Sewage smell in bathroom(s)

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kmcogar

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I have researched the issue of sewage smell in my bathroom quite a bit lately and I still have a few questions. I will try to be as descriptive as possible to clearly explain what's going on. House is on septic and was checked May of last year. Surveyors said it was one of the cleanest septic’s they ever saw. An old lady had lived there before, so I would assume her impact on the septic was minimal. It’s a rancher with a basement. We have 3 bathrooms on the main floor and 1 bathroom in the basement. There is 2 vent pipes (stack) on the roof of my house. One vent pipe is about 4 inches wide and the other is 2 inches wide. The 4 inch wide vent pipe is closer to my master bathroom and I believe it its connected to the kitchen sink and drainage for the washer and dryer…while the 2 inch pipe is right above one of the bathrooms on the opposite side of the house (I will say the BACK of the house bathroom). The master bathroom was the most notable with the smell (most likely because we use it most), but I had visitors and they said they smelled a weird smell in one of the other upstairs bathrooms (Front of house. This bathroom does not have a vent pipe above it). I can confirm it had the same smell. So 2 of the 3 bathrooms on the main floor have a weird sewage smell. The third bathroom (back of house/below vent 2 inch pipe) and the basement bathroom does not have the smell.

I grabbed a ladder and went on the roof. I bought an endoscope camera on amazon and put it down each pipe to look for blockages. It was much more difficult than I had hoped to get the camera down there, but approximately 20 feet down and I did not see anything. The 2 inch vent pipe above the bathroom towards the back of the house seemed ok, but when I was above the 4 inch vent pipe near the master bathroom, I could clearly smell the sewage. It was very unpleasant putting the camera down that one. After using the camera, I had my wife flush each toilet so I could feel for any type of suction from flushing the toilets. The suction was minimal. If I covered it with my hand completely, I didn’t feel much at all if anything, If I removed my hand slightly, I could feel/hear the air pulling around my hand. Also, the 2 inch pipe is straight up while the 4 inch pipe has a 45 degree angle in the attic leading to its main down pipe toward the master bathroom toilet.

Lastly, I did more reading and something stood out to me. I read about flushing the toilet and listening for gargling sounds. I cant say that I heard any gargling. I only heard water flowing when the toilet was flushed (ear was near the bathroom sink drain). There may have been a little gargling when I drained the bathtub , but it still drained very quickly. I did remember that my shower drains kind of slow, but I figured that was because of the incorrect leveling of the shower pan area (water kind of sits in one area). So, I decided to plunge my shower drain. A few pumps and WHOOOOOF, The sewage smell quickly filled my entire bathroom. I would assume the P-trap underneath was emptied and when I cleared it out, it opened the vent which quickly engulfed the area with the smell. The smell was so strong it leaked into the bedroom as well. I wasn’t sure what to do but I grabbed liquid draino and put in it the pipe (a friend of mine said I shouldn’t have done that). Anyhow, I put the draino in, had it sit for 30 minutes, then cleared it out with hot water. When I look down the shower drain, I can see sitting water. I would assume that is what is protecting us from the smell. But it’s always there, so I am not sure where the smell would be coming from in the first place. I tried plunging it again just to see what would happen and the water stayed. It did not pop out like the first plunging with the smell explosion into the house. Anyhow, the smell dissipated and it seems to be doing ok right now (today).

Additionally, I replaced the toilet wax ring a few weeks ago to ensure no leakage was coming from there.

My questions are:

How much pressure/suction should you feel on your vent pipe? I plan to go back up on the roof today and see if plunging the shower made a difference.

Should I be able to clearly see water sitting in the shower drain?

It’s about 30 degrees where I am located, would it be ok to put a hose down the vent pipe and turn on the water to see if it is clogged or remove the clog?

Should I be smelling sewage vapors out of the vent pipe? Why does one smell and one does not?

Anything else I can do before I call a pro? Kind of low on funds at the moment and wouldn’t mind figuring this out on my own.
 

Jeff H Young

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Sorry too much to take in right now its a very long story but I'll try to look later. hope another comes along. to help. you might mention if this has been going on since you moved in years ago or started last week?
 

kmcogar

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Sorry too much to take in right now its a very long story but Ill try to look later. hope another comes along. to help. you might mention if this has been going on since you moved in years ago or started last week?
It has been intermittent since we moved in. About 8 months. Sometimes we smell it, sometimes we dont. But lately is has been worse than usual
 

kmcogar

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Main question I would like an answer to is: How much pressure/suction should you feel on your vent pipe when a toilet is flushed?
 

Jeff H Young

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Main question I would like an answer to is: How much pressure/suction should you feel on your vent pipe when a toilet is flushed?
Very little your dumping a gallon and a half into a 3 or 4 inch pipe and there could be other vents through roof , plus if your main isnt full of water a horizontal pipe half full of water shouldnt really have much pressure or any? of cource a septic might as compared to a normal sewer. I gotta tell you though I never really checked to see how much suction or pressure was on vents.
 

John Gayewski

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Main question I would like an answer to is: How much pressure/suction should you feel on your vent pipe when a toilet is flushed?
It would very much depend on hotte everything is laid out and connected together.
 
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Sometimes there is a p-trap whose water eventually evaporates from non-use and that allows the sewer gas to come up from the drain, think of an unused shower, unused floor drain, unused tub drain. Sometimes a dead animal in the attic can cause an amorphous odor which is spread through parts of the house through the A/C ductwork to numerous rooms, some more than others. I've seen broken vent pipes in the wall where the sewer gas seeps out into the stud space and then around electrical outlets and around the pipes stubbed out from under the vanity cabinet. Bottle spills under sinks that mix with other spills, long term water leaks that start to rot the wood and create really funky bacteria/fungus smell. I've seen holes in the PVC vent pipe from electricians drilling holes for their wiring that didn't realize the pipe was there and the hole allowed sewer smells to permeate into the wall cavity and then through the water and drain line holes in the back of the vanity cabinet. A partial clog on a sewer line can suck the water from a stool bowl; that allows sewer gas to come into a room then spread through the air flow in the house. I've seen dead rotting animals in crawlspaces and dead animals in the walls (via an unused drilled hole in the top plate they went down). There may be a vent pipe stubbed up in the attic that doesn't go through the roof. You already mentioned the broken seal around the base of the stool. All this to say smells are sometimes the hardest thing to pinpoint. I have used blue tape to seal off cabinet fronts, bathroom doors, etc. to try to produce a cause and effect to narrow down the source. When you do have a partial clog on the sewer line and the water has backed up to the point it blocks the vertical vent riser, then you can hear the toilet gurgle. But normally, there is not much pressure or vacuum at all from a residential house vent line. Get on your deerstalker hat and play Sherlock Holmes to narrow down the search. I have even brought my wife with me to a few jobs because she can distinguish smells better than I can. I have to take her out to eat afterwards.
 
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