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Smelly Drains: Diagnosing and Fixing Them – Boston, Worcester

16 Apr 2014

Drains can really start to smell, and some of those odors can be pretty bad, including the smell of sewage. Here is what to do -- and what not to do – about it.

Considering what they do, it’s a miracle that drains don’t smell up our homes all the time. What happens when your drain is suddenly smelly? Most likely, it’s one of two things: crud inside the pipe (which may be related to a clog) and sewer gas (which is always present in part of your drain system but isn’t supposed to get into the house). Usually a smelly drain problem is easy to solve.

Which One Stinks

Sometimes it’s hard to know which drain smells, so here’s a simple trick: Cover the suspected smelly drain opening with tape or a plastic bag (or both). Let the room air out for a bit. If the smell is gone, you’ve found the culprit. If not, move the tape or bag to the next likely suspect and test again.

Clogs and Crud

A really dirty drain can smell enough to carry into a room, and there are a couple of good clues that this is the source of your problem. A slow drain is one indication. A partially clogged drain doesn’t get rid of waste effectively, leading to more crud buildup. Ultimately, this may lead to a total clog, but it can take a long time. Meanwhile, the buildup just gets worse. The solution is to clean the drain thoroughly with a snake If you don’t know how or if you don’t know what this means, call a plumber.

The other way to tell if your problem is crud is the smell. A dirty drain smells bad, but there’s nothing like the gaseous pungency of sewage. Sewage smell indicates a different drain problem.

A few drains that are most prone to crud-related smells and their solutions:

  • Bathroom sink: The drain stopper assembly catches hair — then everything else — several inches below the drain opening. Remove the stopper and clean this section of pipe periodically to eliminate odors.
  • Tub/shower drain: Hair clogs lead to soap buildup and badly gunked pipes; clean thoroughly with a snake.
  • Kitchen sink: Garbage disposers are the culprits more often than drains. Freshen inside the disposer with Borax or a commercial disposer cleaner, and clean the gunk from the underside of the rubber baffle around the drain opening (you have to do this by hand, and it’s not pretty, but it works).

Smells like Sewage

If your drain smells like sewage, most likely it is sewage or sewer gas. Every drain in your house has a trap — a U-shaped piece of pipe that holds a small amount of water at all times. The water serves as a plug to keep sewer gas from rising up the drain. This works beautifully unless one of the following happens:

  • The original plumber or remodeler failed to install a trap, in which case you’d probably smell gas all the time.
  • The drain isn’t properly vented, and a suction effect in the system siphons the trap dry. The same thing can happen if the vent is blocked (from tree leaves, bird nests, snow, etc.).
  • The fixture served by the drain is too close to other fixtures, such as a toilet drain that’s too close to a sink drain; the force of the toilet flush can siphon the sink trap dry.

If you suspect a dry trap, run water in the fixture slowly for a few minutes, then shut it off This should fill the trap and stop the sewer smell. This can help diagnose the problem but not solve it. However, most venting problems can be remedied by installing an Air Admittance Valve (AAV), a pipe-less air vent that can go almost anywhere along a drain line. A plumber can help with this.

For more help, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.


Plumbing Problems that are Most Common - Watertown, MA

12 Jun 2013

Most of us consider plumbing a luxury, it is. When things stop running correctly we are all reminded of how inconvenient life could be without it. When plumbing problems do arise, it is important to contact a plumber that you can count on, with a good reputation and who you can feel comfortable with.

Here are a few of the most common household plumbing problems.

Clogged drain – This is one of the most common plumbing issues. Clogged drains usually can be avoided if you are careful about what you let go down the drain. Be particulary careful in the kitchen, this is the most common drain to get clogged and the most inconvenient when it does.

Dripping faucet – this is very common and starts as the washers in faucets wear out. Use less force when turning the faucet off and on to extend the life of the washer.  

Leaking pipes - This can cause quite a bit of damage to you belongings as well as you floors and walls. Check pipes fairly regularly for rust or lime deposits, this could be the start of a leak.

Leaking water heaters – most often these need to be replaced.

No heat – if you have a broken furnaces or boilers the heat won’t turn on. Check your heating system before you need to use it.

Running toilet –Running toilets usually suggest that some part of the toilet is out of order. It is important to get this fixed immediately because this can use a lot of water.

Leaking toilet – this is a very expensive plumbing repair problem. This can add a lot of money to your water bill. For this it may be necessary to call a professional plumber.

Installing a new faucet – mainly faucets are replaced for decorative reasons. Plumbers guarantee their workmanship.

Many homeowners attempt to fix plumbing problems, but if you are not sure what to do, a DIY fix that isn’t done right can result in an more expensive problem down the line. For help with your household plumbing problems, contact Greater Boston Plumbing and Heating.