Home Improvement

Intermittent Sewer Smell – Source Not Obvious. Help!

By August 16, 2019 2 Comments

I posted this over on r/Plumbing but it didn’t get many responses, so I thought I might try here. (Long post!)

We just bought a new house a couple weeks ago. Built in the 1930s. We had the sewer line scoped out and there were no blockages, cracks, tree roots, or issues that they found at all. The house has smelled fine, just a little funky which we wrote off as being the smell of the previous owners that will eventually dissipate (they had dogs and three young children, so we figured the slight poopy smell was from that. Ha!) Well, last week we woke up, went downstairs, and a strong sewer smell hit us in the face on the main floor. We couldn’t really smell anything upstairs. The smell is also present in the basement, but seemed worst on the main level. We walked around sniffing near all of the plumbed areas we could find and couldn’t ID an area that was the obvious culprit. The smell seemed like it might be strongest near a corner of living room, away from our kitchen and bathrooms, but right over where our sewer clean out and the roof vent pipe are positioned in the basement. When we went to sniff around the clean out in the basement, the smell didn’t seem present.

A few other details that might be salient:

* It was raining that day for the first time in several weeks. We smelled it before the rain actually started, though.
* The gutters on our house are funnelled into pipes buried underground. We’re planning to disconnect these gutters and have them flow above ground, as the house inspector was almost certain the underground pipes likely had cracks. Could that cause the smell? We haven’t noticed it outside of the house, though – just inside of the house.
* We have two bathrooms upstairs, a powder room on the main level (plus kitchen), and a full bathroom in the basement. The house was occupied up to the week before we moved in, so I don’t think anything has been sitting for a long amount of time. I ran water in all of the fixtures in case they were dried out.

I also dumped some water down the main trap in our basement in case it had evaporated, but I didn’t really smell the gas strongly around there. The smell did go away for awhile but yesterday we noticed it again. Sunny day, normal summer temperature for around here. We opened our windows to air the house out and then closed up overnight and put on the AC. This morning, I noticed some vague whiffs of the sewer smell again. I’ll see what it’s like when I get home from work.

Based on my internet research I’m wondering if we have a venting issue – like a blockage or a crack or something. The drains have all been draining totally fine, though – no gurgles or slow draining, which I read can accompany vent pipe blockages.

I know we will probably need to call a plumber, but I’d like to get some ideas about what the cause could be so we can see if it is something we can address ourselves, or at least have an idea of possible costs. We just plunked down lots of $$$ on the house and would like to avoid shelling out even more if we don’t have to. Thank you!

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