This pipe can be the root of your plumbing problems

Many things can cause installation problems in your home, but one that you may not have considered is a lack of air. This is because a constant flow of air is required to maintain the pressure through your entire plumbing system necessary for water and sewage to flow in the correct directions.

How do you make sure everything is going right? Everything depends on the vent pipe.

What is a sanitary ventilation pipe?

Where can you find your sanitary opening? It’s very simple: look at your roof. The little pipe that sticks straight up is a plumbing vent pipe. Every home should have one in perfect working order.

The plumbing vent pipe is a simple section of pipe that protrudes from the roof of your home and extends about a foot above the roofline. This pipe is connected to the drains of your sinks, toilets, showers, bathtubs and washing machines by a series of smaller pipes in one place above the drain traps on each faucet. Drain traps are the curved sections of pipe under the fittings. They are designed to absorb a small amount of water every time water drains through them. The retained water acts like a seal to prevent sewage gases from entering your home.

What does sanitary ventilation do?

A sanitary opening protects the drain traps. The vent allows air to escape to the outside when water pushes through the trap. If there was no room for this air, it would create a suction effect and draw too much water out of the trap. Without the right amount of water in this trap, those sewage gases will drift straight up the drain and into your home.

“In order for your sewer system to work as planned, you must have a plumbing vent,” said Dave Boucahrd, repair worker at SW Collins Co. in Fort Kent. “If it doesn’t work, you will have problems.”

A build-up of Sewar gases also makes it difficult for water to drain as these gases can create enough air pressure to force liquid back toward a fitting.

What happens to a clogged vent?

Because the outlet of your vent pipe is exposed to the elements, it can clog. Any number of things can clog your vent pipe – birds or rodents building a nest on it, leaves or other debris falling in, or an accumulation of ice or snow in the winter months.

Regardless of what is causing the blockage, this is a problem as the air that builds up in your drains has nowhere to go. Signs that your vent is clogged include gurgling noises from the drains, stagnant water in sinks and bathtubs, slow drains, and sewage odors from the drains.

The surest sign of a clogged vent pipe is that none of these problems can be fixed by cleaning or immersing in the sewer. In fact, you can do far more harm than good to your pipes by trying to clear a drain clog that isn’t even there with repeated treatments with chemical drain cleaner.

If your faucets have clogged drain symptoms that cannot be resolved with a single drain cleaning treatment, you likely have a clogged vent pipe.

Clear blocked vent line

Since access to your vent pipe means going up onto your roof, you should be very careful if you want to do this yourself so you don’t fall. There is also the potential for exposure to harmful exhaust gases as the obstruction is removed.

At this time of year in Maine, it’s not uncommon for enough frozen water or snow to build up in the pipes to clog them. But luckily, there is a simple solution to this: pour hot water into the pipe until the ice or snow is clear. Frozen vent pipes can also be cleaned with a heat gun or blow dryer.

If the clog is caused by some type of dirt that got in there and you can reach it, just pull it out. However, always remember to never stand directly over the pipe to avoid uncomfortable sewage.

If you have any doubts about your roof climbing skills or know how to clear the clog, it is best to consult a professional plumber.

Maintenance of wind pipes

The good news is that vent pipes really don’t require maintenance unless there is a problem.

“If your pipe is visible from the ground, hold an eyeball on it to make sure it’s not buried in the snow at this time of year,” Bouchar said. “If you or someone else is up on the roof, take a look down to see if there’s anything inside that could be causing a block.”

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