Can a toilet cause this much trouble?

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  #1  
Old 07-25-14, 09:56 PM
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Can a toilet cause this much trouble?

5 weeks ago today we bought a house, and for 5 weeks we have been dealing with the stench of sewer gas in the house.

I have posted several different threads about this problem as we have experimented with duct tape over drains and investigated the possibility that the problem could be with the air conditioner.

We have experienced the stench with every drain taped and had it get worse when the a/c vent was closed. We've experienced the stench when we didn't even use that bathroom at all.

We've had 3 plumbers (one of them 5 times) and 2 a/c guys out here.

The stink would never manifest for a plumber.....until tonight. Praise God, the plumber finally smelled it! It was in rare form.

We did the "peppermint test", and one of the plumber's assistants and I smelled the peppermint in the master bath (the source of the stink) near the toilet.

A couple of weeks ago, we had that toilet's wax ring and phlange replaced.

The plumber said there could be a crack in the toilet, and the only way to tell for sure if the
toilet is the source of all we've been going through is to pull it, seal off the opening (which he did with some type of pressurized gadget), and see if the stink goes away.

So far so good.

My question is this: Could a crack in a toilet be causing all of this problem.......even causing the whole house to stink???

Just this morning - on the opposite side of the house - there was a sewage smell probably 5 times more intense than what we've been smelling in the bathroom, coming from the air return duct (where we put the filters) in the hallway.

Could a toilet cause that????

Why would a toilet with a crack cause stink after we take a shower? Why would it cause stink when we hadn't used the bathroom at all for two days? Why would the a/c coming on (vent in the ceiling) make the problem worse?

Thanks in advance guys.
 
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  #2  
Old 07-25-14, 10:25 PM
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You mentioned this is a new thread about an old problem that has been discussed before. That means everything previously discussed and questions asked will be asked again.

Have the plumbers checked the roof vents ?
I don't think your problem is only caused by a single cracked toilet. It sounds like your sewer system is under pressure due to venting issues.
 
  #3  
Old 07-25-14, 10:30 PM
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They have checked the vents. There is nothing backed up. Everything is draining fine.
There was a strong stench of sewer gas coming from the shower's vent (it has its own), but water went through it fine.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 03:51 AM
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Old 07-26-14, 06:00 AM
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Thank you Pilot Dane! I don't have the ability to cut and paste on this tablet, so I really appreciate you providing those links.

Do you have an opinion on the toilet?
 
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Old 07-26-14, 06:31 AM
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I will reiterate what someone posted in one of the other threads. In your attic, there is a cracked, broken, or too short a vent pipe. Loose joint, something Causing gasses to enter your air handler.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 06:51 AM
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So maybe during the peppermint test we should have had someone stationed in the attic? If we continue to have stink problems this weekend, we are planning to get our Waterworks to come out and do a smoke test.

I think the reason the plumber doesn't believe it's a problem in the attic is because the stench has only been smelled there one time despite my husband and servicemen being up there numerous times.

Yesterday when we smelled that horrible stench from where the air filter is, my husband went into the attic, and there was no smell there at all.

Shouldn't there have been if the smell was coming from a problem in the attic?

Thanks Chandler.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 07:25 AM
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When your filter is removed, do you see any pipes running inside the chase? It could be the HVAC installer panned around a vent stack and you have a compromised section in the riser. You know we are grabbing at straws, but most of it comes from experience, so bear with us. Remember we aren't there.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 08:22 AM
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No, there are no pipes when we remove the filter. I appreciate any suggestions. We are all stumped here.

I just talked with the plumber, and I asked again about the possibility of a cracked, broken, or loose pipe in the attic. His thought is that if that was the case, we'd have the smell all the time.....it wouldn't be coming and going.

Do ya'll agree with that?

Thanks again.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 08:55 AM
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It would probably be very effective if they could blow smoke down the vent lines.
Would need to plug the sinks.

His thought is that if that was the case, we'd have the smell all the time.....it wouldn't be coming and going.
Not necessarily...... it would depend on how bad the fumes were currently in the pipe whether or not you smell them.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 09:24 AM
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So PJmax......would more water used mean more of a gas build up and more stink through a potentially cracked pipe?

I have mentioned a few times to the plumber that I believe this issue has something to do with the volume of water

. When we were taping off drains and experimenting, it seems the worst offender was the shower. About an hour
after a 10 minute shower, we'd get stink.

It took flushing the toilet every 15 minutes for 2 hours to produce the stink.

We can use the sinks to wash our faces and brush our teeth with no stink.

