If you’ve entered a room and smell sewage, it’s a sign that there is something wrong in your plumbing system. While this is certainly a headache, you can assess the issue by trying out a few different things. This common issue could be a simple fix but you need to find the source of the problem as soon as possible.
The most frequent cause of sewage odor in the home are drain clogs. They are typically found in shower floor drains or in sinks, so it’s important to check all of these outlets for a potential buildup of debris. While there are a few other contributing problems you might encounter, clogs are the leading reason for sewage smells in the home.
Let’s discuss the possibilities of what you might find and what you can do to help fix the issue. While some problems are as simple as unclogging the drain, others will require professional help. Get a better understanding of how to handle your plumbing issue to ensure the sewage smell is gone for good.
What Should You Do About Your House Smelling Like Sewage?
While many causes of a sewage smell can be harmless and fixed in no time, chronic exposure can be toxic and detrimental to your health. Sewer odor comes from the breakdown of human waste and contains gasses that are not good to inhale on a regular basis. Follow these tips to help find the source of the problem before it becomes harmful to your health and your plumbing system.
Step 1: Find the Smell
Finding the smell is key- whether you can fix it or not, this will be important to tell your plumber in the event that you need professional assistance. You’ll want to look at all of the plumbing staples in your home. Check your sinks for clogs, under your sinks for loose connections and make sure your vent is working properly. These are common occurrences that you will be able to identify right away.
WIth any proper plumbing, there will always be ventilation. Just like with your washing machine and bathroom plumbing, all of these outlets need vents and rely on the function of vent pipes. With the proper ventilation, you have prevention from gasses seeping into your rooms.
At times, the vent pipes become clogged and the sewer air will come through your house. These leaking odors are typically coming from the walls around your vent pipes.
To ensure that your home’s plumbing has fully functioning ventilation, you may need to do a little digging which can sometimes prove to be a challenge. Vent pipes are typically accessed through the roof so if you have a ladder handy, you can use a flashlight to scope out if you have some sort of obstruction visible. While you may be able to free the debris with a long tool, this sort of problem sometimes requires the help of a plumber.
So your bathroom sink smells awful, right? The first thing that might pop in your head is that there is some type of backup or buildup stuck in the drain. This is fairly common and can be due to a number of reasons.
A typical drain clog will create a buildup of matter such as soap or hair and then bacteria will grow on the sludge that stays stuck in your drain. This smell can sometimes mimic that sewer water smell. If you don’t treat the clog as soon as you identify it, it only gets worse and can eventually cause a back up in the drain.
You’ll know if you have a clog simply by looking into the drain. If you have a drain snake handy, you can attempt to free the suspected clog. If the smell dissipates, then you’ll know that you had a simple clog. There are times that clogs are more severe and can’t be fixed at home, requiring professional help.
Loose Plumbing Connections
Loose pipe connections can be rather tricky. While a kitchen sink pipe is highly accessible, the ones that help to power your washing machine or bathtub may not be. Many times this will often need to be assessed by a plumber.
If you have a loose pipe connection, that means that all the gasses from the sewage are exposed to the air, leaving that sewer smell in whichever room it’s located. This may be a harder diagnosis from the rest, as you can’t always spot it with the naked eye.
However, if you can access the suspected pipe such as a kitchen or bathroom sink, you may have a loose pipe that just needs tightening. With a wrench and a little strength, you can tighten up the visible pipes that are loose and that may solve your problem. Don’t be surprised if you do need a plumber’s assistance as with loose parts, you may also find broken or damaged ones.
Broken Sewer Pipe
If you are dealing with a sewage backup, it might be the right instance to suspect a broken or damaged sewer pipe. Nine out of ten times in this situation, you will need a proper sewer inspection.
Broken sewer pipes are a more serious, but less common occurrence that need immediate attention from a local professional. This can lead to mold, cracks in your walls, waste pooling and more. It is hard to diagnose but here are some of the main symptoms of a broken sewer pipe:
- Sewer Odor
- Regular waste backups
- Rodents or insect infestations
- Cracks in foundation or walls
If you think this could be the source of your problem, it’s important to have it checked out right away to avoid further destruction of your home and property.
Step 2: Try and Fix the Problem Yourself
Not everything can be fixed at home but two of these issues can be helped with a little time and patience. Unclogging your drains and improving your ventilation in the area that was causing the sewage odor can help to eradicate the problem without the help of a plumber. If you’re up for the challenge, here’s how you can help:
Unclog Your Drains
Luckily, clogs are normally easy to remove with a drain snake or plunger. This common tool can be found at any hardware store and can clear the clog, sometimes in mere seconds. Of course, there are occasions where a drain snake cannot free the clog and you may need to contact your local plumber.
A drain snake or plunger is typically used in most of your common clogs. All you do is push down the plunger and pull up, releasing any debris in your drain. You can also use a snake to release and pull out any hair or soap particles in the bathtub or sink drains. These two are the most popular go-to tools when you need to unclog a drain.
Vent pipes are typically hard to get to and are assessed by a plumber. However, you can do your part in improving and maintaining the proper ventilation in all of the rooms that you regularly use plumbing.
A vent fan is a must-have when it comes to bathrooms. This fan helps reduce odors and moisture, preventing bacteria and mold buildup. Always keep doors and windows open (when possible) for further ventilation. The humidity from using a shower or bath could create a musty odor that you will want to avoid.
If you have a functioning vent and believe your vent pipes need attention, contacting a local plumber is best.
Step 3: Call Your Plumber
If you’re unsure of where the smell is coming from and have checked each drain and plumbing outlet in your home, calling a professional is the best solution.
Even if you have experience, some situations require the help of a plumber. For example, a sewer backup is one problem that can only be assessed by a professional. If your drains are overflowing and spitting up old sewage, you may have a major sewer debacle that needs immediate attention.
While most basic problems will run you between $100-$300 dollars, some of the bigger issues could cost over $1000 dollars. However, these professionals are trained to safely fix your problems to ensure the health and wellbeing of you and your plumbing system. If you are unsure of who to call, you can always look for local plumbers on google and read consumer reviews.
Is Sewer Gas Dangerous?
Sewer gas is, indeed, dangerous in some scenarios. Constant exposure lasting a consistent amount of time does pose a potential health risk.
Sewer gas is a highly complex blend of gasses that vary in levels. Industrial waste, hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are all highly toxic if regularly inhaled. If you have had a sewage odor in your home for an extended amount of time and are feeling nauseous, dizzy or drowsy, seek immediate care. You might have been exposed to harmful toxins such as carbon monoxide or methane.
If your house smells like sewage, it’s more than likely you’ve got a clog, or buildup of debris within the drain. You could also be dealing with a ventilation issue, loose plumbing or, worst case scenario, a broken pipe. These problems can sometimes require the help of a professional to ensure the job gets done quickly and efficiently so don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you cannot pinpoint the cause.
Quick Tip: Always run your faucets at least once per month. If you have rooms in your house where the sinks haven’t been in consistent use, make sure to run the water to ensure that they are not building up or drying out over time.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.