How to Fix a Septic Smell

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got a call from Abe in New Hampshire who’s dealing with some sort of septic smell in the house. What’s going on?

    ABE: How are you doing? I listen to your program all the time, by the way. In fact, it’s very interesting.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    TOM: Glad to hear that.

    ABE: We put in a brand-new, engineered septic system about 10 years ago. And I noticed, from the very beginning, the downstairs toilets flushed very well. And upstairs, where I am, flushes well but it burps.

    TOM: OK.

    ABE: And when I push the handle, it starts going down and it’s kind of like a small burp at the throat. And it pushes up a little bubble with that septic smell or something like that and then it goes down, every single time.

    TOM: So, what’s going on is you don’t have enough venting for that particular toilet. And so, when you flush it and the water’s drawn down, there’s no make-up air replacing it.

    LESLIE: It’s gasping for air.

    TOM: And so it’s, essentially, gasping, right. You know the vents of those pipes that come up through the roofs of homes?

    ABE: Correct. Yep.

    TOM: For some reason, this particular toilet is not vented correctly. It’s not getting the air or the vent is obstructed. I’ve seen these vents capped off when they’re put in because the plumbers like to test the systems and never pull the caps off again. So there could be a whole host of reasons why you’re not getting air but it’s really a simple fix. You need to figure out where the vent’s obstructed or if the vent doesn’t exist or it doesn’t properly – it wasn’t properly installed. That’s really the issue. If you can get more air into that vent, you’ll be good to go, and that septic smell will disappear.

    ABE: OK. Yeah, so we can – yeah, so I mean it’s really accessible. It’s an easy private roof. I was hoping it wouldn’t be something like that or plugged up or whatever.

    And also, by the way, occasionally you get a slight – very slight – septic odor coming up when it does that, too.

    TOM: I guess that’s possible because you’re – because it’s not vented, it’s just holding more of that water in the pipes than it really should.

    ABE: Right. Yeah.

    TOM: And the vents are designed to let that septic odor go. So that makes sense, actually.

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