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Dusty 10-20-2006 02:11 AM

toilet install - did I screw up?
Me again, old house still, another issue. When I moved into this house in June I did some work on the floor and had to remove/put back the toilet. I had never done this before but had instructions from books, Internet etc. and it wasn't all that complicated.

So, when the toilet went back on I replaced the wax ring and there has been no sign of leaking or toilet moving or anything odd in that regard. Meanwhile, and I can't figure out why this only happens sometimes, every so often (like two or three times a week) I notice a really foul smell when the thing is flushed (and you can stop giggling, this isn't just because someone ate bad that day if you get my drift). Yesterday I noticed a big air bubble coming up from the bottom of the bowl when it was flushed. Other times it's lots of little air bubbles. Is that normal? I don't recall ever seeing air bubbles in a toilet before.

Is that what is causing the smell? Could there be air in the trap or whatever? What is the problem and how do I fix it?

oddjob 10-20-2006 03:29 AM

Have you made any other changes to the plumbing in this house?

majakdragon 10-20-2006 06:03 AM

The bubbles make it sound more like a venting problem than anything else. When a vent is clogged, the drain system does not get the air it needs to work properly. If you can, go onto the roof and look down the vent pipe with a flashlight to see if there is possibly a birds nest, leaves etc blocking the line.

Dusty 10-20-2006 03:39 PM

more info
Some other plumbing has been changed. Basically all the lines in were changed (by a plumber) from galvanized to plastic. The lines going out were left alone as he said they were fine. I don't think he checked the stack which is original (1930).

I can't get up on the roof (being a chicken and all) but there are lots of trees around here so leaves could be a possibility. I wish I had the number of the tenant who lived here before I bought the place. He is a plumber as it happens and may have noticed and know what the issue is (I don't expect he would have fixed anything unless the owner at the time was willing to pay for his time).

If there is something blocking the vent is it a big deal clearing it? Also is this something I should be very concerned about or could I wait? Part of the concern I suppose is that where I live in Canada, winter is showing it's ugly face already and I have no idea how freezing etc. might impact this or getting it fixed. I also have so much to do around this house that spending more money on plumbing isn't making me a happy person.

majakdragon 10-20-2006 03:56 PM

A main vent problem can be very serious. Plumbing systems need air to facilitate water flow. If the vent is clogged, air is blocked from entering the system. Without air, the water draining from fixtures pulls a vacuum on the lines and sucks the water out of the traps. This allows sewer gases to enter your home. Sewer gas CAN contain Methane gas. It also contains all the chemicals, mixed together, that have been poured down the drains. Ammonia and bleach, when mixed, form a VERY toxic gas. This is just one form of gas caused by normal household chemicals. Cleaning the vent is an easy thing, once you get up on the roof. Remove what you can by hand and then flush the line with a garden hose.

Dusty 10-21-2006 01:16 AM

Well this just gets more comforting by the minute I must say. I was just doing some googling and one site said if it was the vent the toilet would gurgle, if it was the drain it would bubble. So mine bubbles but has no trouble flushing (which the site that made the distinction mentioned as being one of the symptoms of a drain clog). Have you heard this gurgle/bubble theory before?

How many vent stacks are typical in a house? I know I only have the one big old drain pipe, would that mean only one vent?

I guess I am just trying to anticipate what I would be up against when it comes to getting a plumber out (I am not going on the roof, that would be a bad idea for me). Also how important it might be given I live in an area where the shortage of trades is huge and they are lucky enough to be able to pick and choose their job. In other words I may have a wait on my hands and would like to know how I can tell if or when this becomes more urgent.

