Why Yes, I Can Fix That

If You Can Smell Sewer Gas In Your Vacation Home, Does That Mean There's A Backup?

It's disturbing to walk in the door of your home and detect a foul odor--and it can be even worse when you're walking in the door of your vacation home, where you expect to have fun and to relax. While many homeowners may fear the worst when they smell sewer gas, there could be a very simple explanation for the problem. This FAQ will explore a likely cause, and what you can do about it.

If you can smell sewer gas in your vacation home, does that mean there's a sewer backup?

While the smell of sewer gas can be the result of a septic tank back up, sewer backup, or some other plumbing problem, this is not always the case. In fact, if your vacation home has been sitting empty for a long time, there's a good chance that water evaporation in a drain is the real issue. Here's why:

Pipes that lead down into the sewer and septic tank have a curve in them called a P-trap. The P-trap (so named because it's shaped like a P) usually contains a quantity of water that forms an air-tight barrier between the sewer or septic tank and the home. When people use the sink, toilet, or floor drains, the water in the P-trap is refreshed. When these drains go unused for a long time, the water in the traps can evaporate. When this happens, sewer gas or gas from the septic tank can seep into the home, creating a smell.

What can you do to fix the problem?

Open the windows to air out the home. Then, walk around the house and fill all the drains in all the sinks, toilets, bathtubs, showers and floor drains with water. This will likely take care of the problem.

Is sewer gas dangerous?

Sewer gas can be dangerous under certain circumstances, but in a residence it's highly unlikely to reach concentrations that would be dangerous. Still, strong smells are known to give some people headaches and make some people feel sick, so it's a good idea to air out your home when something like this happens. If some areas of your home seem to smell very bad, stay out of the house and call a plumber for help and advice.

How can you prevent the smell from returning in the future?

You can prevent this from happening in the future by capping all the drains and covering the toilet seats with plastic wrap before leaving the home for an extended period of time. As a side note, it's a good idea to put a note in the middle of the plastic wrap on the toilet, to make the plastic wrap more visible and obvious when you return. This will help you avoid any situations wherein you might try to use the toilet without realizing the plastic wrap is there.

If filling your drains with water doesn't seem to fix the problem, call a plumber. It's possible your home needs plumbing repair or that your sewers are backed up and need to be cleaned out. Contact a business, such as Salinas & Sons Rooter Service, for more information.