Then there have been those times where it's been reeking and we haven't used any water source in the bathroom for a few hours or more.

I talked to a local, retired plumber last week with 60 years of experience. He said he thought it might be a case of "Capillary Action". My husband found disgusting amounts of hair in the area where the pipe goes into the wall on our left master bathroom sink. He cleaned that out, and I followed it with vinegar, baking soda, and very hot water.


That could explain why at one point, it seemed like the source of the stink was the right master bathroom sink.

Interestingly, that left sink is where we smelled peppermint when we were doing the peppermint test yesterday.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 09:47 AM
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Here's one other thing that I can't explain, but maybe it will make sense to one of you professionals.

When the stench is really bad, shutting the bathroom door makes it stop and stop relatively quickly. If we leave the door open, it continues to get worse and lasts until we shut the door.

We just figured that out last night. While the plumber was here, the stink started. I closed the door to try to keep the stink in there so he could smell it. (He was outside at the time.) Within a couple of minutes, the stink was gone. I opened the bathroom door back up, the stink came back within minutes and was roaring strong for the next hour.

Some of the worst of the smells have been when we've left home for a few hours, didn't close the bathroom door, and we've come home to a house full of stink.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 09:56 AM
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I'm just making some observations...

It appears that your home is operating under negative pressure. That would mean that air is being drawn in from everywhere.... including the vent system. You open the bathroom door and fumes are being pulled from the vent line.

If the house was under positive pressure then the air would be leaving the house thru any opening including a cracked vent line.

The fumes in a sewer pipe are not necessarily related to the amount of water used. What the sewage was is what creates the malodor. Your neighbors also play a part with the fumes in the lines.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 10:26 AM
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With my limited knowledge and unprofessional opinion, I agree with you PJ Max. Can we fix this? How?
PJ Max, do you think even with the "negative pressure" theory, that the stink is present because of a cracked pipe?

One of the reasons I agree with you is because right after my last post, I thought about the guest bedroom where I sleep most every night because of my husband's snoring.

I can't remember if I posted about this bedroom problem here or not.

This guest bedroom is right across the hall from the air handler where we put the air filters. It is a short, narrow hall. The door to the bedroom AND both closet doors in this bedroom will "suck" closed with just the slightest touch when the a/c is on and the bedroom door is shut.

I noticed immediately that with the door closed, this room was significantly warmer than the rest of the house.

I couldn't sleep with the door open, because we have two cats who would love to sleep on my head and feet.

Our a/c guy said he could put a separate air handler in that room, but that a cheaper fix would be to install a hotel style door lock that would let air in and keep our cats out.

That's what we did, and the room stays cool.
 

Last edited by Donna J; 07-26-14 at 11:16 AM.
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Old 07-26-14, 02:38 PM
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New angle, and it is frustrating I'm sure trying to diagnose something when we can't see what you see. But in a previous post, you mentioned a new roof. Did, by chance, they install a new ridge vent? If so, is there sufficient soffit ventilation to properly purge the air in the attic. You also had new insulation blown in, did they block any soffit ventilation holes in the process. Either could be a cause of pressure variations that could have an influence on the condensate drain being plumbed directly into the bathroom drain pipe. Could cause sucking of fumes out of the drain/vent and directly into the HVAC system and through the house. Or, less likely, it could be sucking the water slowly out of the traps releasing fumes into the bath.

The roofers also could have installed the bath vent cover in some sort of "torqued" fashion that prevents the back draft baffle from closing. The negative pressure could be causing that "hole" to the outside to suck in air to replenish that lost from above. Thus the stoppage when the door is closed. If you crack a window on the other side of the house (with bath door closed) while the AC is on, does it eliminate the odor?
 
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Old 07-26-14, 04:15 PM
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czizzi,

Anything is possible! Our neighbor said last night that she believes this problem has something to do with the new roof, and I have thought there was a connection from the beginning, but when the vents checked out okay, I didn't know what the connection might be.

I will try to call the roofing company Monday and ask the owner to come check what you've mentioned here. (We don't do heights.) Also, we'll ask the plumber or a/c guys about the soffit ventilation holes being blocked.

Both the roof and insulation were done right before this started.......the roof the week before and the insulation the day before.
 
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Old 07-26-14, 07:04 PM
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Czizzi,

I tried what you suggested, and it worked.

I left the bathroom door open on purpose. The stink started kicking up. I went to the room exactly opposite the bathroom on the other side of the house......which happens to be that guest bedroom I mentioned earlier. I opened the windows in there, and the stink stopped immediately! I closed the windows to see if the stink would start up again, it did in just a few minutes. I tried just opening that bedroom door to see if the stink would stop, but it didn't. I just shut the door to get the stink to stop.

