Frozen Sump Pump Hose: How to Prevent ?

ozziepuppyMarch 6, 2010

Our sump pump recently failed due to the exit hose freezing solid. In other words, the water could not be pumped out because the exit was blocked with ice. Has anyone ever heard of this? We couldn't believe it when it happened. We ended up with a flooded finished basement and extensive water damage.

How can we prevent this from happening next winter? The part that was frozen was outside of the house. We live in Kansas with heavy clay soil and the sump pump runs a lot when we have had rain (in fact, we have two sump pumps: a regular one and a gravity back up pump that does not need electricity to run). The water damage was extensive and we would like to prevent this from happening again.

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Well, I guess no one else has had this problem.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:33PM
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The pipe itself has to have enough fall that water flows out fast enough. A low spot in the pipe will freeze soon after the ground around it freezes. The problem can occur where the pipe hits "daylight" i.e.: where it meets the open air. There, in extreme cold, the pipe is going to block shut with ice. I think what may be worth a try would be to surround the pipe end with straw bales in the winter, and tarp them, so that a shelter is created and hopefully enough ground-warmth will be present to stop the frost.
The only 100% sure way to prevent freezing is to not have the pipe run to daylight in the first place, but to go into your sewage system, or a separate underground French drain (gravel-filled pit).

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:50PM
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I believe it is illegal for it to go into the sewer in Kansas. The pipe exits the house about 2 or 3 feet off the ground so I don't know how I could not have it hit daylight at all. I guess I could try to wrap the pipe with something though. The PVC pipe was attached to a long flexible hose. Perhaps the hose had a low spot and that is how the water got backed up. The PVC pipe extends out for a couple of feet. It has to be connected to something or the water just falls next to the foundation and the sump pump literally runs continuously, pumping out the same water over and over.

Thank you for your comments.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 9:22PM
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This would be a normal occurance for me. We live where there is a high water table and our sump discharges about once an hour all winter long. I live in SD so freezing is not a potential, it's a given.

Our discharge comes out of the house about 2' above the ground. It comes out about 12". I took a chuck of old gutter that I had laying around with a 90 deg elbow, and fit that over the end of the pipe. Then I pounded fence posts into the gournd and wired the gutter to them at a slight slope. They got about 15' out to where the slope goes away from the house. I have a rubber bucket at the end that is partially buried into the ground, the gutter discharges into this. Then when it fills it overflows and runs out along the ground and follows the slight swale that eventually makes its way out behind the barn and into the stock pond.

I have a septic system so running this much water into it was never an option. During spring melt the sump dischares about every 10 seconds.

This summer I plan on hooking up 3" PVC pipe for the drain.

Here is what it looks like this time of year.

it does create a bit of an ice dam, but it is far enough from the house that when it melts it does not end up back under the house. Took about three winters of things that did not work before coming up with this.

The main thing is to have enough slope and pipe diameter so the water will empty out before it has a chance to freeze.

Where I live is very flat so drainage and waterflow is a real challenge.

In a dry year this water source gets used quite a bit- I even have deer come into the yard for a drink. The birds love it too, and the barn cats don't need a water bowl.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 1:11PM
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Cathy, Thank you for your most informative and kind post. It looks like the important things are to have rigid pipe that is sloped downward. Our pipe that comes out of the house is rigid, but then it was attached to a flexible pipe. It is warming up now (in the 40's and 50's) so I don't think it will freeze again this year, but it will obviously have to be remedied before next winter. I have summers off (work in public schools) so I can try to do what you did with yours when I have some time to work on it. The photos especially are very helpful. It was so nice of you to take the pictures and to give such a good explanation. Thank you so much.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2010 at 9:43PM
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ozziepuppy, here in northern Illinois we also have clay and our sump runs too much.

Check your city/county codes. Where we live, sump pumps eject from the house above ground then go below the frost line and hook into the storm sewer. What is illegal here is hooking your gutter downspouts into any sewer because it would be too much of a strain on the treatment plant at once.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 7:54PM
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I live in Fargo, ND.

We will often need sump pumps to be used and still have freezing nights (like right now during our flood).

Most people will use an electric heat tape around the outlet pipe all the way up to the house. These are the same electric heat tapes used to keep pipes from freezing under mobile homes here. (Some people even use them in their gutters to keep hem from icing up all winter).

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 3:14PM
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Smooth pipe correctly pitched, and increase the diameter the last few feet when the line opens to air.

Burying helps since even if the ground freezes the air above is usually colder and the earth acts as insulation.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 3:40PM
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If you have a large enough diameter pipe, you shouldn't have standing water in it anyways. A 2" diameter pipe would suffice as your sump pump should not be pumping that much to fill it up with a solid stream and if it does then when it is done pumping it should drain down. even from going to a small pipe into a larger corrugated pipe, it still should drain down enough to not freeze solid. It sounds to me like the OP has an elbow or bend in the pipe that is not draining down completely

    Bookmark   April 11, 2010 at 7:55AM
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Its illegal in most places to dump sump water into the SANITARY sewer, but probably ok to send it to a STREET (or storm) sewer. Around my place, I know of two houses that pipe the sump water to the street gutter. I see their drain line poking through the curbing.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 3:05AM
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I finally got my drain lines fixed up.

