New sewer smell in bathroom being renovated - pls help!

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Midwest Girl

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I am stuck in renovation hell. And I’m about to have a nervous breakdown!

First contractor was hired to completely renovate master bathroom + replace vanity/sink/toilet/install floor tile in a second bathroom. All of the work by first contractor in the second bathroom was finished 13 months ago. No smell (rotten eggs - so assuming sewer issue). No rotten egg smell anywhere in my home ever before.

Second contractor (engaged based upon 200+ 4.9 start Google reviews + photos) sent a newly hired employee to bid and complete work in master bathroom. While he was here, I asked how much it would be to replace tile surround in shower/tub combo (everything else looked so nice in bathroom - so, I wanted to update 4 x 4 white tile - which still looked perfect - you have no idea how much I wish I would have just bought a new shower curtain!)

Turns out new employee spent 9 years in prison (owner of company admitted that he was busy and failed to do a background check) for fraud/theft/assault. Owner represented to me that employee was his “business partner” - in a text (good evidence for lawsuit - doesn’t help me get my projects finished). Employee produced fraudulent receipts for materials (I‘m obligated to reimburse cost of materials under agreement). I reimbursed immediately. Employee stopped showing up - gave common excuses such as car wreck/dad in hospital/etc. Also, I noticed that some jewelry was missing (and I found new employee coming out of a bedroom where I put it - no reason for him to be in there). After that I did background check on employee, and I contacted owner. Owner is being a jerk - wants a release before refunding my $2,500 down payment + does not feel like he should have to pay me back for the nonexistent materials (other than the cbu that he installed incorrectly) + won’t even discuss the missing property (even though he’s referred to employee as a “scammer” MANY times - apparently there were some other issues before he sent him to my house - thanks!) Initially, he wanted us both to file claims with the Attorney General (employee ripped off other customer(s) which caused owner to be out money bc he refunded those amounts).

FYI - I did NOT want to start the second bathroom until after the master was operational. However, employee said that it was more cost efficient to rip out existing tile surround BEFORE finishing master bathroom - because he would have two guys over the next day to install new cbu in BOTH bathrooms at the same time. So, I reluctantly agreed thinking I’d be without a shower for a 4 days (he promised 3 days). I never should have agreed - yes, I’m an IDIOT!

Anyway - I finally found a tile person + hired a master plumber (two different people). Tile guy removed/replaced the new cbu the employee installed (incorrectly) in this bathroom. Plumber came over to replace existing rough-in valve + raise height of shower head. When he did that, I lost the use of my bathtub in that bathroom (I have a sister who lives less than 5 mins away - so, I’ve been using one of her bathrooms - but very unhappy about not being able to bathe in my own home). New tile guy apparently was in a car wreck (true) - received a DUI - and told me that he couldn’t complete the work (new cbu installed already - and one coat of RedGard). I’ve now been without even a working bathtub for 6-7 weeks.

I started noticing a smell (and it wasn’t due to me from lack of functioning tub!) within the past 10 days or so. It seems to be coming from the sink. That sink is still used several times/day. The bathtub isn’t being used - however, I’ve poured water down the drain a couple times/week (thought I should - however, as I’m typing this, I realize that there have been times that this tub wasn’t used for several months - and there wasn’t ever a smell in that bathroom).

Sorry for such a long post. I wanted to provide details about what has gone on with this bathroom - in order to help find advice.

Thanks,

Dani
 

Midwest Girl

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I realize that because (i) I am so upset about what’s happened, and (ii) felt the need to explain what’s happened so I don’t look like I’m a COMPLETE idiot, I made my post much longer than needed.

I have a serious health issue - systemic mastocytosis. Stress GREATLY affects it - which has caused me to have a few hospital trips over the past several weeks. The medication I’m currently taking is causing me to be a little “loopy” - so, I apologize for the ridiculously long post.

Also, I checked - definitely coming from sink drain. I tried to smell bathtub drain as close as possible - nothing (and I am pretty sensitive to smells). Also, I’m attaching a photo of the plumbing under my sink. I apologize for the quality of the photo - it was difficult to take (especially with my iPad). I’m not sure how to “release“ the slides on my drawers in order to completely remove them. I was afraid to just pull harder - bc with my luck, I’d break something!

