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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AGE of PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES
AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
BACKUP PREVENTION, SEWER LINE
BLOCKED DRAIN REPAIR METHODS
CARBON MONOXIDE - CO
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
CHLORINE IN SEPTIC WASTEWATER
CLEANOUTS, PLUMBING DRAIN
CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, DIAGNOSIS
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, REPAIR
CLOGGED SUPPLY PIPES, HOT WATER
CONDENSATION or SWEATING PIPES, TANKS
CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DEPTH of DRAIN & SEWER PIPES
DEPTH of SEPTIC TANK
DRAIN & SEWER PIPING
DRAIN LINE DEPTH
DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLOOR DRAIN / TRAP ODORS
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GALVANIZED STEEL PIPING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE CONTROL for PLUMBING
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN DIAGNOSIS
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN REPAIR
NOISE, PLUMBING CHECKLIST
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS IN WATER
ODORS, SEPTIC or SEWER
ODORS SEWER GAS in COLD WEATHER
ODORS, SULPHUR SMELL SOURCES
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING NOISE CONTROL
PLUMBING VENT DEFINITIONS & CODES
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
REPAIR BURST LEAKY PIPES
SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWAGE BACKUP TEST & CLEANUP
SEWAGE & SEPTIC CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE CONTAMINATION in buildings
SEWAGE CONTAMINANTS in FRUIT / VEGETABLES
SEWAGE EJECTOR / GRINDER PUMPS
SEWAGE NITROGEN CONTAMINANTS
SEWAGE PATHOGENS in SEPTIC SLUDGE
SEWAGE PUMP CLOG DAMAGE
SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION
SEWER GAS ODORS
SEWER LINE REPLACEMENT
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TOILET ALTERNATIVES, WATERLESS
TOILET FLUSHOMETER VALVES
TOILET INSTALLATION PROCEDURE
TOILET OVERFLOW EMERGENCY
TOILET PLUGS, SEWER BACKUP
TOILET REPAIR GUIDE
Toilet Types, Flush Methods
TOILETS, DON'T FLUSH LIST
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
WATER PIPES, Clogs Leaks Types
WATER PRESSURE & FLOW MEASUREMENT
WATER PUMPS, TANKS, TESTS, WELLS, REPAIRS\
WATER QUALITY TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER QUANTITY IMPROVEMENT
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
WATER SHUTOFF VALVE, WELL PUMP
WATER SOFTENERS & CONDITIONERS
WATER SUPPLY & DRAIN PIPING
WATER TANK: USES, TROUBLESHOOTING
WATER TESTS, CONTAMINANTS, TREATMENT
WATER TREATMENT EQUIPMENT CHOICES
WELL PUMP PRIMING PROCEDURE
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
How to diagnose, track down & fix plumbing drain noise problems. This article explains how to cure or get rid of annoying plumbing drain noises in buildings. We explain that one first needs to understand the type of drain noises - some indicate plumbing problems to fix. Where drains operate normally but are noisy, we discuss adding sound deadening insulation.
That "blub blub" or "glug glug" noise you hear from a building drain might mean that there is a problem with the drain system itself, such as a partial drain blockage, a drain venting problem, a drain odor problem, or even a failing septic system.
This article explains the cures for plumbing drain noises, and we refer to key companion articles that assist in that diagnosis. We discuss how to find, identify, and diagnose the source of plumbing drain, waste, and vent piping and plumbing fixture sounds separately at PLUMBING DRAIN NOISE DIAGNOSIS.
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Just a bit of snow sitting atop the plumbing vent that extends above the snow level on the roof (photo at left) is probably not a problem - heat from escaping vent gases should melt through a bit of snow.
But as we illustrate and explain below, in very cold weather moisture can freeze inside and block the plumbing vent above the roof line - just one of many possible sources of blocked plumbing vents and plumbing drain noises.
First, it is helpful to divide cures for plumbing drain, waste, vent piping sounds and plumbing fixture sounds into two groups, because the actions we will take are distinctly different in each.
Add missing plumbing vents to stop gurgling & slow drains
The photo shows a large house with only one plumbing vent visible (click the image for a
Install vacuum breaker plumbing vents (e.g. V-200™) where routing a new vent line is troublesome
Meanwhile the plumber may install an illegal vacuum breaker to improve drainage - these products can be added wherever a drain is having trouble getting enough air to flow properly, but in most jurisdictions their use is subject to approval by the local plumbing inspector.
At PLUMBING DRAIN VENTS we explain the basics of proper plumbing vent piping and how plumbing vent piping errors cause trap siphonage, odors, and noises.
At NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN DIAGNOSIS we include a question and answer case (with photos) discussing loud plumbing drain noises in a home along with our recommendations. Excerpts are below:
The level of plumbing drain noise transmitted into a space where you actually hear it in the building depends on these factors:
What to do now to reduce drain pipe noise?
In new construction we can avoid noisy drains by using sound-isolating pipe hangers, attention to pipe routing details to keep pipes from having solid contact on ceiling joists and wall studs, and by providing insulation around the piping between ceiling joists, floor joists, or wall studs.
But in an existing building it would be costly and probably unnecessary to tear out ceilings and walls to correct these details. Instead we add pumped-in or blown-in foam insulation into the areas where these pipes are routed.
You could use blown-in cellulose or fiberglass but it's a bit more difficult to assure that those insulating materials will flow around the pipes in the building cavity. Instead we recommend filling the ceiling joist or wall stud bay where the pipe is contained - fill it completely, a step that significantly reduces noise transmission.
Our photo (above left, courtesy Galow Homes) shows what the ceiling pipe chase (and surrounding areas) looked like after a professional blown-in foam insulation job in the same New York home. Subsequently of course drywall was installed over these surfaces (we do not leave foam insulation exposed because of fire hazards). After this foam was installed there was no plumbing noise detected in this area when the toilet was flushed in the floor above.
As it expands, foam insulation will flow around the piping into odd-shaped spaces and will fill the pipe chase spaces completely. The "blown in" foam insulation won't have to fill an entire wall or ceiling space, just the space where the pipes actually run.
But because the volume of these spaces is more than you can fill economically using little spray cans of foam, we recommend hiring a foam insulation contractor to do this job. The foam installer should not have to tear off drywall to do this job. Typically the contractor will fill the appropriate pipe routing cavities by injecting insulating foam through very small openings spaced along the route of the piping. The result will be no more than occasional 1/2" diameter or less holes to patch and paint.
A plumbing drain line could itself blocked, as opposed to a blocked or inadequate plumbing vent line. In the case of a partially blocked plumbing drain, case all of the fixtures served by that drain line will always be slow to drain.
When weather and safe access permit going onto a roof (or using the services of a professional for that purpose), check for blocked building plumbing vents such as plumbing vents that may have become blocked by an insect nest, birds nest, or as shown in this photo, a frog.
In freezing climates, check in winter to be sure that the plumbing vents are not being
blocked by frost or by snow-cover.
First check for leaks: before installing a larger diameter plumbing vent line, make sure that there is not
a hot water leak into the plumbing drains or continuous shower use.
Too-short plumbing vent stacks
A plumbing vent stack which is too short above the building roof can be blocked
by snow and then stop venting.
Often slow or noisy plumbing drains are traced to a partial blockage such as the problem caused when our grandson Chase flushed his underpants down the toilet. We discuss this event and its diagnosis and repair at TOILET CLOGGED. But first you should read the text below.
Also see SEPTIC BACKUP PREVENTION (private septic systems) or see SEWER BACKUP PREVENTION (buildings connected to municipal sewers) and also see the health and safety concerns discussed at SEWER GAS ODORS.
Gurgling drains may indicate a partially blocked drain line or sluggish septic system
If the outside sewer line is partially blocked, or if waste piping to a septic tank or from a septic tank to a drainfield is partially blocked, the building drains may appear to work normally until there is a surge of usage such as an increase in occupants or when using a washing machine.
In lighter usage the waste and wastewater flow down into the main drain line or sewer line where they are in effect, "stored" while the waste slowly seeps past the partial blockage. As wastewater seeps past the partial main drain blockage a gurgling sound may be produced at fixtures in the building as air is drawn intermittently into the drains - an effect more pronounced if the building drain vent system is inadequate.
In heavier usage of building fixtures, such as when there are many occupants or when doing laundry, the additional volume of water may first cause this "gurgling drain" symptom to be more pronounced, and as the blockage worsens, the building drains may actually back up during heavy use. This condition can also produce sewage smells or sewer gas backups into a building.
Clogged, partly clogged, slow drains or a partly-blocked, failing drainfield can also cause odors when the surge of water from the washer causes a gas backup in the system: see CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR for more detailed advice along that problem path.
Septic additives like Rid-x won't fix a problem with building vents nor sewer odors, and are generally not recommended anyway - see Additives & Chemicals for septic system maintenance. Are septic products needed? Are septic treatments legal?
Other advice about identifying plumbing noises is at PLUMBING NOISE CHECKLIST and information about controlling plumbing noises in buildings is at SOUND CONTROL for PLUMBING or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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