In plumbing, the problems that homeowners tend to call a plumber about fall into one of two distinct categories: very serious or very visible. If there’s a leak in a bathroom or kitchen sink, homeowners tend to call. If they have a clogged toilet, they call. If they have sewage backing up into their shower or mudroom sink, oh, you better believe they call for help. It makes sense. Things that are right in front of us or that cause us major problems tend to get our attention.
There are, however, plumbing problems that aren’t visible, but are still evident; ones that just haven’t turned into serious problems—yet. These minor problems are crucial for homeowners to have fixed as soon as possible before they turn into costly and very inconvenient repairs. Today, I’d like to talk about a question I rarely get from homeowners (but that they should know the answer to): How to tell if my plumbing vent is clogged? Let’s explore the signs and symptoms that you can spot if you know what to look for, but that can be easily missed if don’t, as well as why it’s so important to address a clogged plumbing vent with the help of an expert plumber.
How to Tell If My Plumbing Vent Is Clogged?
Before we get into how to tell if your plumbing vent is clogged, let’s start by talking about what a plumbing vent is. I’ve seen a lot of homeowner’s eyes glaze over when I mention plumbing vents. The plumbing vent, sometimes called a vent stack, is a vent on the roof of your home that regulates the air pressure in your plumbing system to help water flow through drain pipes with ease. You can thank your plumbing vent for keeping your house smelling fresh too, as it prevents any sewer fumes and gases from entering your home.
So, how do you know if this vent is plugged when you didn’t even know it existed? Here are the top three signs and symptoms that serve as warnings that your plumbing vent is clogged:
- Gurgling toilets and drains
- Strong sewage smells
- Sluggish drains
Warning Sign #1: Gurgling Toilets and Drains
Have you noticed a gurgling sound coming from your toilet or sink after you flush? If your plumbing vent is clogged, air can’t escape your plumbing system the way it normally would, so it finds the nearest exit—your toilets and drains—and makes noises at it escapes.
Warning Sign # 2: Strong Sewage Smells
When there is a clog in the plumbing vent, sewer gases can’t properly escape and may re-enter your home through drains. If your toilets and sinks have a distinct odor, this may be the case. Methane is something you don’t want your family breathing in; call a professional plumber immediately. Not only is methane combustible, it can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Warning Sign #3: Sluggish Drains
If all of your drains are really backed up, it could be a sign that your plumbing vent is clogged and can’t properly regulate the air pressure within the system to keep things flowing properly. Slow drains can, however, stem from other plumbing problems, so make sure you call in a local plumber to check things out.
What to Do If Your Plumbing Vent Is Clogged
If you do suspect a clogged plumbing vent, I strongly suggest that you call a plumbing pro immediately. They have the equipment and the expertise to inspect your plumbing system and diagnose the problem quickly and easily. This certainly isn’t something you want to attempt to inspect or fix on your own—especially if you didn’t know what a plumbing vent was before reading this. To be clear, there’s no shame in that, it just means that you probably shouldn’t be poking around in your pipes.
If you do suspect a clogged plumbing vent, I strongly suggest that you call a plumbing pro immediately.
Sewer problems can often be messy, complex, and hard to fix if you don’t have extensive experience with plumbing and the right professional tools. A clogged vent, for example, will often require a plumber to open up the walls in your home so they can get a good look at the drainage system. Other times, it’ll require going up on the roof to check for anything clogging the vent pipe, such as leaves, birds’ nests, rodents, and debris. Doesn’t sound like too much fun, does it?
The most important thing is to pay close attention to your plumbing so that you notice when something seems off. The sooner you catch a plumbing problem, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix.
At Bell Brothers, we’re big fans of the whole-home approach to safety, energy efficiency, and health. Our expert plumbing professionals would be happy to have a look at your plumbing to make sure it is working properly. While we’re there, we can also have a look at your water heater or talk with you about a new filtration system. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.
Wondering how to finance a new furnace, or maybe even new windows and plumbing? 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 Unsplash user Patrick Coddou