Toilet not flushing, obstructed vent?

Discussion in 'Toilet Forum discussions' started by susan, Nov 20, 2004.

  1. susan

    susan New Member

    Messages:
    6
    About a month ago we noticed a sewer gas odor in our bathroom. Around the same time we had to start using a plunger everytime someone we to the bathroom in all three bathrooms. Could this be related?
    A plumber came and augered all the toilets and he said the toilets looked good, then 2 days later one overflowed all over the bathroom.
    If it is a vent obstruction how do we fix this? Do plumbers do this.
    Susan
  2. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,019
    Location:
    New England
    Don't think that a blocked vent would cause that. From what I hear, a blocked vent will potentially cause a trap to be siphoned dry, but not affect the drain much. A line could be clogged where a vent comes off, and that could cause a trap to be sucked dry giving you the sewer gas smells, but it still sounds like to me you have an obstruction in your drain line somewhere. If he used a toilet auger, that only goes down about maybe 4-5', if that. If he used a power auger and did it through a toilet, I don't think that works too well and could damage the toilet. Those can be quite long (say maybe 100'). One of the pros will probably have some thoughts on this as well. I guess you could pull the toilet and power auger from there.
  3. susan

    susan New Member

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    6
    Thanks for your information. I have also tried chemical drain decloggers and that didn't work. Maybe I used a bed brand.
    The plumber used just a toilet auger.
    Thanks
    Susan
  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,019
    Location:
    New England
    If you do call a plumber, tell him what you used...they usually don't do anything except sometimes eat your pipes and give plumbers fits...
  5. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

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    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Every drain opener is labeled "DO NOT USE IN TOILETS" . The chemicals and the reaction heat can damage a toilet . Also, they don't really do much on "poop and paper".

    Sometimes when there is a clog, the bowl does not refill after the flush, of if there is paper left in the bowl the bowl may slowly siphon dry over time. If this is not happening, you cannot get sewer gas through the toilet. A bad wax ring can be the culprit. You may have two different problems, but pretty soon the logical option is going to be pull the toilet.
  6. susan

    susan New Member

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    6
    The plumber said the seals looked good and that all of the toilets looked great. He even cut strips in the plastic buckets that surround the flapper to allow more water to escape during flushing. The toilets are not running dry, so the traps can't be dry, right? Basically the plumber didn't think there was anything wrong with the toilets. So why do they still clog after one poop. All three toilets in the house have to be plunged after going. THe sewer smell is in the master bathroom and is worse at different times of the day, just depending on the day. Remember the sewer gas smell started about one month ago, the same time that all 3 tiolets started clogging. The plumber did mention someting about the vent might be loose on the roof, does that make sense?
    I don't know what to do. The plumber charged $80.00 for 30 minutes of work, he seemed knowledgable and he was nice. But we still have a probelm $80.00 later and we are not rich. HOw can I fix this myself?
    Help.
    Thanks Susan
  7. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    22,019
    Location:
    New England
    A leaking wax ring can allow gas to leak. These are cheap, and though messy to replace, something you can probably do yourself. That may not be the problem, but it is cheap to check. You could have a broken joint or a hole in your vent stack, but this is not common, either. Is it plastic or metal? A leaking vent will let sewer gas escape, but will not cause the toilets to back up. If all of the toilets in the house don't flush, how about the washing machine (if you have one), does it cause problems, too? It is probably the biggest waste volume while running in the house.

    Still sounds to me like you have an obstruction in your line. It could be anywhere between the house and the city's main sewer line out by the road. You could also have a broken or collapsed line. Has there been any construction on your property recently? Has a big truck been through there? Any digging, backfilling, etc? These lines are often down a ways, so that usually doesn't affect them, but a heavy construction vehicle, depending on the pipe and where it is, can cause problems. Do you have trees in the yard near where the sewer line goes? If there is a gap or crack in the line, roots can get into the line and really mess things up.

    You can rent the tools to try to clean out a sewer line, but it is messy work and takes some knowledge of plumbing. You might create more damage than you solve if you don't know what you are doing. If you have a cleanout in the basement where the line goes out to the street, if you don't have an obstruction in the house, you'd be pretty safe trying to see if there was one between the house and street. It is sometimes a bear getting the caps off of these things, though. Sometimes, you end up breaking the thing and having to put in a new one.

    One of the pros will have some other ideas, but it seems to me thatyou need to check for an obstruction anywhere between the house and the street. If all of the toilets in the house are doing the same thing, and they worked correctly previously, it has to be common to all of them - the main line. Find the toilet closest to where it meets the line going out to the street, and check from there out. If the washing machine doesn't back up things, then it seems like it is probably between that last toilet and the washing machine (this assumes thatthe washing machine is in the basement, which may not be valid).

    The sewer gas seems like a second problem, maybe unrelated to the flushing problem with the toilets.
  8. susan

    susan New Member

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    6
    We had the tree root problem in our old house so I have dealt with that before, but there is only one small tree in our front yard and it is way off to the side so I don't think it could be that. Also our washing macnine is working great and there hasn't been any construction in our neighborhood. I will try to fix the wax ring is that doesnt
    work, I guess I will have to call the plumber again.
    Thanks for the information.
    Susan
  9. susan

    susan New Member

    Messages:
    6
    If we had a bad wax ring wouldn't there be water around the toilet on the floor? There isn't. Could this still be causing the odor problem if we don't have any leakage. The plumber doens't seem to think so.
    Thanks
    Susan
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,019
    Location:
    New England
    Not necessarily. The actual opening to the drain in the toilet is usually smaller than the opening in the flange - most of it goes straight down. The seal will prevent leaking of both water and sewer gas if it is intact, but won't necessarily leak water. Now, unless the toilet rocks, or the seal wasn't installed properly, it usually won't go bad after having been good. A rocking toilet, though will cause a wax ring to fail to seal properly fairly quickly.
  11. susan

    susan New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Ok, in that case it's probably not the wax ring then. The toilet does not rock and since we only noticed the smell a month ago it probably ins't coming from a bad wax ring then. Where could it be coming from!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I can't take it anymore!!!!!!!!!!!! THis toilet problem is consuming my time. HElp!!!
    Thanks
    Susan
  12. ocpilot

    ocpilot New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Do you have a shower, sink or bathtub that is infrequently used? Sometimes the trap dry out, and then will allow sewer gas to pass. Also what type of construction do you have? Slab. 2 story?

    Look at it logically you have three possible ways that you can get sewer oder in the house:

    1) Dried trap somewhere
    2) Sewer line failure of some type. Could be below ground with seepage or failure is above ground in a wall (i.e. between 1st and 2nd floors).
    3) Failure of toilet seal, although any time I've seen this the smell is more from the "icky seepage" than from sewer gas.

    I'd seriously doubt it being a vent problem unless the soil stack is seperated in the wall someplace between floors (that you might smell upstairs).


    However, this isn't going to explain the poor toilet performance (i.e. clogs).

    However, based on the fact that you have a problem with all the toilets in the house, I think it is most likely you have some type of obstruction downline impacting all of them. A short snake may not solve that problem.

    Other ideas to try might be to attempt to locate a drain upstream from the toilet and run a significant amount of water. See if you can make it overflow, or get you in a situation where the flush is slow. If so, then you might get a clue as to where the blockage is located.
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