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Sewage Smells in Master Bath of Private Residence.

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  • Sewage Smells in Master Bath of Private Residence.

    I need an expert opinion.

    We have been experiencing sewer smells in our MBR. Nothing in the guest bath. The smells are intermittent and it's hard to predict when they will occur. There is both a walk-in shower and a tub as well as a toilet.

    The home is less than a year old and I have contacted the builder, who sent the plumber that installed everything to investigate. Here's where it starts to get confusing. The plumber has performed no investigation at all but instead, claimed he knew a fix that had never failed. The fix consists of attaching an upside down PVC "U" to the top of the plumbing vent stack. He is unwilling to perform any real investigation. When I told him I was very skeptical, and asked him what bearing that could possibly have on sewer gasses getting past the traps into the room his answer was "don't ask me how it works, but it does."

    I declined this "quick fix" and instead I have been investigating what troubleshooting might be performed by a professional and several have mentioned "smoke testing" as the best way to determine any faults in the plumbing system. Both the builder and the plumber have declined to pay the cost of this testing and when I offered to pay for the initial testing myself and only request reimbursement if other problems were discovered, again, they both declined.

    I've had lingering quality problems throughout the process with this builder and he consistently takes the "low road" when something might cost him money. I can see this has the potential to turn into an expensive problem for someone if faults are found in the system which require access through walls, marble tile, etc.

    Sorry for the length here but I have two questions.

    (1) Has anyone ever heard of such a "quick fix" having any vaiidity as a solution?

    (2) Is the smoke test the way to go to discover the real problems?

    I am considering paying for the test myself and if a lawsuit is the final destination here (there are other issues unresolved as well) then I want to make sure my due diligence is covered.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • #2
    Do You have a basement under this bath ? 2nd floor finished ceiling ? Slab on grade ?
    I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .


    • #3
      No basement, slab on grade, no second floor. Has septic tank.


      • #4
        My response to both your questions is "no".
        Toilet seal failure is the main cause of sewer odor and it is
        so easy and cheap to replace one that if it isn't the problem,
        you haven't lost much. Could even be a broken flange, but I
        would pull the toilet and check that first before anything else.


        • #5
          I agree with Big jim. Check your toilet. Does it rock back and forth? You may have a broken flange or a bad wax ring. Did your plumbing get inspected during the building process?


          • #6
            what big jim said. also, what has the building inspector suggested? surely a permit was pulled for all this work?

            ... it was plumbed by Ray Charles and his helper Stevie Wonder


            • #7
              I was hopingYou had access to the trap from a basement. Maybe He plumbed in an S trap bend . If so water would be siphoned out of trap !
              I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .


              • #8
                The only thing I can picture with a U bend installed on the vent, is to prevent a downdraft if it's very windy outside.

                much cheaper than a smoke test and something you can do yourself is a pepermint test. Even a test using pine sol. Pour a generous amount down the roof vents and then don't use the plumbing, but instead see if you can sniff the pepermint or pine sol in the house or other fixtures.

                phoebe it is


                • #9
                  All of thee above sound about right...don't know if aav s are allowed in your state jurisdiction. ..I'd definitely check the toilet and look for axcess panels around your fixtures or underneath a sink or perhaps in a closet behind the tub or shower..those things do have a tendency to go bad....


                  • #10
                    Thanks for all the good responses, guys. But if you'll remember, the plumbing system is under warranty and the plumber is only willing to consider one possible solution. I mean, how hard would the wind have to blow to create a down draft that forced sewer gasses back through traps filled with water? Also the second vent stack for the other bath is right beside the first one at same plane on problems in that one.


                    • #11
                      While I don't believe wind is the cause of this, just let him put his u-bend on there and prove it. Then if and when it doesn't work, move on to the next thing. It is very likely it is NOT this in my experience as it would take a certain DWV arrangement along with high winds to have a chance of causing an issue. A good indicator is the water rocking in the toilet.

                      But you have to remember that the plumber/contractor is the troubleshooter here, not you or me. So if they seriously think it's a,b,c then they have the right or duty to address those even if different from what you or others may think.

                      A smell can be very hard to locate. Many plumbers run into a mysterious "smell" complaint that is not duplicated after several trips to the location.

                      So that's the hand we're dealt. A problem that does NOT exist while we're there. Seen it many times. So then a smoke, peppermint, cinnamon, etc. test may have to be done to try and create a detectable smell in the living space.

                      The fastest way to eliminate the toilet is to caulk it. Less than 5 minutes to do. No smell afterward, then there likely is a crack or break at the wax seal allowing gas to get through periodically, but not necessarily a water leak.

                      Then pull toilet and reset.

                      Also pay attention to the HVAC system. I've seen several times the customer was insistent that there was something wrong with the plumbing DWV only to discover something related to the duct system. System comes on....smell.....system goes smell.


                      • #12
                        I ran into a situation very similar to this one. Occasional sewer gas in the master bathroom - sometimes severe. After a couple failed attempts to fix it, including putting a snorkel on the top of the vent through the roof, we started cutting drywall. Turned out that a trusted duo of plumbers that had worked for us for a number of years had simply forgotten to install a p-trap when they roughed in the jetted bath tub. Don't ask me how they managed to forget the p-trap, but between the rough-in stage and the finish stage they simply overlooked it.

                        I've installed quite a few tubs on a slab and know what a pain connecting the drain can be. I hope for your sake that the plumber didn't take a short-cut and forget or ignore the need for a trap on your tub.


                        • #13
                          Thanks to all for your responses.


                          • PLUMBER RICK
                            PLUMBER RICK commented
                            Editing a comment
                            keep us posted.


                        • #14
                          another thing to ask. do you have a tile or marble shower pan in the offensive bathroom. is there a spa/ jacuzzi tub by chance in that bathroom too?

                          phoebe it is


                          • #15
                            I am no way implying, the snorkel would work on the vent stack...but it really doesn't take much pressure to blow out a trap seal...a lavatory trap seal is generally 2" deep, a 2" water column = .072 PSI, a pressure differential of less then 1/10th of a PSI ,between the interior of the bathroom and the atmosphere at the vent stack termination, is all it takes.

                            The snorkel would prevent pressure differentials in the vent stack ,generally attributed to what is called "the piccolo effect",caused by wind passing over the vent terminal.