Gasketed/Sealed Sump Pump Covers

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Scope

Sump pump covers mechanically attached with full gasket seal or equivalent

Select and install sump pumps that have tight-fitting lids with gaskets and mechanical fasteners.

See the Compliance Tab for related codes and standards and requirements to meet DOE and EPA national program criteria.

Description

Water management strategies that help remove excess water from the foundation often include the use of a reservoir called a sump. For more information about drains and sumps see the guide Drain or Sump Pump Installed in Basements or Crawlspaces. The sump is generally a small pit (crock or vault) that extends through the foundation into the ground below and provides a drainage place for excess water. A pump is used to convey the water out of the sump and discharge it away from the exterior of the house. While sump pumps are very effective in removing water, if they are not covered and installed properly, they can create additional water management issues, as well as indoor air quality concerns for the house.

Uncovered or improperly sealed sump pumps can allow water vapor and pollutants such as radon and other soil gases to enter the interior of the home. Without an effective cover, these pollutants can enter basements and crawlspaces and then mix with the air inside the home (EPA 2012).

An open sump pump can allow unwanted moisture into the basement. The opening is also a source for radon to enter the home

Figure 1. An open sump pump can allow unwanted moisture into the basement. The opening is also a source for radon to enter the home. (Image courtesy of Steve Easley Associates)

Sumps, Pumps, and Covers

Sump pumps must be covered or they will be a source for introducing moisture into the home. Sumps usually have standing water, and when that water evaporates into the air, it raises the relative humidity inside the home. High relative humidity leads to higher moisture content of wood framing, which can lead to fungal decay. From an air quality perspective, water that wets susceptible building materials and furnishings can also promote the growth of mold that can make the home's occupants sick. Moist environments also provide an attractive environment for pests.

Sump pump covers are often loose and do not form a tight seal. A mechanically attached sump pump cover reduces the possibility of moisture and pollutant introduction into the home.

Follow these steps when installing a sump pump cover:

  1. Install the electric sump pump to manufacturer's specifications, making sure the float is unobstructed. Installation of the pump should happen after the home's electric meter has been set; this will allow you to test the pump and ensure it is operating properly and discharging water as intended. 
  2. Install a sump pump cover that is tight fitting and that seals the entire surface of the crock or vault. Sump covers should be made of durable plastic or other rigid material and designed for air-tight sealing with a built-in gasket. Select a sump pump with a lid that has built-in air-sealing grommets around all penetrations for electrical wiring, water ejection pipes, or radon vent pipes.
  3. Mechanically fasten the cover in place with screws or other means that will maintain tight contact between the lid, the gasket, and the rim of the crock. Sump covers that permit observation of conditions in the sump pit are recommended. If the sump is installed in a concrete slab, caulk around the outside edge of the vault where the vault meets the concrete (EPA 1994). If the sump is installed in a crawlspace with a dirt floor covered by a polyethylene vapor barrier, ensure that polyethylene covers the ground around the sump pump and is taped to the rim of the vault.

Properly sealed sump pump

Figure 2. Properly sealed sump pump. The sump pump above is properly sealed with a mechanically fastened gasket. (Image courtesy of Steve Easley Associates)

Sump pump functions

Figure 3. Sump pump functions. The image above shows the components that make up a successful sump pump installation.  Reference

About Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in the soil and air. It can be drawn into a building and can accumulate to high levels. When radon enters a home, it decays into radioactive particles that are attracted to particles in the air, which occupants then breathe in. Radon is a proven carcinogen. The radon particles further decay, releasing bursts of energy which can cause damage and, in some cases, the potential for cancer (EPA 2001).

Ensuring Success

In areas where radon is a known specific threat to air quality, an important part of the radon mitigation strategy is a sump pump cover that is mechanically attached with a full gasket seal. After the sump pump has been installed, complete radon testing to ensure that the cover is sealed and not allowing any radon into the living space.

Climate

No climate specific information applies.

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Compliance

DOE Zero Energy Ready Home

The DOE Zero Energy Ready Home program requires that builders comply with EPA Indoor airPLUS. The Indoor airPLUS checklist (Item 1.1) requires that builders install a drain or sump pump in basements and crawlspaces (exception: free-draining soils). In EPA Radon Zone 1, a check valve should also be installed.  The Indoor airPLUS Construction Specifications notes in item 1.1, Site and Foundation Drainage, that builders should install a drain or sump pump in basement and crawlspace floors, discharging to daylight at least 10 ft. outside the foundation or into an approved sewer system.

Exceptions: Installation of a drain or sump pump is not required in homes with slab-on-grade foundations and in areas of free-draining soils identified as Group 1 (Table R405.1, 2009 IRC) by a certified hydrologist, soil scientist, or engineer through a site visit. In EPA Radon Zone 1, if a drain tile discharges to daylight, install a check valve at the drain tile outfall (see Indoor airPLUS Construction Specification 2.1).

ENERGY STAR Certified Homes
ENERGY STAR Certified Homes (Version 3.0, Revision 08), Water Management System Builder Requirements:

1. Water-Managed Site and Foundation:
1.7 Sump pump covers mechanically attached with full gasket seal or equivalent.

Builders Responsibilities:  It is the exclusive responsibility of builders to ensure that each certified home is constructed to meet these requirements. While builders are not required to maintain documentation demonstrating compliance for each individual certified home, builders are required to develop a process to ensure compliance for each certified home (e.g., incorporate these requirements into the Scope of Work for relevant sub-contractors, require the site supervisor to inspect each home for these requirements, and / or sub-contract the verification of these requirements to a Rater). In the event that the EPA determines that a certified home was constructed without meeting these requirements, the home may be decertified. 

ENERGY STAR Revision 08 requirements are required for homes permitted starting 07/01/2016.

2009 International Residential Code (IRC)

Chapter 30 Sanitary Drainage, Section P3007 Sumps and Ejectors

Chapter 33 Storm Drainage, Section P3303 Sumps and Pumping Systems

2012 International Residential Code (IRC)

Chapter 30 Sanitary Drainage, Section P3007 Sumps and Ejectors

Chapter 33 Storm Drainage, Section P3303 Sumps and Pumping Systems

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Case Studies

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References and Resources*

  1. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: April, 2001

    Document detailing how to build radon-resistant homes.

  2. Author(s): DOE
    Organization(s): DOE
    Publication Date: May, 2015

    Standard requirements for DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home national program certification.

  3. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: September, 2015

    Document outlining the program requirements for ENERGY STAR Certified Homes, Version 3 (Rev. 08).

  4. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: January, 1994

    Standard providing information on contractors who offer radon control services to homeowners.

  5. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: October, 2015

    Website providing technical guidance to help home builders and their subcontractors, architects, and other housing professionals understand the intent and implementation of the specification requirements of the IAQ labeling program.

  6. Author(s): EPA
    Organization(s): EPA
    Publication Date: February, 2011

    Guide describing details that serve as a visual reference for each of the line items in the Water Management System Builder Checklist.

None Available

Last Updated: 03/14/2016

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