Plumbing issue in newly remodeled bathroom

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by SabrinaFlorida, Aug 6, 2010.

  1. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    Our house was built in 1970, and we just finished having one of our bathrooms remodeled. We went ahead and had half of our house replumbed (the half that has 2 bathrooms including the remodeled one).

    When we flush the toilet in our newly remodeled bathroom, we can hear the water gurgle in the bathroom sink pipe, and we can see the residual water around the sink drain percolate a tiny bit. If we flush the toilet several times in a row (which we did after first noticing the gurgling and percolating), there seems to be some kind of pressure equalization and the sink no longer gurgles/percolates with flushing.

    Is this a problem? I am concerned that sewage might be backing up in the sink drainage pipe. Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions you might have.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2010
  2. Doherty Plumbing

    Doherty Plumbing Journeyman & Gas Fitter

    Messages:
    810
    Location:
    Penticton, BC
    Sounds like you have improper venting.

    Is it a problem? Yes. You'll have slow drainage and you could siphon the trap dry on the sink and have sewer gas smells entering your house.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,651
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    You are describing a partially blocked sewer line along with improper venting, (possible with an air admittance valve). It will stop gurgling when the pipe is full of water, the toilet should also stop working shortly after that if it is flushed a few more times.
  4. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    Thanks for the responses. This in NOT good news. We will be talking to our contractor on Monday. Anything else you can think of that I should tell him? Thanks.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,651
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    A good contractor should just have to hear the symptoms and he would take it from there, without you diagnosing the problem for him. In fact, I might not even want to hear what you THINK is the reason for the problem, since it could divert me from the real cause of it.
  6. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    hj, excellent points. We will just tell our contractor the symptoms and let him figure out what's wrong.
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,023
    Location:
    New England
    Out of curiosity, did the contractor pull a permit and was it inspected? If so, did it include the plumbing (might have only gotten a permit for say electrical and framing)?
  8. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    Jim, the contractor did pull permits and our completed bathroom has passed inspections. My husband and I did not look at the permits--they were hanging in our carport while the work was being done, but now that the job is done, they are gone.So I don't know exactly what the permits were for.
  9. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    More info--after reading the responses above, I went into the bathroom and repeatedly flushed the toilet for about 20 minutes, letting the tank refill after each flush. When the water stopped gurgling/percolating in the sink drain, it then began gurgling in the shower drain.I have a very sensitive nose, and I did not smell any sewer gases, but now (2 hours later), I definitely smell sewer gases.
  10. rusak

    rusak New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Seattle WA
    Like hj said sounds that it has to do with improper venting, and AAV.
  11. DavidTu

    DavidTu Member

    Messages:
    239
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    So HJ and/or Rusak, what indicates that there is an AAV involved here? Are you guys saying AAVs are not reliable or just cannot/should not be used with a WC? Or?? Thanks.
  12. sabrinaflorida, sewer gases are serious, far more serious than a nuisance that stinks.

    You and DH can start drawing stick diagrams to show your pipes in the walls both venting and draining. This will help you get a handle on what you have. Based on what you wrote I wouldn't put much faith in the GC or in his plumber, so be cautious. With a diagram you might get more insight for yourselves, and more help if you can post your diagram.

    If you mention the possibility of a partial blockage before you know what pipes you have in the walls _and_ you are really certain that they are sufficient for venting (and draining), you give the GC a way to get himself off the hook before he even bothers to show you where your pipes are. So, keep that one to yourselves and try to diagnose things with your GC and plumber being the ones to provide information.

