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Thread: Puzzling case of sewer smell only while showering

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  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Heidi's Avatar
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    Default Puzzling case of sewer smell only while showering

    I have a tiled shower in the master bathroom that started smelling like sewer gas (rotten egg/bathroom smell) but only while showering. The shower is used every day. The trap is visible and is working and there are no issues with any of the other drains in the bathroom.

    I've had a couple of plumbers out to look at it but all they can really suggest is putting bleach down there. The drain has been cleaned out and there is no debris or gunk down there. The toilet does not gurgle, the wax seal is intact on the toilet, and all traps seem to be functioning in the bathroom.

    I've done a lot of reading on this site and elsewhere on the internet but I'm no plumber so I would desperately like some advice on what to do next.

    I think it might be one of two things. It might be the lining of shower was laid flat (house was remodeled in 2005) and so water and whatever has collected under it but I can't see how it would create that distinct sewer smell. It is not a musty odor, it smells like sewer.

    The other possibility involves some work that was done on a bathroom almost directly below this one. On a Friday in June, the crew reattached the toilet and sink of a downstairs bathroom after doing a fair amount of work in the room. On Saturday, the shower stunk for the very first time. Is it possible that something the plumber did when reconnecting the toilet and/or sink could be causing this by trapping gas in the drain pipe so the gas rushes back up the shower drain when the water comes on?

    This is very distressing so I would appreciate any suggestions on what to do or where to look.

  2. #2
    DIY Member thebigsee's Avatar
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    Just taking a stab at the dark here but is it possible that it is the water coming out of the showerhead that smells? At my brother's house, he gets all his water from a well and if they don't keep the filter maintained properly, the water smells of rotten eggs. Or, if the workers below disturbed your water lines significantly or shut the water off for awhile, it might have resulted in old debris coming out of the lines, which could be trapped in your showerhead.

    The pros should weigh-in on this but your p-trap provides a constant water seal -- it's designed to keep odors out. If there's nothing between your drain cover and the water at the bottom of your trap that could be causing odor, it seems to me that it must be related to what is coming out of your showerhead.

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    DIY Junior Member Heidi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response. I don't think it's coming from the showerhead because the smells wafts up during the shower and also because I have stuck my nose everywhere in that shower that I can reach before, during, and after showering. If my nose knows anything, the smell seems to be coming up from the drain.

    If it's not the tile floor issue, then I think when the water is running through the P-trap, it's allowing a little gas to sneak back up but then I don't know how or why it could be doing that.

  4. #4
    DIY Member thebigsee's Avatar
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    Yes, I was thinking about this over lunch and I hadn't considered the issue of proper venting in my original response. It could be that when the work was done downstairs, they did work on the vent pipe and either didn't properly vent the new pipes they did, or somehow your existing vent pipe has become blocked somehow. That sewer gas has to go somewhere and it sounds like it's pushing up through your drain. Might want to have the vent cleared or inspected. Hopefully one of the expert plumbers will weigh-in on your dilemma soon though.

  5. #5
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    With water running in the shower, the trap would be full...if they messed up the venting, it could siphon dry in between showers, but not during one with the water draining.

    The mortar in a tiled shower is naturally somewhat basic. If the liner is not installed on a pre-slope, water will accumulate in the drypack mud (mostly sand with some cement to hold it together). Stuff tends to grow in there only after a few years when soap, body oil, etc, can migrate into that stagnet area and makes the pH closer to neutral or acidic. That can take anywhere from a few years to never depending on use, the quality of the grout and caulking, and the use.

    For some other insight on tiled showers, check out www.johnbridge.com.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member Heidi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link to John Bridge. However, I'm still puzzled as to how it could smell like rotten eggs and sewer when it's coming out through the tile floor. It is very definately not a mildew or rancid drain smell.

    Is there any way that a restriction further down the drain could cause a buildup of gas in the pipe that would creep up and out the drain while water is trickling down it? My shower doesn't have much water pressure so it's not like a torrent of water is going down the drain..

  7. #7
    Plumber jay_wat's Avatar
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    there a bathroom fan?

    i had a similar deal on a job of mine,,found out that it was the Vent on the roof was near the intake fan for the bathroom,,exteneded the vent up,,and problem solved

  8. #8
    ACO Shower Drain Sales johnfrwhipple's Avatar
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    Default Rotten Egg smell - Chinese Dry Wall

    Inspect one of your electrical plugs our switches nearest to the shower.

    Have your wires turned black - this would be a sign of Bad Dry Wall.


    jfrwhipple@gmail.com - www-no-curb.com - 604 506 6792

    Always get construction advice double checked by your local city hall. Flood Test Every Shower - Every Time.

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