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Fixing Vent Pipe Problems

Vent pipe problems can cause a stinky smell, slow toilets, slow drains, and more. You’ll find your vent pipe sticking up out of your roof somewhere on your house, but why does your roof have anything to do with your plumbing? Let’s find out.

What is A Vent Pipe Anyway?

It’s strange to think about house plumbing in your roof, but it makes sense once you know what’s going on. When drains and toilets fill your plumbing pipes with water, it can create a vacuum causing them to drain poorly. The solution is to have an air vent in your plumbing so that if the pipe starts to create a vacuum, the air just gets sucked into the house pipes to prevent it. The air pressure equalizes the pressure created from the water, and voila! No vacuum sucking your water back into your pipes and your drains run smooth.

The vent pipe runs to your roof because sometimes it can get a wee bit stinky. By placing them on the roof, they’re well away from any human noses. The birds will have to fend for themselves.

There are a couple of ways to cheat on a vent pipe. P-traps are those snaky bits of plumbing under your sinks and they also function to allow air into the pipe so that it will flow well. Mostly what they do is create a spot where water can pool and stop backflow smells from the sewer. Sometimes when you’re having vent pipe problems the p-trap can go dry and allow those smells to ooze upward into your home.

hand gripping on a white bent pipe

If you don’t have a vent pipe you may have a “cheater” which is basically a vent pipe installed under a sink or somewhere inside your house. That’s not ideal, and building codes generally don’t allow them because they don’t work very well.

How to Tell if You Have Vent Pipe Problems

So now you’re all happy that your poop pipes have an air valve, right?

But what happens when things go wrong? Well, when your air valve gets clogged, the system gets backed up and doesn’t drain as well. Which can lead to some unpleasant scents in the air:

asian kid covering nose avoiding bad smell

Here’s some things to look and smell that may indicate vent pipe problems:

  • When you flush your toilet you hear gurgles from your sink
  • A rotten egg smell in your kitchen or bathroom
  • Gurgling drains
  • Slow clearing drains
  • Weak flushing toilets

Obviously, sometimes a slow flowing drain is just a clogged drain. However if you’ve done everything reasonable to unclog the drain, or have some of these other symptoms it can point to vent pipe problems.

Tips for keeping your Vent Pipe Clear and Happy

Clear debris: Keep your vent pipe clear of branches, leaves or other falling debris. Make sure to trim any branches away from your roof, but especially away from your vent pipe

Keep out vermin: birds, mice, or other small rodents may set up home in your vent pipe. This can be dangerous for them and bad for your house.

Read more: Dealing with animals in roof vents and attics

Make sure your vent pipe is big enough: if you’re continually having vent pipe problems and you know it’s clear and unobstructed, you may need a bigger vent pipe to support your house’s plumbing. This may be the case if there’s been an addition or extra plumbing installed.

Check your vent cap: the wrong vent cap can cause havoc with your vent pipe.

Is this Above my Pay Grade?

So, there are things you as a homeowner can do to fix your problematic vent pipe. Depending on your own personal level of DIY powers you may or may not want to attempt to unclog your vent pipe on your own.

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If you do want to attempt to unclog your vent pipe basically you’ll be snaking a drain on the roof. You can use a plumbers snake down the vent pipe directly from the roof, or if you’re comfortable with a little more DIY and your vent pipe is made of PVC you can go into your attic, cut part of the pipe out and snake it from there. You will need to patch in PVC pipe afterward so that your vent pipe goes all the way to the roof.

roof contractor inspecting the vent pipe on the roof

You can check to see if the vent pipe is working by asking someone to flush a toilet while you have your hand over the end of the vent pipe. If you can’t feel any suction when the toilet is flushed, something is wrong.

Depending on your level of DIY adventurousness, you may be able to clear a clog all on your own. If you do need a little help, we’re always here to help, with all the safety equipment, tools, and knowledge to the the job done safely and effectively.

About Weather Vane Roofing

We provide roofing, siding, insulation, windows, and gutters. Making your house beautiful and efficient is our main goal. We use the latest in technology and products to provide eco-friendly and cost-effective solutions for your home and business. With locations in Lansing, Owosso, and Brighton/Howell we are Mid-Michigan’s roofing experts. Let us transform your house into a home.

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