Everyone knows what a sewer smells like. Maybe you have smelled it while driving down the street, detected sewage smell in your bathroom, or have had the displeasure of getting a sniff of “sewer gas” in your house; it is not a smell you would quickly forget. However, locating the cause is not always a simple matter of nose-detective work. Sometimes you just have to apply good old-fashioned knowledge and logic, and go through some trial and error to find out where the stink is originating from.

Common Causes Of Bathroom & Basement Sewer Smell

In today’s post we will cover some of the likely culprits of sewer smells in your bathroom or basement, and what to do if your nose becomes offended by these odours.

Before we get into the details, the common issues we’ll discuss are:

  • Sewage backup
  • Blocked plumbing vent
  • Water backflow
  • Old drain pipes
  • Overloaded sewers

Uh Oh… Sewage Backup

First thing’s first; a sewer smell usually means sewage backup. The best place to start looking would be at the toilet, or the main drain of the home if you can get to it. Other places to investigate would be sink drains and even the shower or bathtub drain. If you have a vent pipe leading up through the roof of the home, and the wind is blowing, it may just be normal gas venting that you probably do not need to worry about.

Blocked Plumbing Vents Created Nasty Smells

In Toronto, a common problem is plumbing vents freezing over, due to moisture build-up, which causes sewer gases to become trapped in the venting system. Have a plumber check your plumbing stack and vents to make sure that they are clear of obstruction and not frozen over. Sewer gases can be harmful to you or your family, so do not try to ignore them.

Backing Up Water

If you are noticing frequent back-ups in one or more sinks, bathtubs, toilets, or other drains, you may have a bigger problem than venting. It is likely that there is an obstruction in your main drain line, which means that sewage is not able to flow out of your house. A clogged main drain inevitably leads to a sewage build-up, which can result in the main drain bursting, or leaking. This means raw sewage flooding into your basement or yard. It may just be leaking a bit, and that’s where the smell comes from. Therefore, if you have a smelly basement contact a Toronto plumbing company to conduct a drain cleaning and inspection, you do not want to have to call on flood restoration contractors to handle a sewage flood!

Old Pipes

As older pipes become damaged, they may develop spits, cracks, or even holes, through which sewage escapes. This sewage can put off a foul odor and may be the cause the rotten egg smell that you are detecting. Think about having your drains inspected with a drain inspection camera, to see if your pipes are failing.

Overloaded Sewers

Another problem is during stormy weather, which the City sewer becomes overloaded with water and sewage. There may not be enough room to take on new sewage from your home, which can also cause a build-up and possibly overflow of sewage. For these problems, backwater valves and flood detection devices can protect you from a disastrous situation.

What’s The Solution?

For clogged drains or vents, a common practice is to use a drain snake. This will punch holes through the blockages and break them up. The next step should be a thorough drain cleaning, using pressurized water jets in a process is called hydro-jetting and will make sure that the lines are completely clean and free of built up debris. After snaking and cleaning your drains out, the sewage smell should go away.

If drain snaking and cleaning does not help to rid your basement of the smell, there could be another problem further down the main drain. One possible solution is to have your drain line severed from the City sewers. Have a plumber install a secondary means of waste disposal, septic systems are especially recommended such as a septic tank. This method will also protect you from sewer backup during storms.

Take Action Today

Whatever you decide to do about your sewer smell, you should keep in mind that raw sewage can pose a lot of health hazards, and local city laws do not usually tolerate sewage hanging out wherever it can escape. This can be a very serious situation, so call and get help if you need it.

Andrew Olexiuk - Your Toronto Plumbing Expert
Andrew Olexiuk - Your Toronto Plumbing Expert
Andrew has over 20 years of experience as a plumbing contractor. He is co-owner and operator of Absolute Draining & Plumbing, a professional plumbing company serving residential & commercial properties across the Toronto, Ontario region.
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Showing 4 comments
  • Johnnie Petrin

    Take appropriate measures to prevent cross-contamination (keep the doors between the contaminated area and the other rooms in your home closed, do not use the central air conditioning system until the problem has been solved, keep air pressure in the contaminated area lower than in the rest of the building, etc.) to ensure that sewage contaminated soil won’t be tracked into unaffected areas of your property and airborne sewage-contaminated dust (or mold spores) won’t be blown to other spaces.

  • Angella Brookman

    How do I protect myself financially against a sewer backup?

    • The Absolute Draining & Plumbing Team

      The old “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” saying applies here. The absolute best way to prevent yourself financially from a sewer backup is to ensure that you have all preventative measures installed. This way you will never have to deal with the problem in the first place. If you need a help preventing sewer backup contact us and describe your situation, we’ll do our best to explain over the phone and/or have a specialist provide you with a consultation.

  • Malik Wierzbicki

    Place all items that have been in the affected area outside to air out, even if they have not been in contact with the sewage.

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