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Detecting Sewer Smells

January 23, 2014

The Source

Have you ever wondered where that smell is coming from?  To understand that, lets first cover some basics about how the plumbing in your home works. 

There are two types of pipes in your home that can be the source or smells leaking into your home, drain pipes, and vent pipes.

Drain pipes are just that, they are the pipes that send water and waste down the drain and into your city or septic sewer system.  These drains are found in your sinks, tubs, showers and toilets.  Even your dish washer has a drain that typically empties into your sink disposal. 

Drain vents are pipes that are connected to your drain pipes that run vertically up and out the roof of your home.  These are used to allow the water and waste to flow freely without a vacuume causing suction that would slow or stop the flow.  These vents also release some of the smell from these drains as well.Digital Sewer Camera Inspection

At the end of each drain is a type of pipe called a P-Trap, under your sink these are clearly visible, it is a pipe that has a belly or drop in the pipe similar to the shape of the letter P.  This device is designed to retain a small amount of water in the trap and stop the smell of the waste from coming back into your home.  Showers, and tubs also have traps that are not visible, and a toilets trap is built into the toilet.


So there are at least two main problems that can happen to release noxious smells into your home from your plumbing. 

One, your P-traps are dried out:  if you have not used a tub, shower or sink for an extended period of time, the small amount of water in the trap can dry up.  The same is true for a toilet but since it holds much more water in the bowl and trap, it will take a very long time for this to happen. 

P-traps can also leak if they are not installed properly, preventing them from holding water.

Two, one of your drain pipes or drain vents has a leak in it.  This can happen during construction if a joint was not glued properly.  Drain and drain vent pipes can also be damaged over time by your home settling causing a crack in your slab or perhaps you had some construction in your yard that may have damage the main drain pipe that connects to your city sewer. 


So what can you do? 

Well, depending on the problem, your time and money may be well spent to hire a plumber to come diagnose your problem and inspect your plumbing systems for problems.

Now that you understand the basics of your plumbing, you can also do some basics, check your P-traps, make sure they don't leak, and run some water to ensure the traps are full.

After sufficient time for the room to air out, and you still have odors, it may be time to step up the attack to a smoke test

A smoke test pushes harmless artificial smoke through your plumbing pipes.  If there is any smoke escaping it will be clearly visible in your attic or inside your home.  If there are problems they become very easily detectable and the location for repair can be identified.

Smoke Testing Equipment

When performing a smoke test it is usually good to notify the fire department so neighbors don't think your home is on fire.  It can be quite alarming to see smoke coming from all your drain vents through the roof of your home.

Contact Us

Whitton Plumbing has experience technicians in the Phoenix and Tucson areas that can diagnose your problem.  Not only do we have the equipment to do smoke testing but we also have digital cameras that can be run through your drain pipes to get to the heart of your problem.  Contact us today for a free quote and evaluation.

Valley Wide: (480) 291-1111
Tucson: (520) 505-3236
Whether it's sinks, toilets, showers, faucets, water heaters, pipes or drains that need cleaning, repairs or installation, we've got you covered.