Ever ask “What is that foul smell coming from the bathroom?!” ….

by stevensplumbingac on February 1, 2013

…. and get a loud “Not me!” or “I didn’t do it!” from everybody in the house?  Well, before you assume somebody isn’t telling it like it is, check out the p-trap under the sink (yes, I know…so many potential jokes…so little time…sigh…)

plumbing drain pipe p trapThe plumbing p-trap is so named because of it’s shape (like a P, or like a J depending on your perspective) which allows it to retain water.  The water in the trap blocks sewer gases from backing up into the house through the drain pipes.  If a fixture hasn’t been used in awhile, especially during periods of extremely dry weather like we have here in Phoenix, the water in the plumbing trap can evaporate and allow sewer gases into the room.  A very unpleasant, although not typically hazardous, situation.  But there’s a simple solution.  Be sure to run water periodically in any infrequently used fixtures.  And, if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, ask whoever is looking in on things in your absence to run water throughout the house – turning on faucets, tubs, showers, flushing toilets.  You’ll be glad they did when you return home to a house that smells as sweet as you left it (or, at least doesn’t smell like a sewer).

Of course, there’s always the possibility the problem is not a dry p-trap, but a faulty plumbing vent.  You know those vent pipes you see sticking out of the roofs of homes – ever wonder why?  These plumbing vents, when properly installed, allow sewer gases to escape outdoors.

plumbing pipe not vented out of atticPlumbing vents not installed where they are required or not installed properly (not actually vented outside, for instance – like the one in this picture); vents installed next to a second story window; vents that have become blocked (birds, wasps, debris); vents not sealed properly (this is mostly seen in a new home); a plumbing vent stack that has cracked or broken over time (like other plumbing pipes, vent pipes can corrode, crack due to shifting or settling of the house, etc.) can all be the culprit in allowing sewer gases to escape into your house, instead of being directed outdoors.  And, besides sewer odors, blocked/improperly installed vents can also be a cause of noisy drains (that gurgling sound when your sink is draining).

Repair of a plumbing vent problem is typically beyond the skill level of the average homeowner.  So, if it’s an issue with a plumbing vent, you’ll need to call a licensed plumber to diagnose the problem accurately and fix it correctly.

Questions?  Give us a call.  One of us is always available during business hours to answer your questions.  See our Phoenix Plumbing Home page for information about all the services we provide.

Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning
602-273-7473

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