This has a 10" drop from one end to the other. I'll be building a short rock wall by the house and that part will be under the dirt. It will be topped with plastic and gravel - I do not like to have plants growing next to the house unless they are in planters.

It's nice to get the gutter runoff going down the pipe. We will know when it rains if this helps keep the water out of the cellar.

Our sump did go out and in the 6 hours is was not working, this is what we had. Use to look like this every time it rained, but I think we've finally got the drainage around the house fixed up.

This is the old cellar section and it is about 1' lower then the basement under the addition. There is a drain that flows from this sump pit to the one in the addition where it is then pumped to the outside.

At least I don't have to worry about letting this flow. It goes down past the barn and out into the pasture.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2010 at 5:54PM
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I have the exact soil and freeze conditions in MI. I finally went to a 6" flexible drain tile tubing and just slid it over the discharge pipe. The 6" tube is too large to hold enough water to freeze solid. I then revert back to the 1 1/2" flex hose, after the threat of freezing, for appearance.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:39AM
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"The PVC pipe was attached to a long flexible hose. Perhaps the hose had a low spot and that is how the water got backed up. The PVC pipe extends out for a couple of feet. It has to be connected to something or the water just falls next to the foundation and the sump pump literally runs continuously, pumping out the same water over and over."

Extend the pipe underground.
If it has a good fall and enough size you may get away with not having it below frost depth.

The water should empty fast enough to not freeze.

If you still have problems wrap some heat tap around the first few feet of the drain line to warm the water a little.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 7:16PM
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my sump pump hose also exits about 2 1/2 ft above ground. I have a 90 ft hose. In order to prevent freezing in our winters the hose has been covered with round galvanized downspout pipes . It lays in a wooden V shaped trough which is supported by posts on a down slope of 1ft per 100 ft hose.
All metal pipes are connected and fastened down into the trough with ties.
Snow buildup has to be kept off the pipe system as it can get heavy and collaps the pipes. The outer pipes create a bit of an air pocket that keep the PVC pipe `warm``.
At the end of the hose , about 6ft, there is a horseshoe shaped wooden trough placed inverted on the V shaped one(Also fastened down). This prevents the end of the PVC pipe from curling upwards and thus causing a dip which freezes.It forces the end down.
This system has worked for many years.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 1:39PM
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I see your solution I don't like it. If the water from the downspout freezes in the vertical line it will prevent your discharge line from letting water exit from the sump pump. That verticals line can freeze gradually if the downspout is only dripping water into the vehicle line. If you don't have a good flow of water it will freeze before it gets to the end of the line no matter what drop vertically there is. It's referred to as slow flow freeze here. Drip freeze, drip freeze, repeat. A larger diameter line as Brickeeye suggests makes the problem worse because in a larger diameter line there is less water vertically in the line which means the depth of water is less and the flow is wider which helps it freeze faster. A shallow puddle will freeze faster than a deep puddle.

Heat trace the exit line from the sump or at least insulate it with insulating pipe tape. Many sewage lines to cisterns and septic beds have frozen this year because in the wisdom of our county they changed the code from 3" discharge to 4" from the dwelling to the septic bed or cistern

We have a bit of experience with freezing here. Some places have frozen water this year that never froze in the history of the home. If you think it won't freeze again this year what brings you to that conclusion? This will be a long winter and late spring. I've lived here on the Great Lakes for 60 years and never felt the cold and constant wind like this winter. My heat trace line is good to minus 40C and it froze, 40C is where centigrade and Fahrenheit meets. -40C is -40F.

Edit, do not put heat tracing on this line, of there isn't any water in the line it will melt the PVC or ABS.

This post was edited by SouthernCanuck on Fri, Feb 28, 14 at 9:35

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 2:09AM
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I added a T where the pipe comes out of house. One end goes down to drain pipe. I then use a street 22 and angle a 18" pipe up and away from house. So if drain pipe freezes the water will shoot out the angled pipe. It doesnt drain water away from house great but it is better than it not coming out at all.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Kristen Burgess

We had the same issue. Frozen discharge line to our sump pump above ground caused a flooded basement. Did you submit to insurance and did they pay your claim? We have an extra sewer & drain backup rider on our policy, and still not sure if it's covered. Praying it is.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2015 at 2:23PM
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Sump drains like yours needs something to keep the water from pulling back into the sump when the pump shuts off. In some installations, this is done with a one way flap valve just above the pump. However, this leaves water in the upper part of the line and where the pipe exits the house, it will begin to freeze layers of water until the line is plugged.

This is what I did. It is not elegant, but it works and has proven trouble free for over 10 years. On the top side of the fitting immediately outside the house, I drilled a small hole to make a vacuum breaker. The hole was about 1/8 inch or less in diameter. It was drilled at an angle to direct the stream of water away from the house. It was about 15 deg from vertical. When the sump runs, a small stream of water squirts out the hole. About 1 cup goes out the hole per sump run cycle, not enough to cause a problem. The rest goes out the discharge line. When the pump stops, air is drawn into the line breaking the vacuum and siphon action. The outside line drains unimpeded and the water in the vertical pipe in the basement falls back into the sump well. There are no valves in any part of the discharge line to clog or freeze. The complete length of the discharge line from the pump outward drains. The only maintenance is to periodically inspect the vent hole to insure it is open.

If you try this method, it is easy to revert to the original condition by merely plugging the small vent hole.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2015 at 11:57PM
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