You said something about leaving the door closed, but I think you meant open.

We're going to get the other stuff you mentioned checked out to see if it's causing this problem.

Thank you thank you thank you!
 
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Old 07-27-14, 05:44 AM
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Also, we'll ask the plumber or a/c guys about the soffit ventilation holes being blocked.
Has nothing to do with either of these guys. It would be the roofer or the insulation guys that would need to verify correct attic ventilation. Talk to the roofer as he seems to have a relationship with you already. If you go up in the attic, with the lights off, you should be able to see "daylight" where the roof meets the outside wall. That is the soffit area, which is the house roof overhang. The ridge vent is the raised cap at the peak of the roof. You can see it from the inside of the attic as it will look like the plywood on the roof is cut 2 inches short of the peak and something is covering the void.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 06:41 AM
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We can do that. My husband and I talked about your post last night, and he remembers 2 weeks ago, a guy told him to use his blower and go around the outside of the house blowing the soffits. I guess he forgot about the suggestion.

Thank you again. I'll post what we find and if we're able to get it corrected later.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 06:44 AM
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Should we be able to see daylight at the ridge vent as well?
 
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Old 07-27-14, 07:10 AM
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Should we be able to see daylight at the ridge vent as well?
Not necessarily, there are several kinds of ridge vents. Most have some sort of baffle in them that allow air to pass, but not allow wind driven rain to get past. The baffles may block the light.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 07:24 AM
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We're not clear what we're looking for where the ridge vent is concerned. ?????

My husband went in the attic. There was NO daylight in the area of the master bedroom. He's outside blowing right now, then he's going to re-check.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 07:40 AM
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What blocked soffits look like

https://www.google.com/search?q=What...w=1024&bih=635

Note that many pictures show a styrofoam baffle installed that allows air to move from the soffit area to the attic space. Your insulation company should have installed these if they blew in additional insulation and have blocked the soffits. Not sure what blowing the soffits will achieve?

What a ridge vent looks like from the inside

https://www.google.com/search?q=what...w=1024&bih=635

The question is - was one present before the new roof was installed? Is it new such that proper ventilation at the soffit should have been considered when the ridge vent was installed?
 
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Old 07-27-14, 07:58 AM
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My husband was hoping that by using his blower, he could move some of the insulation away from the soffit. (Don't laugh) It didn't help. I guess we're going to have to call the insulation guy and roofer tomorrow.


My husband said he couldn't reach the insulation to move it away from the soffit......even with a broom. Is there any other way we could remove it ourselves?

To answer what I think was your other question.......we don't know if a new ridge vent was installed. The roof was done before the insulation.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 08:11 AM
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Ridge vents, are pretty old style house construction, I can hardly remember the last time I saw one.

Now, they put actual vents in the roofs surface, and or Gable ends.

You can almost tell the year a house was built by the number of roof vents installed around here, as many as ten or more on real modern construction.

Ridge vents are more a shed/barn thing.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 08:17 AM
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Ridge vents, are pretty old style house construction
Must be a Canadian thing, They are fairly common at our latitude.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 08:37 AM
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My husband looked, and we do have one. Our house was built in 1994.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 08:53 AM
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Ah, OK.

If I ever do my roof again, I think I will have one put on, I think they work better than a bunch of separate vents.

Sorry, no thoughts on your smell problem.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 11:30 AM
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I've seen/heard the "use the leaf blower outside to blow the insulation away from the soffet vent". Not terribly effective. You'd need to go in the attic and do it with a tool like a rake.

Ultimately you will probably end up installing the foam baffles like Czizzi mentioned.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 01:24 PM
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Hi Donna, I got a message to stop by, but it will take me some reading to catch up.
One comment from what I have read so far, is that a working sewer vent system will not be affected by any combination of exhaust fans or the attic ventilation. The comments that house pressures are causing the smell to come and go is a clear indication of a disconnected or otherwise some leaky plumbing on the sewer side. Some more quick comments:
1. The smoke test should be revealing.
2. Sewer gas exiting a vent pipe above the roof is heavier than the surrounding warm air, so it will descend, but normally be diluted by the surrounding air.
3. Did you experience the same level of smell during the cold months without the ac running?
4. Where did they introduce the peppermint fragrance?
5. Was there any recent remodeling before or after you took possession?
6. Was this a hostile foreclosure? Departing owners have been known to sabotage a house before they exit.

