Q. Every time I use a sink or flush a toilet it takes forever for the water to drain and then there is a gurgling sound like the water is being sucked out of the drain. A neighbor who has done some remodeling work said I needed to have the drains cleaned by a plumber, but there never has been a blockage in the sewers. What do you think is the problem?
A. Depending on the age of your home, you might have a drain trap that is S-shaped, which can siphon the drains dry when the water is released from the sink. Sometimes you can hear a gurgling noise as air enters the drain through the stopper to allow the system to drain.
When I hear a gurgling noise I start looking for a venting system for the sink, toilet or tub. To drain, there must be an open vent pipe located above the sink or toilet to allow air to enter the drains so the water can flow freely.
There are mechanical vents, which can be installed under a sink, but these do not work well for a toilet due to the volume of water that is drained with each flush. The vent has to be higher than the appliance drain.
It's easy for you to see if the plumbing is vented. Go outside the home and look at the roof to see if there are open plumbing pipes extending above the roofline. These are plumbing vents, which are necessary for proper drainage and for the release of sewer gases. There should be a vent pipe near the bathroom or bathrooms and near the kitchen. The vents could be blocked with leaves, nests or even a pest trying to find a home.
Have a plumber check the vents for blockage.
If there are no vents, a plumber will need to install a proper venting system to alleviate your problems. This may require opening a wall in a bathroom or bedroom to install a vent pipe. If you have S-shaped traps under the sinks, have the plumber rework the drains to a P-shape to prevent a dry drain trap, which could allow sewer odors to enter the home.
Ÿ Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.
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