What's The Difference Between A Sump Pump And An Ejector Pump?

Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

What's the difference between a sump pump and an ejector pump?

A sump pump is placed in basement floors, below ground level, and in a small pit of 20 or 30 gallons size.

Around the house, under the house, and perhaps a stairwell, tubes will be placed to direct water from those places into the sump pump pit.  As the water level increases the pump is turned on by a float device, and the water is ejected away from the house.  It is important that the sump pump collects and ejects that water away from the house.  Houses don't make very effective boats.

I wrote a blog earlier this year on how to choose a sump pump.  You can read it here.

An ejector pump is very similar, but has a different role.  The pump is intended to eject water from a basement bathroom that is below the graded drain level up and into the main plumbing for the house so it can be sent to the sanitary sewer at the street.

The pump mechanism is slightly different as it has to pump not only fluid but solids into the plumbing.

Other than that an ejector pump is a glorified sump pump.

Seeing the sump pump and ejector pump side by side, I looked to see which was an ejector pump and said and involuntary, "Uh, oh..."

My clients wondered why.  Explaining what an ejector pump is and its function, we returned to the bathroom.  The toilet in the bathroom was dated 11 years after the birth date of the house, along with newer light and plumbing fixtures, so I determined that the bathroom (and part of the basement) was put in post house construction.

That explained the ejector pump, as the builder would have left the empty pit, along with rough plumbing, in place for a future bathroom.  The future had arrived.

My uh oh was because there was a sizable gap all around the discharge tubing where it passed through the lid.  An ejector pump is pumping unsanitary and smelly water, and the lid must necessarily be hermetically sealed.  And for obvious reasons!  You can see where it appeared to have leaked, um, sewage from around that opening!

To demonstrate I turned on the bathroom water and flushed the toilet a few times to demonstrate that the pump worked.  And I warned that the room would soon smell like sewer gas.   My statement soon proved to be very true!

My recommendation:  sometimes it's the little things that make for proper installations!  It could be that these sellers just thought that installing the basement bathroom would result in a sewer smell for a while, but saw that eventually it would go away!  Nobody wants sewer gas to leak into the house and the ejector pump pit in this house was a source for that.  While the fix is simple, it is important!  Remember the old saying - sewage be any other name smells just as, well, smells the same.



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Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560



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Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
"Franklin MA Homes"

Good morning, Jay Markanich huge difference between the functions of the two pumps.... 

Dec 28, 2016 03:36 AM #1
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

And a difference experienced a couple of ways, Barbara!

Dec 28, 2016 03:38 AM #2
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

That's a great description of the difference in pumps, and what happens when one is not installed/maintained correctly. 

Dec 28, 2016 04:20 AM #3
Wayne Martin
Wayne M Martin - Chicago, IL
Real Estate Broker

Good morning Jay. A simple fix that they never thought of? Gotta wonder who installed it! Enjoy your day!

Dec 28, 2016 06:13 AM #4
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

 We call it a lift pump....much more descriptive...kind of like being able to 

hear better with certain color/kind of ear buds Jay Markanich  !

Dec 28, 2016 06:16 AM #5
Donald Hester
NCW Home Inspections, LLC - Wenatchee, WA
NCW Home Inspections, LLC

Jay Markanich We have a few areas where the homes are all built below the sewer line and the whole house is on a sewage ejector pump typically a large pit style in the yard. You sure hope it all works well :) 

here is a fun video of a Liberty Pump-


Dec 28, 2016 07:42 AM #6
Fred Hernden, CMI
Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area - Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque area Master Inspector

Glad we don't have many basements here... you basement people are a pain... 

Dec 28, 2016 08:36 AM #7
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Kat.  That one contributed a LOT to the findings of the inspection!  The nost knows.

Wayne - oftentimes homeowners don't know a lot when "professionals" install things in the house.  They assume things are correct and normal.

S&D - different words for things in different places.  And I will hear great when I have an R to go with the G!

A damaged pump would contribute a lot to the neighborhood ambience Don!  And you have to like an ejector pump that eats everything - the Omnivore!

I am a basement person, Fred, and take GREAT pride in being a pain.  FYI...  I can tell you that the furnace room was a pain on the ole' olifactory nerve after a while!

Dec 28, 2016 09:09 AM #8
Stephen Weakley
Nationwide Mortgage Services - Rockville, MD

Jay, based on local VA codes, can anything else drain into the ejector pit.  Say HVAC condensation?

Dec 28, 2016 12:07 PM #9
Debbie Reynolds
Platinum Properties - Clarksville, TN
Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent

Hi Jay, We had an ejector pump in our home with teenage daughters using that basement bathroom. In over 11 years of heavy use it never failed nor did it ever have any sewer smell. I guess it was installed just right.

Dec 28, 2016 01:11 PM #10
Liz and Bill Spear
RE/MAX Elite 513.520.5305 www.LizTour.com - Mason, OH
RE/MAX Elite Warren County OH (Cincinnati/Dayton)

Sewer gas smells are no fun at all.  I've encountered the equivalent a few times showing homes that had been vacant for an extended time without anyone refilling the P-traps on the drains and also letting the toilets become empty.

Dec 28, 2016 05:01 PM #11
Ed Silva
RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Something like that would certainly create a different ambiance for a family room in that area.

Dec 28, 2016 05:25 PM #12
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Stephen - I am not familiar with what the code might say about that, but I have seen condensate lines drain there.  I suppose it would be okay if it was sealed.

Sealed properly there should never be a smell and they are good pumps, Debbie.  And you proved that!

Bliz - filling dried up P traps is something most people don't think about! 

There was an office outside that furance room, Ed, and a family room just beyond!

Dec 28, 2016 06:08 PM #13
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Since basements are rare in Oklahoma City I had not heard of an ejector pump.

Dec 29, 2016 04:37 PM #14
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

They are most popular here in older houses, Joe, where the basement was never intended to have a bathroom and modern living really desires it.

Dec 29, 2016 04:49 PM #15
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