The sewer gases that are created in our homes give off a very offensive smell. That’s why our plumbing systems have mechanisms in place to ensure that those gases are properly vented outdoors. But if something goes wrong with one of those mechanisms, you can start to notice a sewer gas smell emanating from your sinks and drains. Today we’re going to talk about how this nasty problem can develop and what you can do to fix and prevent it!

How sewer gases are normally vented out of our homes

There are two primary ways that sewer gases are vented out of our homes. First, homes have vent pipes that are attached to drainage pipes and extend all the way up through the roof. These vent pipes allow sewer gases to be removed from our drains and exhausted outside.

The second method is through something called a P-trap. A P-trap is located at every plumbing fixture in your home. It is typically a U or S shaped pipe that collects water every time that one of your plumbing fixtures is used. This water creates a seal between your drainage pipes and the fixtures themselves, which blocks sewage gases from travelling back up your drains.

Problems that can produce a sewer gas smell from your sinks and drains

  • Dried-out P-trap. The water that’s used to seal up the P-trap will evaporate over time if a plumbing fixture is not used very often. This is often the case in guest bathrooms or utility sinks that are used infrequently.
  • Leak in drain or vent pipe. If you have a leak in any of your vent or drain pipes, sewer gases can escape out of the leak and stink up your home. If you have a leak at the P-trap, for instance, the water that’s supposed to be used to seal the drain can leak out.
  • Blocked vent stack. The vent that protrudes out of your roof can get blocked with leaves, animal nests or other debris. When this happens, gases will find other ways to be released from your drains, which often means they travel back up through your sinks and drains.

Solutions for a sewer gas smell in your sinks and drains

You can avoid a dried-out P-trap by simply flushing your plumbing fixtures at least once every couple of weeks. If you are going on an extended vacation, you might want a neighbor to do this for you.

If flushing the P-trap does not get rid of the sewer gas smell, contact Cabrillo. We’ll perform a professional inspection of your pipes, vents and drains and seal up any problem areas that we discover. Sewer gas smells should be taken care of as soon as possible, because they can pose some health and safety issues (along with being stinky).

If you have any questions about a sewer gas smell from your sinks and drains, or if you’d like a plumbing system serviced or installed in your home, contact Cabrillo, your Bay Area plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractor.