowest point of the basement floor. The discharge point is located based on the drainage patterns for the property. Sometimes the internal layout of the house and the required location of discharge simply cannot be next to one another.

What is required to install or relocate my sump pit?

If you want to install a new sump pit or relocate an existing sump pit, a building permit is required.

Unlike discharge relocations sump pit relocations involve cutting into the foundation. Please contact the Town’s Planning/Building department if you plan on altering or adding a sump pit. 905-878-7252 x2398.

Why is a sump pump discharge relocation necessary?

The Town has standards that must be adhered to regarding the sump pump discharge location. Two of these standards are:

1) the sump pump discharge doesn’t have a drainage path over sidewalk,

2) no two sump pumps discharge into the same side swale.

The reasoning behind these standards is to prevent erosion and ponding, as well as icing over a sidewalk. If the builder incorrectly places the discharge location for the sump pump, they may be required to move it to comply with Town standards.

The builder has to relocate the discharge point further away from the sump pit.

Will this impact my pumps performance?

The length of horizontal runs won't have much effect on the system. The major factors regarding sump pump performance are vertical height and pipe diameter. Typically 1.25 or 1.5 inches inside diameter is common with a 10 foot vertical height.

Why should I avoid placing an exterior extension on my sump pump?

Icing in the winter can cause the sump pump exterior extension to freeze and clog. The current discharge location will meet Town standards; depending on where you place the extension, you could be causing drainage issues for yourself or icing hazards for walkers. Sump pumps are meant to discharge onto a splash pad so the water slowly infiltrates as it travels down to the swale and off your property. Adding the extension will reduce the amount of room the water has to infiltrate. As a result, you may see erosion at the point it discharges from and increased ponding at the rear or sides of your property, which may cause problems for your neighbours. 

Can I directly connect my sump pump or add an extension to a catch basin/storm drain?

No, the catch basins are Town infrastructure and are not to be tampered with, they are designed to handle overland flow.

Why is my sump pump always going off?

There are five major factors which could influence sump pump activity. Please refer to the following chart to troubleshoot an active sump pump.

Potential Cause


What to do


A sump pump is set to discharge almost in the same   way a toilet flushes. Once a toilet is flushed it regains water until the   floating mechanism reaches a certain height then stops. A sump pump gains water until the floating mechanism reaches a certain height, then discharges.   If something is causing the sump pump to discharge when only half full, it  will be working twice as hard.

Contact a plumber to have the pump inspected.


Sump pumps will go off far more frequently after a rainfall or winter thaw.

Allow a few days after a rainfall for the sump   pump to return to normal and a few weeks after the last of the snow has   melted.


If the grades around the point of the sump pump discharge do not direct the water away from the foundation of the house, some of the water discharged could be recycled through the sump pump.

If you reside in an assumed* area, look for low spots where water is ponding and dead grass and spongy areas during dry weather conditions (at least two days after the last rain event). Fill in these areas slightly and re-sod. (Note: do not raise grades excessively to the point that you are flooding your neighbours).

If you reside in an unassumed area, contact your builder/developer or the Engineering Services department.

To find out if your subdivision has been assumed, please contact the Engineering Services department:  905-878-7252 x2500.

*Assumed (assumption) is a term used to describe the process of the Town taking over responsibility for all municipal works in a new development, including storm sewers, roads and sidewalks.

Leaking Pipes

If you or one of your neighbours have a leaking water pipe, your sump pump could be discharging this water. Signs of this include:

  • Increased sump pump activity from when the house was first purchased
  • Higher water bills
  • High sump pump activity in dry weather conditions

To determine if your sump is catching this water, you can purchase pool chlorine test strips and periodically test the water your sump pump is collecting for chlorine. If any one of the tests test positive, it is discharging treated water. If that is the case, you can call a plumber or call Halton Region and show them your sump pump is testing positive for chlorine. Regional staff can check your water   box. Halton Region: 905-825-6000.

Water Table/Natural Conditions

Sump activity is also attributed to the way in   which water travels through the ground.

If the sump pump is active and it is not because of the four previously mentioned causes, it is likely due to the natural conditions in the soil and ground water around the home. The Town cannot assist in altering these conditions.