Plumbing can be tricky for most common homeowners to really understand. After all, most of the pipes and mechanism and the like are sealed away behind the walls of our home or encased inside of the plumbing fixture itself away from view. Now even when they are not, making sense of the twists and turns of the pipes can be overwhelming, especially for larger jobs. Today we are going to talk about one important plumbing mechanism in particular, the “trap”.
Every single plumbing fixture has a trap, like your sinks and toilets for example. This trap creates a water seal that prevents sewer gases from coming up out of your pipes and into your bathroom, kitchen, or any room that has access to plumbing fixtures. When the trap is empty, the sewer gases are free to enter the home and give off unpleasant, foul odors. If you are experiencing these smells, your trap may have been emptied!
There are several reasons why your trap could have emptied that we will explain below:
1. If the plumbing for your fixture does not have access to a vent, a route that allows for air to be pulled through with the water that is being flushed or drained from your fixture, then the trap may become depleted. Think of how easily a water bottle drains when there is a hole, or a vent, in the other end of the bottle in contrast to how difficult the water bottle drains and “glugs” when there is no vent. The water will find air somewhere along the line even if it has to pull it from another fixture (such as a toilet) on the same line it is traveling, and oftentimes pulls the water out of the trap for that fixture along with it.
2. Another culprit of an empty trap can be oscillation. This refers to when there is very windy weather outside your home that affects the venting of your plumbing. When the winds get strong enough, it can push into your pipes, reversing the flow of the pipes, and push up into your plumbing fixtures. This pressure causes the water in the trap to bounce and when the water begins to bounce high enough, it can leak back and down the drain pipe. Enough water leaking out of the trap creates a gap that allows for the passage of sewer gases.
3. Last on this list is evaporation. If the conditions of your home are dry enough, and the length of the time the fixtures go unused are long enough (think family vacation), the water can steadily evaporate into the home until the level is low enough for the trap to keep the sewer gases at bay.
These are the most common reasons for why your trap may have emptied and your home has begun to smell peculiar. If you need help restoring the working order of your pipes or getting your traps replenished, give Jack Ward & Sons Plumbing a call today at (615)-227-2811.