Stinky in Grass Valley, CA

Dear  Andrew,

Every once in a while when we go down stairs to our guest room there will be this really foul sewer smell. It mainly happens in the winter. There is a sink down there that we don’t use that often. We have spent hundreds of dollars on plumbers trying to figure this problem out. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated.



Grass Valley.


Dear Stinky in Grass Valley,

   This could be real easy. First look at the sink and see if there is any water in the p-trap. The p-trap is that “U” shaped pipe under your sink. It provides a great service. It fills with water and forms a gas tight seal to the main sewer system. Many times I’ll go out and find a shower or a sink in an area that is rarely used and the trap will be dry. I’ll turn the water on, fill the trap and the problem is solved. So obviously that is where I would start.

 If that doesn’t work, it can become more of a challenge. If you have a toilet in the area it could be a broken floor seal or perhaps it could be an open pipe in the wall. There are a few things to check. We have a tool that helps with locating these more difficult problems. We pump smoke in to the drain and vent system and see where the smoke comes out. Easy as that, then of course we fix the sewer gas leak. Like always, look at the most obvious and easy stuff and then move to the more difficult and expensive stuff. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out to a call for something that isn’t working only to find a valve off, or an appliance unplugged, look for the easy solutions first.