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majorchamp 07-05-2008 10:32 PM

Sewage type smell coming from bathroom shower drain
My wife and I recently purchased a home, and this week as we were moving in, we started noticing a "smell" coming from the master bathroom. It pretty much smells like sewage/rotten eggs.

Upon further investigation, we realized the smell was coming from the drain at the base of the stand up shower.

I removed the silver grate, and noticed there is some standing water halfway down the pipe. I assume I shouldn't see any water by looking straight into the pipe, especially if the pipe starts to curve about 8-10 inches from the top of the shower drain.

I bought some Liquid Plumber and it has been sitting for over an hour now, and the water hasn't moved. What should my next move be?

I originally bought some liquid hair remover, which markets clog free drains in 10 minutes...but it sounds like it might have harsher chemicals then liquid plumber because it says pour directly into the drain, keep away from sink tile, the steel rings around the drains, etc... however I have not used it, and if the liquid plumber is still sitting there, I don't want to add it and mix chemicals.

I read on another forum about pouring boiling hot water down the drain. Not sure if that would help.

Please off some advice.


majorchamp 07-05-2008 10:39 PM

If this picture is true, then it looks like I "should" see water 5-8 inches down in the pipe when looking from above in the drain. I am clueless.

majorchamp 07-05-2008 11:07 PM

I should also note...I can tell the liquid plumber is still in the pipe because I had purchased a hair removal long flexible stick (with plastic thorns on it) and when I pulled it out, I could still see the gel from the liquid plumber on it, so my gut tells me I do have a clog.

Termite 07-06-2008 01:19 AM

The picture you posted is a floor drain, which is a similar trap to the one that should be under your shower. The floor drain pictured has a black cleanout cap and a semi-horizontal cleanout channel, and shower drains don't have that.

If you've isolated the poo smell to the shower drain, that's step one.

If you look down into the pipe you should see water sitting there. The purpose of the trap is to hold enough water to prevent sewer gas from coming up into the room.

If you're getting sewer gas, your trap is either partially dried out or is not functioning correctly. Sewer gas is not indicative of a clog. Liquid plumber isn't going to fix this.

If you haven't used the shower yet the trap is probably partially evaporated...Problem cured. Just add water.
Does water run down the drain the way that it should? If so, the trap may be plumbed improperly. There are a couple scenarios that could cause the trap to drain just a little too much water out of its bend. You need a plumber in order to fix that.

majorchamp 07-06-2008 01:25 AM

Actually, we have not run the shower yet...but we assumed there was a clog so we chose not to.

I will run it in the morning , which should also clear out the liquid plumber.

Thing is...the house was being lived in prior to us moving I can't quite figure out why the smell would be present so quickly in terms of the house "handoff and posession".

I will run the water and see if it fixes it.


Termite 07-06-2008 07:12 AM

Bear in mind that the entire trap doesn't have to be evaporated to let sewer gas by. If the level drops 1/8" too low, gas is going to get by.

Another possibility I didn't ask about...

Do you ever get gurgling sounds from the shower when you run the tub drain, the sink drain, or flush the toilet? If the vent pipe for the bathroom fixtures is plugged (leaves, dead squirrel, etc), non-existent, or improperly piped, the other fixtures might be using the shower drain as their vent. That could suck a little water out of the trap.

majorchamp 07-06-2008 08:43 AM

I will have to check that.

I have given my son a bath in the guest bathtub, but didn't think to go check for gurgling anywhere.

However, we recently got hooked up with a new washer/dryer...and when I ran the washer which is upstairs, I heard bubbling coming from the downstairs toilet. Last only about 1 minute, but it sounded as if someone was blowing bubbles in the downstairs toilet.

majorchamp 07-06-2008 08:43 AM

Also, if I run the shower, will that liquid plumber I added get diluted and washed away?

Termite 07-06-2008 09:46 AM

Yes, the liquid plumber will wash away.

For future reference, liquid drain cleaner is a joke. Don't waste your money. If you have old cast iron pipes, chemical drain cleaners aren't a great idea. You can't beat a good old drain snake.

The gurgling you heard is the washer machine drain trying to vent itself to allow the water down the drain. Imagine filling a drinking straw with water and keeping your finger on the end. With the end plugged, or not vented, little or no water gets out. When you remove the finger you vent it and everything flows. Water must be displaced with air. If your home is new, you should contact your builder because the laundry was not vented properly. If it is old, there's no telling what you've got. There are options for venting that a plumber can do for you without tearing half your house down though (unless you're an ambitious DIYer it might be a lot to tackle for you).

majorchamp 07-06-2008 11:07 AM

I talked to a plumber on the phone, and he said the problem might not be a clog or anything, but either the vent pipe is blocked, or the sewage line outside has a clog. He said the bubbling I heard in the downstairs toilet might be because of the clogged sewage pipe.

So he said to contact a sewage/septic expert versus a plumber first so they can check those lines.

I realize this this a DIY forum, and I would throw myself into the beginner category when it comes to home repairs...but some things I don't feel like tackling myself...especially with a newly purchased home, 2 1/2 year old, 2 month old, etc... :) time is not on my side.

Regarding the age of the home, it has 1 previous owner and is 4 years old. No clue if the previous owner experienced these same problems and just chose not to disclose it, or if its a coincidence with us moving in a week ago.

micromind 07-06-2008 08:11 PM

If the house has sat empty for more than a couple of months, I'd bet the trap is partially dry, as stated above. Once you run water in it, the problem will likely be solved.


majorchamp 07-06-2008 08:15 PM

It was empty for only a couple of days.

Also, I ran the water and it helps pretty quickly, but I have noticed the smell comes back a little while later.

My guess is the vent pipe is blocked and other sources in the house are removing that water or something...or the sewer pipe on the outside is blocked. I will be calling the sewage company tomorrow.

Termite 07-06-2008 10:27 PM

A blocked vent, maybe.

A blocked sewer, doubtful. A blocked sewer still shouldn't put sewer gas in your home. A blocked sewer would put sewage in your home, your drains wouldn't drain, and your fixtures would overflow.

joasis 07-06-2008 10:46 PM

My money says you have an obstruction in a vent. The trap on the shower is the first fixture to compensate for the lack of venting.

Surprising you didn't notice it when you look at the home, or the HO's knew it and ran the shower before showing the home. I have seen stuff like this before. Unless you feel comfortable being on the roof and snaking the vents, you might be advised to call a other thing you can do to confirm this is plunge one of your fixtures while someone "listens" to see if you can create the gurgling sound.

majorchamp 07-07-2008 08:05 AM

Plunge a toilet you mean, and have someone listen up by the shower drain?

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