Like all plumbing issues, sewer odors are frustrating because, most of the time, you can’t diagnose the problem by just looking around the room. The cause is usually located somewhere that is not immediately reachable.
However, as desperate as the situation might seem, this is one of the most common issues that homeowners face. Before rushing to fix the problem by spending money that you should not, we have compiled a list of tips to help you out. Here are four clever ways to put an end to basement sewer smells for good.
Clean the Sewer Piping
More often than not, the unpleasant sewer odors from your basement can come from a blockage in the pipes, more specifically, from the traps. A plumbing trap serves the role of a barrier between the house fixtures and the community sewer system. By using a bending path, it retains a small amount of water to prevent the sewer gases from entering the building, while allowing waste to be safely transported through.
Sometimes, either due to misuse, pressure or syphonage or debris buildup, the trap clogs. This issue can be fixed by using a rodder, a type of plumbing cable that can be inserted in a sewer line to either catch the blockage and pull it out or push it forward. More info on sewer rodding and other similar devices can be found in the linked article published by The Plumbing Info.
Cover the Basement Walls & Floors
Ideally, all basements should be coated with waterproof paints as regular coatings tend to flake and chip away, exposing the walls and capturing all manners of odors. Once this happens, it can be very difficult (not to mention time-consuming) to get rid of the smells.
But waterproof paint is not perfect, so you should adopt a more creative approach instead. For this purpose, it is a good idea to install mechanically attached wall products because they contain no adhesives and coatings. As for the floors, you could cover them with plastic floor tiles as they turned into a makeshift floating floor that requires no grout, adhesives, and other materials.
Fix or Replace Sewer Trap Plugs
A common culprit behind nasty sewer smells is a missing, loose, or ill-fitted sewer trap plug. Weirdly enough, the sewer access pit is the first place to check and arguably the last place where most people look.
House traps are usually U shaped so that the water can sit at the bottom of the trap. This device serves as a barrier between the sewer gases from the city sewer and your home. When a sewer trap is incorrectly sealed with plugs, the sewer smells will leak into your basement and, gradually, into your house.
Fortunately, the majority of house traps are double vented, which means they need two caps or plugs in order to function. To facilitate easy cleaning and maintenance, sewer traps have two openings through which they can be cleaned in each direction. Furthermore, caps and plugs are extremely inexpensive – they cost $10, and you can easily replace them without the help of a plumber.
Fixing the Dried-Out House Trap Sump
Finally, another factor that might be behind sewer smells is a dried-out trap barrier. Plumbing fixtures have P traps, for the same reasons mentioned above. When a fixture is rarely used (a basement sink, for example) the water barrier dries out due to misuse and makes way for the sewer gases to escape the pipes.
The issue can be easily solved by pouring some vinegar down the drain, replacing the traps under the fixtures, or by simply letting the water run for a while.
Health Effects of Sewer Smells
Contrary to popular belief, sewer smells do more than just make you cover your nose. After extended exposure, they can be extremely hazardous to both your health and your family’s. Depending on the type and source of the leak, they can cause the following issues:
- Various sinus infections
- Loss of appetite
- Poor memory
Causes of Sewer Smell
As strong and pungent as sewer smells can get, you would be surprised to find out how easy they are to miss, especially if you rarely use the basement. Therefore, if you are dealing with this issue, follow the steps below:
- Check the water trap. If your laundry tub, water heater, or washing machine is directly connected to a water trap, ensure to maintain the trap water levels. If, for example, a long time has passed since you last used a sink or basin, the water can evaporate. That way sewer gases can go through the pipes and get into the basement and your house.
- See if there are any missing cleanout plugs.
- Make sure all plumbing fixtures are installed correctly in their adjacent P-traps and vents.
- If all else fails, it is possible that the sewer lines might have been damaged. If that is the case, you should hire a competent plumber as soon as possible.
Sewer odors coming from the basement is one of the most common issues that house owners have to tackle. If you are experiencing this annoyance, do not panic as there are many things you can do without calling a plumber, such as fixing the dried trap sump or replacing the old sewer trap plugs with new ones and the walls and floors with mechanically attached systems.