LESLIE: Terry in New Jersey’s got a mysterious funk going on at the house. What happened? Tell us about it.
TERRY: Hi there. We have a finished basement. We refinished it two years ago. And we are noticing, without any rhyme or reason, a sewer smell.
TERRY: It has happened twice over the last three months.
TERRY: We do have an ejector pump in our basement …
TERRY: … because both the shower and the toilet are below the water level.
TERRY: We’ve had problems with the ejector pump not working consistently and not working properly. We’ve had a plumber in. He doesn’t think, you know, it’s any sewer gases escaping; you know, that the drains are all used enough that there’s water so that that seal is there. And they also don’t really know if it’s the seal around the toilet because the plumber felt that we’d be smelling it far more often than we are. So we are at a loss and don’t want to go on a fishing expedition. Help.
TOM: Have you talked to the plumber about the venting of this ejector pump? Do you know if it’s vented correctly? Because if it’s not vented correctly that could be a source of the problem.
TERRY: Huh. OK. He didn’t even talk to us about that.
TOM: It’s got to be vented. There’s a vent – you know, the same way when you have a bathroom on the – higher up on your house and you notice that there’s a big, wide vent pipe that comes up through the roof …
TOM: … well there has to be a vent pipe for the basement bath as well and with an ejector pump it typically comes off of the ejector pump and may hook up with the rest of the venting in the basement and bring it up into the house and up through the roof. So if the venting is not correct then that could be a source of the problem.
Something else to look at is the cleanouts for the drainway’s vent pipe in the basement. Sometimes those cleanouts, I find them, are loose and you can get a smell from that as well. But you need to look further into the waste path for this bathroom and basically track it all the way from the toilet to where it goes out the house because it’s going to be somewhere in there if it, in fact, is a sewer smell.
TERRY: OK. And would that be why there’s no rhyme or reason as to when it occurs?
TOM: It could be based on the air pressure inside the house. If it turns out the basement maybe has a lower air pressure the sewer gas might tend to vent more into that space and that’s going to change based on wind conditions and things like this that are going on around the house.
TERRY: Your guess would be that it has something to do with that bathroom and that ejector pump.
TOM: Absolutely. It’s got to be looked at a bit more closely.
TERRY: Thank you. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.