My house has water problems with the basement. Here's what the entrance to my basement looks like. When I get a really heavy rain storm, water manages to rise up and start seeping in under the door. Given an hour I have a real mess on my hands (like today)

I have a sump pump hooked up underneath the black cover in the picture. It's a simple automatic pump I bought at the home depot. It sits inside a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled in it and gravel in the bottom. This bucket sits in a pit filled with gravel. Here's what it looks like when you lift the cover

The pump has a garden hose hooked up to it. The hose then runs through some pvc pipes and into the back yard. The power cord runs into the house. Currently it's attached to a power cord but I plan on adding a power outlet next to the door that it will plug into. Here's a picture..

So that's my setup, which works well enough for regular amounts of rain. But here are the two situations my setup fails:

  1. Flash flood warning level rains.
  2. Power outage.

So here are my questions:

  1. What am I doing wrong?
  2. What should I do to make things right?
  • Does it flood just from rain falling directly on it? Or does the surrounding area drain into it? If so, could you redirect water draining into it?
    – aphoria
    Commented Aug 12, 2010 at 21:56

4 Answers 4


From the looks of it, water could run right around your grate to the door. If the walkway is sloped toward the grate on both sides, that would probably help when the rain is light, but when it is heavy it will run right around it.

I would install a grate that runs across the whole width of the walkway. Under the grate, I would have a trench about a foot deep with about 6" of gravel. In the middle of the trench, I would dig a hole another 24" or so deep and put your bucket with the sump pump in there.

It would also help to either move the trench closer to the door or grade the walkway so that the couple feet from the drain to the door slopes toward the drain. If you move it, it should at least be inside the "drip line" from the eves/overhang on the house.

Another option, if possible (hard to tell from the picture) would be to cover the walkway.


For the case of the power outages, there's basically two options --

  1. UPS or other battery backup for the sump pump. (which only helps for as long as the batteries hold out)
  2. A water powered sump pump

As for the flash flood issues -- you might be able to either regrade the area to change the catchment area that drains towards the door, and possibly add a lean-to roof to reduce the amount of rain into the area, or increase the size of the pump to deal with the increased flow.

The water powered sump could also help in the case of the flash floods, as you'll have both the regular pump and the backup pump so long as the power's still on (and you route them separately, so they're not sharing an outflow route.)

  • That water powered sump pump looks pretty cool.
    – aphoria
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 11:33
  • 3
    the water pumps are awesome unless you have well water. With the power out, the well will not be functioning and you do not have a constant supply of water to drive the backup.
    – mohlsen
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 12:34
  • @mohlsen : excelent point, I hadn't considered that possibility; they only work in the case of city water (or possibly if you're using a storage tank system, but it'd drain so quickly, it's likely not be worth it)
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 12:59

In addition to the other comments, the garden hose may also be causing the problem. It may not allow enough flow of water to leave the basin fast enough. We have 1.5" pvc leaving the sump pump and that pipe discharges into the yard. Can you use the PVC that you said you have going into the yard instead of having the hose in the PVC?


Obviously, the pump can't keep up with the amount of water pouring in.

As mohlsen said, the outlet hose is way too small. I've never seen one < 1.5" diameter. It needs to be a lot bigger than it is. If that doesn't solve the problem completely, you probably need to upgrade to a larger sump pump.

If you have frequent power outages when it rains, you need a sump pump with a battery backup. Not a UPS- those aren't designed to handle motor loads. You want a combo sump pump that has a secondary pump with a battery/charger combo. The only issue is where to locate the battery, since your pump is outdoors. Usually the battery box & electronics mount on the wall above the pump when it's installed in the basement. A 5 gallon pail may not cut it for fitting both pumps in there- you may have to upgrade to a proper sump pit (which you should do anyway).

Also, make sure your discharge is far enough away that the water can't run back down there.

  • Could you recommend a good sump pump and battery powered backup sump pump? Commented Aug 23, 2010 at 12:44
  • I have no experience with them- although I will be purchasing one myself soon. I guess we should do some research.
    – nstenz
    Commented Aug 24, 2010 at 20:34

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