747 10-21-2006 03:03 AM

Listen the fact your getting a fowl smell plus the air bubbles says vent. Why the vents job is to get rid of the smell. Climb up on the roof CAREFULLY and see if there clogged. Your looking for any vent thats not furnance related. Usually round and about 1 foot off of roof.

majakdragon 10-21-2006 10:24 AM

Usually, there is one main vent stack. All fixtures are connected to this stack. If you have a room with plumbing fixtures that is a long distance away from the rest of the fixtures, there COULD be an additional vent pipe. OR, if plumbing was added after the original plumbing was installed. Sometimes it is easier to run a new vent than to tie into the original one. The number of fixtures connected to the vent may also require a second vent. Normally, the vent is 3" or 4". This can change depending on the area of the country you live in due to temperatures. Smaller lines can freeze in the winter if they are small diameter. My vent in Ohio was 3", while the one in Florida was 2". I have also seen (in colder areas) the main vent run in one size and the pipe exiting the roof, a larger size to prevent freezing. A simple explanation of a vent: Stick a drinking straw into a glass of liquid. Place your finger over the end of the straw and remove the straw from the liquid. You will notice that the liquid remains in the straw. Then remove your finger from the end of the straw and the liquid will exit the straw. You have just "vented" the straw.

Ron The Plumber 10-21-2006 01:25 PM

The bubbles could be normal, check this out, as the water from the tank is transfered to the bowl, air pockets can get trapped between the water and the passages the water flows through at, as the water moves through the toilet bowl it can and will push the air out thats trapped infront of the flow, so it has to exit somewhere, i.e. the bottom of the bowl, this can happen not just to your toilet but many others out there.

As far as the smell. are you sure you got a good seal on the bottom of the toilet when you reset it?

Dusty 10-21-2006 02:09 PM

So the bubbles might be normal..well maybe not normal, but not unheard of?

As for the seal, well this was my first time but I did buy a thicker ring (because I had added floor) and it took me quite a while to get the toilet to hug the floor again. Lots of pushing and wiggling to get it back down and even tightening the bolts little by little over a couple of days. So now it feels solid on the floor. I also didn't use any caulk or sealant of any type around it as someone warned me I wouldn't know if it was seated properly and not leaking if I did that. So, given the limited amount of experience I have with such a thing, it seems fine.

So how does one know if the seal is good? I assume if I lift it again and look that I would have to replace the ring again and I don't want to be doing that unless I have more info to know I am doing it right.

As for vents, this is a very small old house (900') and all the plumbing is in the center of the house so maybe I only have that one vent. I suppose I could stick my head into the attic and see what runs through it. I can't actually see most of the roof or get back far enough either. The neighbours have the best view.

majakdragon 10-21-2006 04:37 PM

Do you have any other fixtures (tub, sinks etc) that bubble when draining? Try filling the tub with about 2" of water. Then unplug the tub and flush the toilet. If the tub "burps", you probably have a vent problem. OR, fill the tub as before and then drain it while watching the water in the toilet bowl. If the water in the bowl moves, vent problem.

Dusty 10-21-2006 05:58 PM

I tried filling the tub (and the sink since it was close by too) as you described and no change in the toilet water level or burping or gurgling by any of the them. I'll try it again when I take a bath since that will be a lot more water and time to see if anything happens.

747 10-22-2006 03:59 AM

Seeing how you added floor it could be the wax ring. How much did you increase the height of the floor? Normally plumbers will double up on the wax gasket if the height has increased over a specific height. Just tell us how much you increased the height of the floor and RON THE PLUMBER will know if you should have doubled up on the wax ring. Ps do you see any wax coming out from under the toliet where the toliet meets the floor.

majakdragon 10-22-2006 09:15 AM

Going from the direction that it MAY be the wax seal. If you raised the floor level, you should have used a flange extender to make up the difference in floor height. Using more than one wax seal has drawbacks. They can slide while trying to set the toilet and block the exit hole. You stated that you had a lot of trouble getting the toilet to sit on the floor while using a thicker wax seal. This could be what is causing the bubbles. There may be wax partially blocking the exit hole.

747 10-22-2006 09:51 AM

Flange extender is the way to go. But most diyers are intimidated by doing something like that.

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