How to Spot a Blocked Sewer Vent: Symptoms and Signs of Home Plumbing Problems

blocked sewer vent symptomsAn old buddy of mine from my high school days just had a young son, and he’s one of the proudest new papas I’ve ever seen. He’s always posting pictures of his new baby boy on his Instagram account, telling us stories about the little guy, and just generally reveling in the experience of being a dad for the very first time. If you’re a parent yourself, I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s not all sunshine and easy sailing for my friend. What seems to be giving my friend the most trouble, though, is that his tiny baby is still way too young to speak. When the kid is having trouble, he can’t open his mouth and say why—my friend has to guess.

Now, I may be a plumbing expert rather than a pediatrician, but I do know a thing or two about how to spot unspoken signs of trouble. Someone (or in my case something) being able to articulate what’s wrong is obviously great, but in my experience of working on houses around Sacramento, there are always far subtler ways that problems tend to reveal themselves. That’s what I want to talk about today, when it comes to plumbing, of course—not babies. Specifically, I want to talk about how to spot blocked sewer vent symptoms.

The symptoms of a sewer vent that’s blocked up, if left unchecked, can cause big problems for the pipes in your home—problems that can eventually lead to plumbing emergencies that cost you big bucks. Yes sir, just like with a baby, it really is best to catch signs of trouble with your plumbing as soon as they crop up. Stick with me today and I’ll tell you three ways you can do this.

Blocked Sewer Vent Symptom No. 1: Gurgling Drains or Toilets

Although my friend’s baby is too young to talk, he does verbalize when he’s upset in other ways, specifically by crying. All babies do it when they’re hungry, sleepy, or just having a bad day. In some ways, the plumbing system in your home is no different.

When you have a blocked sewer vent, your plumbing lets you know with gurgling or sputtering noises.

blocked sewer vent signsWhen you have a blocked sewer vent, your plumbing lets you know with gurgling or sputtering noises, rather than with shrieks and crying. You may notice this happening in your kitchen sink or toilet. The cause is inadequate airflow in a vent due to a blockage that is causing the plumbing pressure to increase. When it gets higher than the air pressure in the bathroom, the water has to fight against the higher pressure as it flushes or drains, and that’s why you hear the gurgling. I highly recommend calling a trained plumber out to take a look at your sewer vent as soon as you hear this.

Blocked Sewer Vent Symptom No. 2: Slow Drains or Toilets

My friend says that one surefire way to tell if it’s time to put his baby down for a nap is that the kid’s eyes start to open and close just a tad bit slower. Funnily enough, this is actually kind of related to one of the easiest ways to tell if you’ve got a blocked sewer vent. All you have to do is pay attention to water as it drains.

Now, if water is taking longer than usual to drain out of your kitchen sink, your toilet, or even your bathtub, it might be time to call out a professional plumber to take a look at your sewer vents. See, elevated drainpipe pressure prevents water from draining at the rate you’re accustomed to. When tubs or sinks or whatever else slow down, it’s often a sign of an undersized or blocked vent. There could also be a clog somewhere deep down. Whatever, the case I highly recommend calling a professional plumber as soon as you notice this.

Blocked Sewer Vent Symptom No. 3: Strong Sewer Gas Odor

Getting back to my friend and his baby, one of the surest ways to tell if the kid has something wrong is by giving him a good smell. If he smells nice and fresh, it’s obviously something else. If he smells kind of ugly, well, chances are it’s time to give the baby a change. If you’re on the lookout for blocked sewer vent symptoms in your home, I suggest giving your drains a good smell as well.

…smelling sewer gas is one of your best ways to identify whether or not it’s time to call a professional plumber to check out your sewer vent.

See, almost all of your plumbing drains have a trap in them where the water remains so that it can block sewer gases from going backward and into your home. When the pressure in a drain becomes too high, though, the water flows outward and there’s nothing to prevent that smell. Bottom line, smelling sewer gas is one of your best ways to identify whether or not it’s time to call a professional plumber to check out your sewer vent.

I sure hope my friend doesn’t take exception with me comparing his newborn child to the plumbing in a home, but the simple fact of that matter is that the symptoms of a blocked sewer vent are identifiable in much the same way that trouble is with a baby, whether that be through noises, smells, or slowing down. The main difference is that taking care of a baby is the responsibility of mom and dad, while with plumbing trouble I highly recommend calling a professional.

At Bell Brothers, our trained plumbing professionals are happy to help you spot the signs that you may have a blocked sewer vent in your home. We can also help make your home more energy-efficient by cleaning and sealing up your leaky ductwork, giving you an estimate for new windows, or suggesting a new HVAC system. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Wondering how to finance a new HVAC—or even a furnace or window upgrade? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.

Image courtesy Wayhome Studio