Sewer Gas? A Venting Problem?

Your toilet is running, your sink is leaking or you notice a bad smell coming from your pipes and you or your spouse decide you can look it up on the internet and fix it yourself. Except, as it turns out, plumbing problems are not often as simple as they seem.

Depending on the nature of the issue, fixing the plumbing might require properly soldering a copper tube, learning why small leaks have appeared in a cast iron pipe or even breaking through concrete. A DIY attempt can often exacerbate the problem, or create new ones. Suddenly paying a professional plumber seems like a no-brainer.

Plumbers Examines the Basics

Our experienced plumbers knows that all drains in a house are protected by a trap, that’s the U-shaped pipe you see underneath your kitchen sink. The U part of the pipe holds water, which prevents gas from sneaking up the pipes, through the drain and into the house. If the drain is rarely used, the water may have evaporated leaving nothing to block the sewer gas from entering the home.

In this case, our plumber will simply run water through the system. The trap will once again contain water and will block the gas.  A plumber will also check for leaks in the system, especially at the joints. If the pipes are old, the water remaining in the pipes might have created rust, causing small leaks. As the water leaks out of the trap, it leaves space for gas and odors to sneak back in.

Checking the Vents

Once our plumber has checked the drains, he might move on to the vents. A house or business has a plumbing system, sometimes called the DWV. In a plumbing system D= drains (gray water—from tubs and sinks), W=waste (black water—from toilets) and V=vents (for air).

The vents can be a frequent cause for smells.  When the toilet is flushed, water pressure and gravity pull the black water downward while the sewer smells escape upward through the vent pipe and are directed outside.  Then fresh air enters the system from outside, giving the house a chance to breathe like our body – exhaling air out, inhaling fresh air.

In normal times, the system works great. However, if there is a crack in the vent pipe, the gas and smells can escape into the house. The plumber will know how to fix those cracks.  He also could climb onto the roof of the house to check out the vents using a snake with a camera on the end, allowing him to see what is happening inside the vent pipe.

Frequently, the plumber will discover a blockage in the pipe.  Perhaps an animal has fallen into the vent and died. Or the pipe has become blocked with leaves, pine needles, or other debris.  This material must be cleared out for the sewer gas to vent properly outside of the home.

Are the pipes working as they should be?

Often the homeowner faces a more complex problem. For example, one homeowner noticed sewer gas smells in his well-kept older home. The homeowner’s first move was to inquire about a capable plumber. 

Our professional plumber arrived and did a thorough inspection of the pipes. A plumber snake revealed no blockages, but a video examination of the pipes revealed “standing water” in the pipes.  The water did not fill the pipe but merely sloshed around at the bottom. 

Unfortunately, this examination revealed that over the years the pipes had not remained horizontal, but sagged. Perhaps the dirt or stone supporting the pipes had settled so much that the pipe slumped downward. Now when the water flushed through the system it did not create a tight seal and instead allowed gas to seep back into the system.

Concrete demolition and removal

Without the aid of a certified plumber this homeowner may not have realized the extent of his problem.

In this case, the plumber broke up a section of the concrete floor and replaced the sagging pipe with a new pipe, properly supported with rock and dirt. 

The retrofitted pipe could now carry blackwater out through the system and push the gas out as well.  The recurring smell problem was fixed and the residents could continue to enjoy their older well-kept home.

In addition, plumbing has come a long way in the past several years.  Learn more about our trenchless sewer lines and how we are able to save many homeowners plumbing headaches. 

Save yourself the trouble of trying to find and fix a sewer gas smell. Call a reliable plumber who will fix the smell issue and also might sniff out other problems before they happen. Think of all the money you will save on tools.