Thanks again,

Dani

Edit - photo is too large to post. Once I figure out how to reduce it, I will try to post again.

5D0B56A8-7F4F-470C-A165-682DC437309E.jpeg
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Terry

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So sorry hear that. Most of the time working with contractors is a good experience. And then there are the ones that just make you shudder. I was building some homes in the 80's and it was interesting to say the least. So of the guys were just awesome, and some, not so much. I had one guy from church that was upset that I was building homes, he was doing finish carpentry on one for me. I did bicycle rides with his brother and his sister-inlaw. And yet, he was so upset that I was building the home, and he was working for me, that he told me he wanted to fight me over it. I asked him how that would change anything. It was my property, my loan with the bank, my set of plans that I had drawn. And I was one of five boys in the family that had boxing gloves at home and we loved to fight. He seemed a little dingy to me. We never did the fight he asked for. It did make me laugh though.

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The smell in the bathroom under construction. Have you checked the tub or shower drains. You might want to cover those in plastic wrap if you can't keep water in them. The sink p-trap, if it's holding water should be fine, though there is the overflow that can house some gunky stuff down to the drain at the bottom of the sink. Sometimes some Clorox helps with that.

My brother on Whidbey had a recent problem with a bath remodel, sort of like you describe. He wound up telling the guy to leave, and the next guy tore out everything and started over. Sometimes you don't get the money back.
 

Reach4

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Also, I checked - definitely coming from sink drain. I tried to smell bathtub drain as close as possible - nothing (and I am pretty sensitive to smells). Also, I’m attaching a photo of the plumbing under my sink.
I did not read your first post but skimmed.

I would comment that your trap seal (water seal) in the photo may deeper than normal. Is it 4 inches, or is it deeper?
shower-trap-terms.jpg


There may be something growing in there or in the sink. Try filling the basin with water and adding a tablespoon or two of liquid bleach. Let water dribble into the basin for a while, letting bleach solution overflow for ... half hour? Then turn off the water, and let the basin empty slowly. See if the smell gets better.

If you wanted to improve that trap area, consider getting rid of the flex tailpiece extension, and get a new shorter extension. Also get a new trap to make it easy to adjust to the new non-flex tailpiece extension. These things are cheap.

The flex bellows could be a good place for bacteria to grow and make smells.
 

Terry

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The p-trap is reversed, making it a really deep seal. Normally the U is flipped the other way.
And the accordion extension can harbor a bunch of smelly gunk.

p-trap_with_adapter.jpg
 

Midwest Girl

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I just added better photos - easier to get under sink area using my iPhone + flash helps!



TERRY - sounds like you were in a crazy situation!! I don’t understand why building houses - and giving him the carpentry work, would make him want to physically fight you!

I know that I’m going to have to rip more stuff out + will lose money.

I‘ve already had all of the slate tile on my floor ripped up! Some tiles were loose - the tiles weren’t very difficult to remove according to contractor. Obviously, there was a bonding failure (quite a few tiles have basically no mortar on them after being removed!)

I also had A LOT of expensive Italian Carrara field tiles torn down because first contractor decided to use mastic instead of the white mortar I specifically purchased for the marble tile. While some people might argue that mastic can be used on shower walls (not floors), you cannot use it over a surface waterproof membrane. Luckily, he only completed one wall. Unfortunately, it is, y far, the biggest area - and, most of the Carrara cannot be reused. Also, because 3x9 Carrara tiles are not a common size (who knew?!), I’m having a difficult time replacing them with similar looking ones. While natural marble has quite a bit of variation, the tiles cut from the same part of a particular quarry will have similar characteristics. I purchased my marble tiles almost a year ago, and I haven’t been able to find any that really look nearly as white (or if they do, they have more green toned veining vs. gray veining in my current tile). I would rather just scrap the marble - however - I have too much money invested in the remaining tiles to just move on to something else.

Also, the waterproofed cbu walls of the master bathroom shower are being removed and replaced (new tile guy said they are not square enough (and these walls were built from scratch as part of the renovation). Plus, original contractor decided to roll RedGard on top of Kerdi for some unknown reason - and that’s not correct (Really confused as to why he’d do that since his bid included all materials other than tile - so, he had to come out of pocket for the Kerdi + RedGard + mastic (I purchased white mortar myself because I wanted to use a more expensive one based upon advice I received over on the John Bridge Tile Forum).