    Venting pipes means letting air move either way depending on where the drain water is, and how much it is. Water flowing in a pipe displaces air of equal volume, and new water being added into the drain pipes has to force air out of the way, in order to let the water flow downhill fast enough to carry waste downhill. An AAV is only a possible complication. hj said "...(possible with an air admittance valve)" and rusak repeated this or probably tried to, not trying to make it sound that an AAV was a certainty.
  13. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    geniescience, thanks for being willing to look at the plumbing set up. Most of the piping is not in the walls as our living space is elevated with utility rooms underneath. Here are three links to photos of the plumbing in Photobucket. The wood you see is the subfloor to the bathroom. Obviously, the photos are taken from underneath the subfloor from the vantage point of the utility room below the bathroom. The drainage pipe on the far left is coming from the shower, the one in the middle is coming from the toilet, and the one on the right is coming from the sink.Presumably somewhere in there is the venting, but I can't point it out to you.

    http://i946.photobucket.com/albums/ad301/SabrinaFlorida/P1000470.jpg

    http://i946.photobucket.com/albums/ad301/SabrinaFlorida/P1000471.jpg

    http://i946.photobucket.com/albums/ad301/SabrinaFlorida/P1000468.jpg

    One more piece of information (not sure how pertinent this is): even when I just run water in the sink, I can hear it gurgling in the shower drain.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2010
  14. Now is a good time to learn that venting is not shown in these photos taken underneath your bathroom.
    Venting is provided by the pipes that are higher than the bathroom sink drain.
    You have a pipe coming out of your roof.
    It perforates your roof at approx. a point directly above the bathroom sink drain pipe wall.
    Go and see.

    sabrinaflorida, did I miss something: it appears that these 3 drains are not connected to any others.
    But you did say something about having the house remodeled extensively.
    But these pictures show an old part of the house.
    I don't get it.
    People need to know.

    The photos show a part of the whole system.
    People need to know what else you have. In terms of pipes. Everywhere.
    Without the whole picture, it is only possible to conjecture and hypothesize, but it is useless.


    Master plumbers may show you how it's possible to rebuild this so the vented pipe comes in at the highest point.


    The 2nd photo shows the slope of the bathroom drain since the picture was taken head on.
    Since the shower drain is so long, its slope becomes a critical and important thing to measure.

    The 1st and 3rd photos show exactly the same thing.
  15. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    geniescience, I'm at work now so can't take anymore photos at the moment. I understand you are saying that venting would not show from underneath, because the venting should be to the roof.

    I don't know what you mean by "Master plumbers may show you how it's possible to rebuild this so the vented pipe comes in at the highest point." I'm not particularly knowledgable regarding plumbing, so please dumb this down for me. :)

    Re: the photos, you are seeing the subfloor which is not part of the remodel. The contractor thought the subfloor was fine and did not need to be replaced (it had gotten wet from an old leak but was not rotten). Everything else (besides the subfloor) in the bathroom is new.
  16. As long as you post new information, and others are given 36-48 hours to respond, you will make a lot of progress within a few days. My phrase might have been better stated as : "Plumbers will comment." patience patience. Nobody is expecting you to post again saying you cannot take pictures at the moment. When you have time, within 24 hours, you may want to (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) look at the venting in your house. Why? Because everyone is telling you here and in other threads you have posted in other forums that this is all related to your venting. Then, you may take some time to find words and ways to explain what you have, in terms of venting.

    I'm off now. Other people will answer other posts you make, with the new information you will add.
  17. SabrinaFlorida

    SabrinaFlorida New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Florida
    Geniescience, I appreciate your interest in helping, but I could not possibly diagram the plumbing in my house.I don't have the knowledge to do that and I frankly don't understand your posts.

    The responses re: venting have been very helpful--when I posted, I wasn't sure anything was wrong but was very concerned. Now I know something is wrong thanks to all the responses I've received.The contractor and plumber are coming out tomorrow to figure things out.

    We do have a relationship of trust with contractor. He has done other work for us in the past. But when you don't understand what's being done (i use the analogy of hiring an auto mechanic, a computer tech, or a doctor--areas of fairly esoteric knowledge), you gotta ask around.
  18. jeffeverde

    jeffeverde New Member

    Messages:
    79
    Location:
    L.A.
    When you flush your toilet, first a "bubble" of air is pushed ahead of the rushing water, then a vacuum is created behind the rush of water. And if you have one of the new "super-flush" toilets that flush in one big "fwoomp", this push and pull of air is quite strong.