I'll keep reading and watch for the results of the smoke test.

Bud
 
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Old 07-27-14, 02:43 PM
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Bud, I'm about to leave home and be gone a few hours.

Here are some quick answers:

1) We may not have this done now.
2) I'm a novice, so I'm not sure why you told me this.
3) We just moved in 5 weeks ago, so I don't know.
4) The main sewer stack on the roof.
5) A roof put on one week before closing. Insulation blown in attic one day before closing (the day before we smelled this stink.)
6) No.

Thank you!
 
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Old 07-27-14, 05:39 PM
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#2. In some situations the stinky sewer gas can exit the main roof vent, but fall to the ground. Cold sewer gas is heavier than hot air, but that does not apply during colder months. Otherwise you should never smell it.

#5. Although the discovery of the stink coincides with the timing of the insulation and new roof, so does active use of the water, if memory serves me it was vacant for 6 months prior.

Now, blowing insulation into the attic involves working around the section of the vent pipes that pass through the attic. It is in the realm of consideration that one of the vent pipes was disturbed or damaged at that time.

But, whatever the source of the smell, we know it is coming from a side of the sewer system that should be totally sealed off from inside the home. What we need is some detective work to find that leak.

Often a house will have more than one vent pipe. The larger is the main vent, but bathrooms or kitchens located far enough away from the main vent may be vented through the roof with a smaller pipe, usually on the back side of the roof. Do you see any other vent pipes? Are there any bathrooms or kitchen areas well away from the main vent stack?

You mentioned one bathroom where door open created a smell and door closed the smell stopped. Be sure the same thing is happening, then if you tape plastic over the shower drain and sink drain (and the toilet has water in the bowl) and repeat that sequence do you still get the same results? Be sure to tape over the extra drain hole on the sink if it has one. If no, that would indicate the sink or shower trap is not working. Remove the plastic from one and retest.

In one form or another that is the process of isolating the source of this smell. I'll keep thinking.

Would it be possible to provide an outside picture of the house to give us an idea as to where everything is located?

Bud
 
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Old 07-27-14, 07:31 PM
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Bud,

Thanks for your reply.

1) Yes, the house was vacant for about 6 months before we bought it.
2) Are you positive this is a leak? Is it at all possible this problem could be because the air conditioner drains into the main sewer drain in the attic, under the main ductwork trunk line?
3) The master bath is the farther of the two baths from the main sewer line. The shower in the master bath has its own vent. I will check for other vents in the morning. The kitchen is the farthest away.
4) We have already done the test taping off drains that you mentioned. I don't remember what thread it was in. We got stink even with every drain in the bathroom blocked off.
5) No, I can't send a picture. Someone suggested I post pictures via my e-mail, but I have no idea how to do that. I'm seriously technologically challenged.

Thanks again, and I think I'm going to call Water Works in the morning about that smoke test I'm also going to talk to our heating and a/c guy about what czizzi said about negative pressure. This house is about 1800 square feet, and it has one air handler that is not even centrally located. One guy said it looked like the opening was too small. It's a good bit smaller than the metal grate covering the opening.
 
  #34  
Old 07-27-14, 08:49 PM
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Here's one other thing. The a/c drain runs right behind the right bathroom sink in the master bath. A few minutes ago I was in the bathroom, standing at that right sink, and everything was quiet. The a/c cut on, and I heard....a muffled, "bloop, bloop, bloop" that I'm certain was coming from behind the wall. The sound was actually louder than I would expect for a muffled sound from behind the wall.

I heard the same thing yesterday or the day before.

When the plumber was here Friday, he was in the master bedroom closet on the other side of the wall from the master bath. He could hear, "drip. drip. drip." I heard it too.

What I heard tonight was much louder and much more than a drip.

More to talk to the a/c guy about tomorrow.
 
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Old 07-27-14, 09:31 PM
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I'm definitely not an HVAC guy so can't be sure how they connect the drain line from the ac unit to the sewer system. If it is an open connection, an air path from attic to the sewer gas area, then house pressures can be an issue, although they would be difficult to predict. Then there would be the issue as to how those smells get from the attic into the various areas of the house. Since you haven't lived there during colder conditions we don't know if this problem goes away. But, during warm weather with an air conditioned house, the attic air does flow down into the house as the heavier cooler air leaks out of the lower portions.

So, sewer gas from the attic could be drawn into the house through many different paths, such as around bath fans and lights, plumbing penetrations, and the tops of all walls to name a few. In addition, if the ac return ducts are leaky (common) they could be drawing in the sewer gas and then distributing it to the entire house. When not running those ducts may still be providing a path.

