You may wonder about the plumbing pipe running up through your attic, or you may have noticed a weird pipe sticking out of your roof. If you’ve noticed these things, chances are good that you have a plumbing-system vent stack. This long pipe vents air out of your drainage lines and up over the home so you don’t smell sewage gas.

The vent stack is connected to your drainage system to help wastewater move through your drainage lines. There are three signs that your vent stack may be clogged or need some maintenance.

A Rotten Egg Smell in the Home

Do you have a rotten odor permeating certain areas of the home? Have you ruled out the obvious reasons for the smell? If it’s not overripe trash, spoiled food or the dog, it could be the smell of a clogged vent stack.

When sewer waste can’t escape via the roof vent, it collects in your pipes and settles. Hydrogen sulfide—the gas produced by rotting sewage—begins to flow back into your pipes and your home.

You don’t need a special detector to sense this colorless gas; you’ll definitely smell it. Once it reaches only 10 parts per million, hydrogen sulfide will also start to burn your eyes.

Hydrogen sulfide is harmful to humans when it builds up inside a structure. At lower levels, symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Headache

At higher concentrations, hydrogen sulfide will cause respiratory problems and eventually loss of consciousness as the gas replaces oxygen in the air. There is a risk of death from asphyxiation if the problem is not caught in time. Fortunately, the rotten smell alerts most people long before the situation gets to the critical point.

When you smell a rotten egg smell in your home, and there’s no other cause, suspect hydrogen sulfide. Open all windows to air out the home and call a plumber immediately. The cause of the gas buildup may be a vent-stack blockage, but it may also be an improperly installed vent, a plumbing fixture that hasn’t been used often or a cracked pipe.

Critters in the Toilet

Reports of snakes, rodents and other animals ending up in toilets are not urban myths. If you find a tree frog croaking in your toilet bowl, it’s unsettling to say the least. A snake or rat in the toilet gives you even more reason to worry.

You may wonder how in the world any animal could survive the trip up through the curve of the toilet drain. You may wonder how the animal was able to enter your drain system in the first place.

If you’re curious about where the animal “doorway” is to your plumbing system, suspect your roof vent stack. Yes, it is true that animals can enter your waste pipes through cracked pipes or sewer systems below your home. However, most animals that enter the toilet do so through the roof or other plumbing vent.

Tree frogs and squirrels may be hopping around on tree branches above your roof one minute, then either explore or tumble their way into your vent stack the next minute. Once in the drainage system, the animals end up near the toilet (where most vent stacks originate), so the frogs and rats head for that easy escape route.

Birds and rodents may also build nests in the vent stack, although the birds don’t make it into the toilet. Sometimes, they just get stuck in the pipe and clog the vent. To avoid unwelcome guests in your toilet or roof vent, have professionals install durable mesh coverings over the vent opening. Have the covered vent (or vents, if you have more than one) checked periodically to make sure the cover over each vent is intact and securely fastened to the pipe opening.

Gurgling Sounds in the Wall

When you hear gurgling noises as fixtures drain, it’s usually the result of a vacuum being created in your plumbing system. This vacuum forms when there isn’t proper venting of a fixture or some other part of your plumbing system. The venting configured into your plumbing system helps move air and water through the pipes. If any part of the drainage or venting system is blocked, gurgling results as negative pressure makes the water push through trapped air in the system.

Think about opening a can of liquid with a puncture-type can opener. If you only pop one hole into the top of the can, the liquid will gurgle and flow in short spurts. If you make a second hole opposite the first hole, the liquid pours out smoothly. Why? Because you “vented” the can. Your plumbing vent stack operates on a similar principle.

In some cases, the gurgling sounds you hear are the result of a venting issue with a particular fixture. In many cases, your roof vent stack is clogged and needs to be cleaned out to restore the drainage flow.

Animals, as noted above, may have made a thick nest in your vent stack. Leaves and other debris may have blown into the pipe during a storm. Crews who recently installed a new roof on your home may have inadvertently covered up vent holes on the roof. Have a qualified plumber check out the vent stack and professionally clean it if necessary.

Contact The Clean Plumbers now to solve your plumbing problems. Live operators answer 24 hours a day.