While I know that I would be successful in a lawsuit against each one of my former contractors, I still need to decide which ones I want to go after. Clearly, the second contractor - he has a viable business and I would be able to collect a judgment against him (personally, I think that his insurance company would want to settle). I’m an attorney, so I wouldn’t have to spend money to engage one, however, I’m not a litigator (I have done a little litigation but don’t enjoy it) - and it would be very stressful (causing more issues with my health).

It is important to file complaints with the Attorney General’s office because that may help protect others from the dishonest employee (also, he faces prison time for committing a few felonies related to my project based upon his past criminal background), plus, he involved his wife and best friend by having his bf deliver invoice and do some work plus + he used his wife’s venmo account for receiving the money for reimbursement from the fraudulent invoices.

IMPORTANT - if you’re going to send money to a contractor, and you use venmo, you can tag that it’s for goods/services - and are able to have some protection in the event something goes wrong. I didn’t know that when I sent $700 - but I did when I sent the other $2,100. Venmo refunded the $2,100 extremely fast (surprised me!)
 

Terry

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My father was a judge, so I did wind up hearing some interesting things around the dinner table. It was great having him around when I was building. Things like easements were so simple for him to write. And when I would have a sale on a home, he could look at how it was written up and make changes.

The last finish carpenter I used, let me use his Ocean cabin, has bought TOTO toilets from me recently, and when I was in the hospital, came to visit me. Way nicer guy.
 

Midwest Girl

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Reach4 and Terry - it’s difficult for me to get a precise measurement because the drawers are in the way. I tried to reach in with iPhone + tape measure + right angle = difficult. It looks like it may be at 4” or maybe just a bit above. It’s definitely not much below 4” (if it is at all).

I did think that the flex/accordion piece seemed odd to me - hadn’t seen one before (but I haven’t spent much time looking at plumbing!) It does logically seem like a place where a bunch of crud could potentially collect causing issues.

Terry - I didn’t notice that the p trap was backwards until you pointed it out. Thanks!

Once I figure out how to remove the drawers, is this an easy fix that I could do - or should I just hire a plumber? VERY small job - so, I could tack it on with other stuff that I need to have done in a couple weeks (install two toilets/change out shower valve for a shower + diverted valve/run water lines for new handheld shower head/install new water hearter.

I just wanted to make sure that it wasn’t some harmful sewer gas issue that needed to be addressed TODAY.
 

Midwest Girl

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Terry - attorneys are great when they’re part of the family! My sister and brother-in-law just recently sold 8 high end women’s clothing stores - I used to provide quite a bit of free legal work for them (my practice is focused on commercial real estate development + business law).

Although, my daughter didn’t like when I reviewed (= added a bunch of revisions) a few leases for some houses she wanted to lease while in college! Only had one landlord decide that he didn’t want to rent to her and her friends. Told her that was probably a good idea since he had several illegal provisions in his lease document.
 

Reach4

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No hurry. It is not a health thing, I don't think. I expect the bleach treatment will help the smell for a while. Combing onto the other stuff will be efficient. You probably want to tell the plumber in advance. Tell him that you have a flex tailpiece extension that people told you to change out, and that you probably will want a new slip joint trap at the same time.

Or send the photo if the plumber communicates that way. The picture tells the whole story, except there is a smell.

If you needed to bleach-treat that sink, you could take the trap tailpiece off, and block the block the end of the tailpiece with a piece of plastic bag material held in place with a rubber band. Do your bleach treatment soaking by raising the sink water with bleach up to almost the flood level of the sink. Have a bucket/tub there that can accept all of the water, or stopper the sink. Release the plastic, and let the water fall down to the overflow holes. Empty the bucket. Then get the bowl empty by opening the drain stopper. Bleach and water will need time, and what I described is not something plumbers would normally do. Add a little vinegar to the water before adding the bleach to make the bleach more effective. Do not mix bleach with full strength vinegar.

Edit: you could take that trap and flex extension off, and sniff. Is that the smell? That stuff comes apart and goes back together pretty easily.

Also, I have seen posts where they finally traced the smell to an animal carcass in a wall or below a cabinet. Is the smell in the cabinet below the sink, or only up at the bowl?
 
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