Just thinking out loud, if there is a single point source, it needs some area in common to communicate with the entire house. Donna, am I correct in stating this smell has been an issue in all/most of the house. IE not restricted to just one area.

Pete, Larry, czizzi, others, jump in here with any thoughts.
Bud
 
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Old 07-27-14, 09:44 PM
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Bud,

The smell is definitely coming from the master bath......with the exception of Friday, when the smell came from the air handler. It only lasted about 10 minutes there.

The only time we get the smell in the whole house is when we've left the door to the bathroom open. We've come home before after being gone several hours, and the smell "greets" us at the back door.

I do believe there is an "open connection", because one of the experiments we did was with my husband placing a rag around the opening of the drain where the a/c drains into the sewer line.

When he did that, the stink stopped every time but one.

Thanks again to everyone for their help.
 
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Old 07-28-14, 02:45 AM
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My biggest unfounded fear with this new drip information is a poorly connected HVAC drain into a wall cavity and mold/mildew growing inside the cavity. Not sure if HVAC can be legally routed into a drain system. Let's hear from the a/c guy.
 
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Old 07-28-14, 03:21 AM
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It sounds like you may have it. An open drain line and/or a poor connection to to a vent pipe could allow sewer gas to enter the attic. Then (our term for summer temperatures) reverse stack effect could bring those gasses into the house. Add in the potential for the ac ducting to be providing a path to inside the home and it all could be happening.

As Chandler asked, let's have the ac guy explain how the condensate line is or should be installed.

Donna, after this is resolved you should ask about air sealing for ducts and for the entire house, real energy savings are available.

Bud
 
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Old 07-28-14, 05:16 AM
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Let me give another example of something that happened last night that at least to me in my admittedly untrained mind (at least in this area :-) ) makes the case for the air pressure problem theory.

Friday, the plumber's assistant who was stationed in the master bath during the peppermint test thought he smelled peppermint in the master bath near the toilet. The plumber suggested we let him pull the toilet and see if the stink stopped. He inserted into the "cavity", a black ball-type thing attached to a bicycle pump, and he set the pressure (I guess it's the pressure) at 20.

We had been having to give the pump a little air throughout the weekend. Sometimes we'd go in, and the ball would be really deflated and would have gone down into the cavity quite a bit.

Last night, our son took a shower in the master bath. Afterwards, I went into the master bath to trim his hair for him. I told him I needed to check on that ball in the cavity first. He had not realized it was in there. He's young, so it looked like fun to him to pump that thing up. He used the foot pump, but the ball wouldn't inflate.

I tried to pump it, but the ball wouldn't inflate. I noticed the gauge was now a good bit above 20, so I thought something was wrong with the ball or that we had broken the pump. The ball was freely able to move up and down the cavity. (I should mention here that no sewer gases were coming out of this cavity over the weekend. Even when the ball would deflate some, there would be no smell.)
I cut our son's hair, maybe 15 minutes later, I checked on the ball because I was concerned we had broken something.

The ball was fully inflated. I was shocked. I was also concerned it might explode because we had pumped it higher than 20.

What do you make of that?
,
 
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Old 07-28-14, 05:49 AM
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One thing that has not been tried other than through experiment is the re-routing of the condensate line. A emergency line needs to be installed anyway, as I can't recall it ever being mentioned. I would like the main line tested by hooking up to the emergency line that exits straight to the outside and cut off and cap the direct link to the sewer drain behind the wall in the bath. Based on this test, set up a new drainage system off the air handler that is permanent. The Bloop Bloop sound behind the wall sounds like an echo resonating in the drain line from air (sewer gases) being pulled past the condensate trap at the air handler. (side note: if working on plumbing with open drain lines, you can hear the neighbor 3 houses away flush the toilet from sound reverberating in the pipes) This experiment proved positive when the homeowner temp plugged the condensate drain line with a rag.

My question is why, and my theory is that the blocked soffit vents from new insulation, new ridge vent from replaced roof, etc is exerting and imbalance and the air handler in a closed house are starving to make up the air flow necessary to run the HVAC system. Therefore, sucking from the condensate line. Problem dissipated when a bedroom window was cracked - which gave the air handler sufficient make up air to release the suction on the condensate drain.

Bud, was hoping your expertise with attic ventilation would help lend some credence to the theory or refute it outright as grasping at straws. But the cracked window and stopped condensate drain to date has been the only set of trials that has produced positive results.
 
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