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Why does my house smell like sewage?

toilet in home

When you open a door and smell sewage, your plumbing system is telling you there is a problem. There are several common reasons your home may smell like sewer gas. Some are serious, but many of them are easy to fix.

Sewer odor comes from the breakdown of human waste and includes harmful gases like hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. Small doses of these gases won’t harm you, but chronic exposure can be toxic. Any time your house smells like sewage, you need to identify the problem.

Most of the time, some kind of plumbing failure causes sewer odors. Here are the most common drain problems we see:

1. Dry Water Traps

Water traps, often called P-traps or S-traps, are designed to create a water barrier that keeps sewer gas from entering your home. You can find them underneath your sinks and near floor drains and laundry tubs. Water traps can dry out for several reasons, most often when they aren’t used regularly or if there is a leak in the pipe. Also, very dry air in your home can dry out your water traps, which happens more often during winter.

If you suspect a water trap is your problem, simply run the water for a short time or pour some water down the drain to refill the trap.

2. Bad Wax Ring on the Toilet

A wax ring creates an air-tight seal between the base of your toilet and the flange in the ground. Many times, a wax ring lasts up to 20 or 30 years, but excessive plunging could damage it. If your toilet wobbles or water seeps from its base, those are other signs the wax ring may be bad. You may need to replace the wax ring to remove the smell.

3. Sewer Leaks

Any home can develop sewer leaks from tree roots or blockages from time to time. There are several common signs you have a problem with your main sewer line:

  • Gurgling noises in your drains or toilet
  • Sewer odor
  • Water backup or flooding
  • Sewage backup
  • If you think your main drain may be clogged, schedule a sewer line camera inspection with a company you trust. Often our customers think they have a clog because of the smell, but a camera inspection shows something else is going on. Blindly putting a cable down your drain can damage your pipes. A visual inspection with a camera identifies the actual issue so you choose the best solution for your problem.

    4. Loose Pipe Connections

    If your pipes are loose or cracked, smelly gas could be leaking out into your home. Since most pipes are hidden inside your walls or ceilings, it is hard to find the problem yourself. Call a plumbing company you trust for help. Experienced plumbers are skilled in leak detection and can help you pinpoint the problem.

    Can you prevent sewer gas smells in your home?

    We recommend these action steps to keep your home free from sewer smells.

    The easiest thing you can do is to run water through each sink and drain every month. Most of the time, you won’t even need to think about this. However, there may be sinks or toilets you never use. Take a minute or two once a month to turn on the faucets in bathrooms or other drains you rarely use. Regular use will keep those water traps from drying out.

    Next, we highly recommend doing simple drain maintenance each month. We use a natural enzyme product called Endure that safely cleans your drains, prevents clogs, and keeps your pipes happy. Once it gets going in your home, you just pour a little bit down your drains each month to keep them happy. Give us a call if you’d like to know more. A little prevention goes a long way to stop sewer backups and stinky gases in your home.

    If you smell sewer gas in your home, one of our plumbers would be happy to help you identify the problem. It’s often a simple fix, and if you have a bigger problem, a camera inspection will give you the information you need to fix it. From big to small, you can trust A.B. May with all your plumbing and drain needs.