    As the rush of water from the toilet flush passes the junction of toilet/sink/shower drains, it's going to be pulling a vacuum behind it. If there's not sufficient venting, that vacuum will suck air past the traps in the toilet and shower (causing them to "gurgle") -- do this repeatedly and it will suck enough water out of the traps so that they no longer "seal" the trap (which would explain the "equalization" you're describing - there's now a clear air path through the trap). Additionally, if there's any sort of restriction in the drain line below (clog, low spot in a horizontal run that's pooling water, etc) the bubble of air ahead of the flush is going to "escape" up the sink and shower arms, bubbling past their traps.

    From your description, it sounds like you have inadequate venting. Possible causes are-

    -obstructed vent -- sometimes construction debris ends up in the DWV lines, and foreign objects sometimes end up in the vent line from the rooftop (did you reroof your house as part of the remodel? wouldn't be the first time a roofer dropped something down a vent line). A plumber (or you) can both visually inspect and run a snake down the vent from the rooftop to verify that it's clear.

    -undersized vent (should be 2" for your shower/toilet/sink combo) -- an undersized vent could be further impacted by a circuitous path with lots of bends, and you'd especially see an effect with a "super-flush" toilet -- the fix is installing a proper-sized vent

    -AAV (air admittance vent) - this is sort of a "ventless vent". They're normally reserved for situations like a sink in an island, where there's no way to route a normal vent. But in a remodel, plumbers will sometimes use them to avoid having to run a vent to the roof. They're a less than ideal solution - especially with high-flow fixtures like toilets and showers, because they only address the vacuum issue - they're specifically designed to close under positive pressure, so they can't vent the air pushed ahead of the flush. --- again, the fix is installing a proper sized, "real" vent

    -no vent at all - the problem and solution are obvious -- install a proper vent

    If you haven't made final payment to your contractor yet, DON'T! This sounds like a clear construction defect, but once you've made final payment, you may find that your builder isn't particularly motivated to fix the problem (contractor's hate fix-it callbacks -- it's unpaid work AND it takes them away from the next (paying) project they've moved on to).

    As others have said, contact your GC and tell him what you're experiencing. Don't offer any diagnoses - just tell him "when I flush, I hear gurgling in the sink and shower -- if I flush repeatedly, I stop hearing gurgling and I smell sewer gas". If you haven't made final payment yet, I'd finish up with a friendly "We're excited to get the bathroom completely finished, and I'm sure you're anxious to get this fixed right away so we can make our final payment to you".

    Hopefully your GC will deal with this in a prompt and professional manner (and if you haven't made final payment yet, he most likely will). But if you get any kind of a run-around about "that's just normal", "you know these old houses", etc -- you're friendly relationship with your builder has just come to an end. Be pleasant but firm, and don't accept any excuses. If he still drags his heels, tell him "So it sounds like we need to bring in a forensic plumber to run a video snake through the lines and determine what's wrong with the venting". Which is a polite way of saying "I'm putting together the documentation to sue you for faulty workmanship" and should get his attention. If he still doesn't respond, that's exactly what you'll have to do.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2010
  19. Rich B

    Rich B DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    283
    Location:
    New Jersey
    I am not a plumber but I see NO vent connection of any kind in those 3 pictures.
    I see a trap for the shower.....and no vent connection visible
    I see a toilet connection and no vent connection visible
    I see another drain(sink?) and no trap or vent....presumably there is a trap above the floor for the sink and it could be vented properly....
    But that would not serve to vent the other two fixtures and they are both connected improperly to the main stack I believe......

    The shower trap is being siphoned dry and your getting sewer gas up thru that connection......

    I don't see how what is shown in those 3 pictures could possibly have been inspected and approved if there is no vent !
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2010
  20. nhmaster3015

    nhmaster3015 Master Plumber

    Messages:
    836
    Location:
    The granite state
    I have reviewed your pictures and though I can only get a partial picture of things I would suspect that the plumber that comes out will recommend tearing most of it out as quite a bit of it does not meet code. Whoever did that either has no license or bribed someone at the plumbers licensing board.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 10, 2010
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