Is the frequency that my sump pump is discharging normal? Is this ok? Should I be concerned about my finished (split level/raised ranch) basement? As of today my sump pump is discharging approximately a dozen times a day. Probably more than that as I'm sure I'm not noticing it every time.

For context, we have not had meaningful rain in well over a week, and our last major rainfall (3in) was nearly 3 weeks ago. I live in the U.S. Northeast, and we did have an unusually wet summer though. Further the house is built into the side of a hill, with a lot that isn't particularly well graded, and on top of everything, our neighbors report that the area supposedly has a relatively high water table and a lot of clay in the soil. We've had some standing water in the yard that has taken longer than I'm used to to drain.

On a final note - I do not believe this is a problem with the sump pump itself. I have been living in my house about 3 months, and discovered the sump pump was not working a few weeks ago, and promptly had it replaced. The person who replaced it cited an issue with the check valve failing and allowing backflow into the pit as the likely cause of the prior unit burning out. Additionally, when the pump discharges, I can see new water coming into the pit so I'm as confident as I can be that the pit is just filling up...a lot.

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    If you have confirmed that the pump is not running needlessly (there is water) and the check valve is working (there is new water) and that the pump is functioning (you see its discharge flowing away from the house) then there isn't really a DIY question here. We can't determine where your groundwater is coming from or whether it is abnormal or worrisome.
    – jay613
    Oct 16, 2023 at 19:43
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    There is usually a float adjustment to allow more/higher water in before tripping the switch, Only you know if the sump is working with too little water or the float can be adjusted higher. This needs someone watching the water come in. I would think having the float come on when the pit is half full is a good starting place.
    – crip659
    Oct 16, 2023 at 19:51
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    Check with your neighbors to see if they're noticing unusually high sump pump running, too. If so, it just means that there's more water to get rid of.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 16, 2023 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


Make sure there's not a path for the discharged water to return to the sump pump. If it's running full time, then worry.

Water moves too slowly through clay for the water to be coming through solid clay, but you said that the soil contains lots of clay. I assume that it's "clayey," not "clay." Table 5.1 from https://people.eng.unimelb.edu.au/stsy/geomechanics_text/Ch5_Flow.pdf provides the following permeability ranges:


Gravel: greater than 10⁻² m/sec

Sand: 10⁻⁶ m/sec to 10⁻² m/sec

Silt: 10⁻⁹ m/sec to 10⁻⁵ m/sec

Clay: 10⁻¹¹ m/sec to 10⁻⁸ m/sec

Converting to feet per day, that's

  • Gravel: greater than 3000 ft/day
  • Sand: 0.3 ft/day to 3000 ft/day
  • Silt: 0.0003 ft/day to 3 ft/day
  • Clay: 0.000002 ft/day to 0.003 ft/day

Given your hill, it's very possible that a wave of ground water from this summer is now at your doorstep. If so, then most likely there has been a growing wave and its height has just reached your sump pump's elevation. Will the wave just barely kiss your sump pump? Or is that wave still growing? I would expect "still growing" and that the pump frequency will increase until the wave's peak arrives.

If you have a soil classification (under the Uniform Soil Classification System that is commonly used in building and road construction), then I found tighter soil permeability ranges at https://www.geotechdata.info/parameter/permeability.


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