(206) 949-5683, Top Rated Plumber, Seattle
Results 1 to 13 of 13

Thread: help with building plumbing guidance

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member zelik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Posts
    5

    Default help with building plumbing guidance

    Hi all,
    I'm new to the forums and relatively new to plumbing. I've done simple things such as replacing bathtubs and sinks for my houses in the past but I have no clue whatsoever about building plumbing.

    I'm from California but currently have moved out to Taiwan. I've recently moved into an old highrise apartment building (about 30 yrs old) and I've been having significant problems with sewage gas. The building has three apartments per floor and from what I've seen on the roof three sets of drain systems. On the roof, there is about 3 or 4 vent pipes (I'm assuming some are intake and some are vent). It's a 12 floor building with me living in 12-B. What's interesting is that everyone in the "-B" of every level is suffering from sewage gas stink but no one in the "-A" or "-C" are suffering any gas stink. On the roof (right above me since I'm on the highest floor) of my apartment is a storage shed the previous owner build that covers the original exit of the venting pipes but the pipes appear to have been extended to lead outside of the shed so there shouldn't be any blockage of the vent/intake pipes. All the other residents of the "-B" floors are blaming the sewage gas on the shed somehow causing interference with the venting of sewage gas and thus causing smelly bathroom odors.

    Fixing this situation is way beyond me and I dare not try to fix it myself but I'm hoping to get some insight from all the experts here as to what the possible problems could be and what possible solutions are available. It's very difficult for me to get any good advice locally because different plumbers have said different things. The building's consensus is that I should put some fans to suck gas out of the vents but plumbers have told me that would only make the situation worst (which from my research I am assuming is right).

    My stopgap solution has been to put in p-traps on all my bathtubs and cover all floor drains. This has completely prevented any sewage smell coming into my apartment but all the other residents below me are still stinking to hell and they resent me because they believe it's my fault. I've asked the previous owner and he said the sewage smell existed for the last 20 years he's lived in the apartment and it's always been an ongoing finger-pointing contest.

    What should I do? Other than tear down the shed to convince them it's not the shed that's causing the problem(which technically I can't because of legal issues), is there something I can direct the plumbers to look into? The plumbers I have found (and I've asked MANY) aren't the most professional and I believe aren't certified in any way (maybe it's just the smell of alcohol and beetlenut on their breath that makes me feel this way). My building isn't offering any help, just pointing the blame at me and demanding I figure out a way to tear down the shed. It's just befuddling to me that the other residents in the "-A" and "-C" apartments aren't having this problem and that this problem has existed for some 20 years prior.

    Any suggestions, advice, strongly greatly appreciated. I'll get some pictures of the vents on the roof asap. As far as what type of sewage or vent system the building is using I have no clue. The vents on the roof are just PVC types with an elbow at the end. No trap mechanisms on them at all.

    Just to note: Taiwan, though a manufacturer of many advanced computer products, is quite backwards in plumbing/electrical systems for buildings. The newer buildings of course are plumbed nicely and don't suffer from the sewage gas problem I'm having.

    Thank you,
    Zelik
    Last edited by zelik; 06-01-2009 at 10:21 AM.

  2. #2
    In the Trades
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    24

    Default

    Hey there,

    In your construction you probably have vent stacks for each of the three areas. If, as you say, vertical units off one vent stack all have the same problem then it is most likely the case that their is some larger construction problem.

    If your fixtures are not trapped then you would probably have this problem everywhere. Yet I don't understand why you added traps to your unit? My diagnosis would go like this:

    1. Are the fixtures and drains in the problem units properly trapped?
    2. Are the fixtures and drains in the OK units properly trapped?
    3. If they aren't trapped, supply traps.
    4. If they are trapped or the problem persists then you are leaking sewer gas, not through your fixtures, but through your piping. There would likely be a chase in which this vent stack is located. By opening the chase you could verify if there was a stronger aroma in the chase than elsewhere.

    Beyond this, the problem may be expensive to fix. You may consider having some pro's over there do a pressure or smoke test on the vent stack. I'd first make sure you have traps.

  3. #3
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    21,401

    Default

    First thing I'd do is verify that that vent stack is not blocked. Could be a rat, bird's nest, or some other creature or object caught in the pipe. If the pipe is blocked, then traps could get sucked dry (assuming there are any traps!?). Keep in mind that the vent line needs to run somewhat like a drain...it can't have any back slope or downward bends, or it will fill up with condensation or rainwater. Around here, you could probably get a company to run a camera down the line...not sure if that would be available there. I'd want to compare one that worked with yours. It would also enable to your determine if it was blocked off somewhere.

    Last edited by Terry; 06-14-2009 at 08:09 AM.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  4. #4
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Flagstaff, AZ Sitting on an upside down 5 gallon bucket next to the GO 68HD
    Posts
    1,260

    Default

    My advice: move.
    I just post cuz I like to see my avatar.

  5. #5
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Bothell, Washington
    Posts
    14,201
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    The other residents below me are still stinking to hell and they resent me because they believe it's my fault.
    I don't think it's your fault for adding p-traps and covering floor drains.
    The vents should be common anyway.

    If the system is working properly, there would be no gas coming from the tub traps or the floor drains anyway.

    Rather then blame the one on the top floor, they should pool their money and find a solution. You have twelve floors, the bill should be split at least 12 ways, or really 12x4, make it split 48 ways.
    That is how things are done normally.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member zelik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Posts
    5

    Default

    Thanks for all your suggestions!

    They aren't upset at me for installing traps in my apartment--they just don't understand the concept and expect their bathrooms to not smell. I've blocked all my smell problems but they're insistent that the other vertical units did not require any drain caps/p-traps to live odor-free.

