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Old 06-14-2016, 07:23 AM   #1
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Sewer Gas 1/2 Bathroom


For a few weeks now, there has been a notable smell in my first floor half bath that I think I'd describe as sewage-like. There had been a faint smell of something less concerning prior to that, but recently it changed. Fortunately, the smell doesn't emerge from the bathroom, but it makes spending time in the bathroom less pleasant.

It's hard to tell exactly where it is coming from, but I've done a couple of things to remedy the problem.

1) I changed the wax ring in the toilet. The ring under there looks like it had been there for a loooooong time (It's an older house, one that hadn't been kept up great by previous owner). No obvious leak that I saw on the tile floor, but there was some grim in front of the flange, but still under the toilet. The flange itself is pretty high, stacked on top of the tile flooring. I had to use some shims to get it level after install. I caulked around the base. Will be replacing flooring in next couple of months (an thus removing toilet again), but wanted to see if this fixed smell problem. It did not, or maybe only a little.

2) I also snaked the vent stack on the roof, and I didn't hit an obstructions.

3) The bathroom is used frequently, so I don't imagine the water in the sink p-trap has evaporated. I've smelled down the sink drain, and I'm not catching any odor.

I'm eager to resolve the odor issue, and I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts. I'll call in a plumber if I need to, but I'd like to try whatever I can on my own before I do. Would it be wise to run water down the vent stack, just in case there are obstructions I didn't find? Is there any possibility that changing the old toilet out or raising the flooring height (given the flange height) might help?

Thanks very much for any thoughts you can offer me!

Alex
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Old 06-14-2016, 07:44 AM   #2
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Re: Sewer Gas 1/2 Bathroom


If you can see the plumbing below the toilet, specifically the wood floor, look for any moisture signs or discoloration. A slow leak could have seeped under the tile and perhaps creating the smell you describe. I've seen a vinyl floor with a 3' diameter ring of black but no water was ever detected on top of the floor.


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Old 06-14-2016, 08:14 AM   #3
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Re: Sewer Gas 1/2 Bathroom


Thanks for your comment, Bud. You could be right. Although the smell is not clearly mold-like, as I've known it, I imagine mold smells come in different variations.

When I had the toilet off, I didn't see obvious signs of moisture damage, but it is possible it is under the tile. I'll be installing floating engineered hardwood flooring in the bathroom, and I'd been debating whether to remove the existing tile first or to install on top. Obviously, the latter option is easier, but this might be a reason to bite the bullet and remove the tile. I know there are other reasons to consider doing so, namely the stability of the flooring.
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Old 06-14-2016, 08:43 AM   #4
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Re: Sewer Gas 1/2 Bathroom


No, the black coloring (stuff) I saw I don't think was just mold, but the residue from what goes down the drain. Your comment "but there was some grim in front of the flange, but still under the toilet" would have included a liquid part and most likely soaked into the flooring under the tile.

I was wondering if you could cover a large area around the toilet with something temporarily that would seal out any odors from below. If the smell goes away you have an indication of the source.

Another standard question with problems like this is, has there been any other construction in this area? Or roof replacement where they may have messed with the vent pipe.

Related story. I was jacking up some beams in the basement and noticed an old drip spot at a fitting for my long toilet to main line drain pipe. Upon inspection I discovered they never glued that joint. While in the process of repairing it the whole length of the pipe came loose. Ended up finding several joints that were never glued, 30 years ago. Makes one appreciate the colored PVC cleaners.

Bud
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Old 06-14-2016, 09:08 AM   #5
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Re: Sewer Gas 1/2 Bathroom


That's a terrific idea. I'm definitely going to put a vapor barrier down on the floor around the toilet to see if that blocks the smell. If it does, I'll take up the tile and replace what needs replacing.

No construction recently that would have messed with the vent pipe. I believe the roof was replaced in 2010. A mild odor (non-sewer like) was present in the bathroom from when we bought the house a year ago, so it is possible the vent was damaged prior to that during the roof replacement, but that seems unlikely.

Scary story! I'm glad to hear you eventually discovered the issue.
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