Sewer odor in house

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Yuck, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. Yuck

    Yuck New Member

    Messages:
    8
    We've been getting an intermittant sewer odor in our house for the past several months. Before we call a plumber, we'd like to know if there's anything that we can do ourselves. So far we've checked the floor drain in the basement, and after talking to our neighbors, who used to live here, it doesn't drain into the septic system. It runs parallel to the drain field, and drains out into a drainage ditch in a field. We keep the traps full on all sinks, etc. But it could be that for some reason one is being syphoned out.
    The odor happens after someone has used a larger amount of water, such as a shower or a load of laundry. I haven't been able to pinpoint it yet, but I think the odor is worse after using hot/warm water in larger amounts. The odor doesn't begin until several minutes after the large water usage. Could it be that it's somehow connected to when our gas water heater turns on? Some type of negative air thing?
    The odor is the strongest in the basement, but it does come up into the house. When the furnace runs, the odor comes through the registers, and even sometimes it seems to be radiating from the cold air returns.
    We've used our noses, but we haven't been able to pinpoint the exact area that the odor is eminating from, however, it does seem to be worse in one area in the basement and in the upstairs area right above (there is a cold air return in the upstairs spot).
    So we're using the process of elimination, having ruled out the floor drain, our next step will be to reseal all of the drain pipe connections that go into the main sewer line. If that doesn' work, I dunno......
    We don't have tall trees near our house, so I don't think leaves are in our vent stack, but maybe some yellowjackets had a nest down there somewhere. The sinks, showers, toilets, all drain fine though. We have been making sure our traps are full.
    The plumbing is new, not cast iron. Oh, and also, the odor happens when it's cold outside. When it's warmer, we don't have the problem. We live in Michigan, so cold means about 30 degrees or so.
    Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks!
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Are you on a well?
  3. Yuck

    Yuck New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Yes, we have well water. It's very hard water, so we also have a softener. I was wondering about the rotten egg smell from the water heater's rod, but I dunno why it would smell in the basement. We used to get that odor from the kitchen sink faucet when we first moved here, but either it doesn't happen anymore, or we're just used to it.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,032
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    odor

    Odors are the hardest things to trace, and even if you call a plumber he might not be able to come up with a definite cause. But if you have an aircondition and its condensate drain is connected to the drain system, the furnace will draw sewer odors if the trap seal dries out.
  5. plumber1

    plumber1 Plumber

    Messages:
    1,423
    Location:
    Florida
    odors

    If it stinks, people just have to call the plumber. Also look elsewhere........

    Look for a rotten potato or a dead mouse.

    And look in the hidden places around the house, not the plumbing.
  6. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    It is most likely your water and that is why you can't find the source and why it seems like when you use large ammts. of water it is stronger. The well guys can help. Try reposting in the Pumps & Wells forum below.
  7. Yuck

    Yuck New Member

    Messages:
    8
    The condensate tubes...... the furnace, the water heater, and the water softener all drain into the same drain pipe..... through an opening in the top of the pipe. There is a trap though. But could be something is syphoning out that trap.
    Also, since it's been winter, I haven't used the outside faucet much. That is one of those things - like the old pump handles - that comes right up from the well. BUT, I did fill a bucket of water for the dogs out there about a month ago, when they got loose and were too muddy to come in the house.... :) - and when I turned the water on, it smelled. I just got a whiff of it, but it did resemble our house odor. We just had our well pump replaced about a year ago after a power surge messed it up, they had to do some digging, etc. So, hmmmm..... could be our water. But why would it smell in the basement? Also, we did have a cat come up missing several months ago. Uh - oh! :( We do know that whatever it is, it's connected to large amounts of water usage, either directly, or indirectly. I'll repost this on the well forum and see what I can come up with. THANKS!
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,032
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    odor

    The furnace and water heater would not add any water to the trap at this time of the year, so if there were a problem with the water softener, or if it did not regenerate often enough to keep the trap filled, that could be your odor source. You have to look down the pipe when you have the odor to see if there is water down there, and if it is enough water.
  9. Yuck

    Yuck New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Ok, will check that trap. We do live in Michigan, so our furnace is still running. Well, kinda, cuz we just installed a new corn heater in our living room today. So hopefully the furnace can have a break and so can our wallets when it comes to propane! But that's another subject.......
    The water softener regenerates every other day, because it's just the two of us here now, kids all off on their own, except for one in college that comes home occasionally. Oh and that - we do run water in the unused bathroom upstairs to make sure those traps don't evaporate in his absence.
    Anyhow, maybe something is syphoning that trap out (the one that the furnace,water heater condensate and the softener drain into). Hey, does sewer gas rise or fall? I'm asking because when we go into the basement to look/smell for the odor, the smell is more up at nose level, not close to the floor. The basement is cool, not cold. But not warm. It's just an old fieldstone/michigan basement.
  10. Yuck

    Yuck New Member

    Messages:
    8
    We think we found the problem....it's the basement floor drain after all. We plugged it up with an old towel, since the odor did seem to be coming from that area of the basement. So far, no more odor. Thing is, that drain is supposedly run out from the house, past the drain field and out into a field drain. Since we never had the problem before, we're wondering 'why now?' It could be that the drain runs out into some old clay field tile and that has collapsed or has broken near our drain field. The smell could be from the drain field odor coming in thru the broken piece of tile. Does this sound possible? If so, any advice about rerouting that drain? We really don't need it except for the dehumidifier. So we could just cap it off. Don't really want to dig up the yard, and if the tile runs that close to the drain field, well, don't want to mess with it.
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