    Just today I bought some drain covers to install in the floor of the neighbor that lives below me. Doing it for free out of good will and showing her (and hopefully everyone else) that there ARE ways to stop this smell.

    I've considered moving...really have...but this location is just too convenient (close to my parents) and we've already spent some money renovating the apartment and don't want it to goto waste.




    I've taken some pictures of the vents on the roof. The two above are the vents/exhaust from our side of the building to the roof. Don't laugh. This is an old building. I can't tell what is exhaust and what is vent and well......I guess I'm gonna just cross my fingers and hopefully this new plumber can give me some more insight as what's possible to do/fix. The building association has their own "trusted plumber" and they are still pointing the blame at the vents on our shack. As you see in the pics below, the vents still exit. Perhaps I need to have them exit some other way? Or is there some type of cover I need to put on them? They currently are just PVC pipes with no covers on it.





    The two pictures above are of the other drain vent/exhaust pipes of the "happy residents" living in "-A" and "-C" apartments. The first is from 10 -15 feet and the second one is an upclose shot. I don't see any major differences other than thinner pipes.

    Any comments are welcome. Thank you for your help!

    Zelik
    Attached Images Attached Images      

  7. #7
    DIY Junior Member zelik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Posts
    5

    Default

    @Engineer Ben: Older Taiwanese buildings all have drains on the floor of all bathrooms and even kitchens because the older generation Taiwanese seem to treat the entire bathroom as a "wet" area--they spray down the whole bathroom with their shower nozel to clean it. Kinda "gross" to me but that's what they're used to. Their floor drains and bathtubs are not trapped at all. I had to literally teach my plumber what a p-trap was and constructed one for him to install under my tub. I don't know if the units in the "A" and "C" units are all properly trapped in every unit--they either don't know or aren't very inclined to let me go inspect their bathrooms. Of course their toilets aren't the cause and from what I've seen most sinks have the s-trap (some don't..my god). I've just been told that the smell is worst the lower the floor--thus reinforcing their theory that somehow the roof vents must be blocked and the gases are being stuck on the lower floors and the higher floors (me) are lazy and reluctant to rectify the situation because we don't stink. @#$@#$5%$

    @jadnashua: Yes, I'll have my plumber see if he can run something to look down the vents. Dead rat? highly possible. Dead bird? highly possible. Dead cat? I wouldn't be suprised. Those holes are huge on the vents. Anything can crawl in there. When I was replacing a sealed floor drain today I saw 4 "flea" looking bugs fly right out of the drain when I opened it. Made me sick.

    @Terry: The association wants me to tear down the shed on the roof. Here's the short version of the story: In Taiwan, it was custom for the purchaser of the top floor to be able to buildout onto the roof. They usually paid higher price per sq.ft. for the apartments on the top floor for that privilege. Ever since the original owner built that shed, they have been paying extra association fees for that privilege as well (assocation fee is based on sq.ft. ownership). Technically, that shed is "illegal" but any of these "illegal" constructions that existed before 1983 are now considered "not illegal"-- a legal gray area. It's not illegal to have but it's illegal to expand. Can't tear down w/o city approval. The building association that originally agreed to allow the original owner of my apt build the shed is now disliking the idea purely out of jealousy because they feel cheated (why do you get more sq. footage?).

    It's really a "screwed if you do/screwed if you don't" situation because if I DO want to remove the shed I have to jump hoops through the city just to get it done. I also lose the shed (which is nice, since it provides some heat shelter and helps prevents the horrendous typhoon rains from leaking into my apartment below)

  8. #8
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    SW Florida
    Posts
    1,317

    Default

    I remember one member who lived in Japan and posted up their typical plumbing system for a house. Every fixture was untrapped but they ran to a single building trap. Could you have that type of system in Taiwan? Maybe there is a single trap at the base of every stack and maybe there is a problem with that trap. That could explain why only the apartments on that particular plumbing stack are having problems with sewer gases.
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

  9. #9
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Flagstaff, AZ Sitting on an upside down 5 gallon bucket next to the GO 68HD
    Posts
    1,260

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by zelik View Post
    The building association that originally agreed to allow the original owner of my apt build the shed is now disliking the idea purely out of jealousy because they feel cheated (why do you get more sq. footage?).

    It's really a "screwed if you do/screwed if you don't" situation because if I DO want to remove the shed I have to jump hoops through the city just to get it done. I also lose the shed (which is nice, since it provides some heat shelter and helps prevents the horrendous typhoon rains from leaking into my apartment below)
    My advice stands.
    I just post cuz I like to see my avatar.

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member zelik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Posts
    5

    Default

    had my guy take a look at the system and he said there's no main base trap for the building! Old buildings didn't have it at all. Explains the smell . Now I just have to make friends w/my neighbors by installing free drain traps

  11. #11
    Plumbing Designer FloridaOrange's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    SW Florida
    Posts
    1,317

    Default

    Are you going to put traps on the floordrains as well?
    Matt
    Semi-professional plumbing designer
    Enjoying life in SW Florida

  12. #12
    Plunger/TurdPuncher kingsotall's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Flagstaff, AZ Sitting on an upside down 5 gallon bucket next to the GO 68HD
    Posts
    1,260

    Default

    They do make quick cover floor drain covers. Tacky rubber that clings to the floor sealing the floor drain. Yup, I said tacky.
    I just post cuz I like to see my avatar.

  13. #13
    DIY Junior Member zelik's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Taipei, Taiwan
    Posts
    5

    Default

    well i installed floor drain covers for my neighbor below and she's now friendlier than ever. So that's a plus. Rerouted the existing vents to high up above the shed to quiet and doubts and finger pointing. Waiting for response from neighbors.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •