I would look at the plumbing permit, see who signed off on it, and talk to the inspector.
If it was inspected, then you know the pipes in the wall were done right.
We just bought a brand new house (new construction, not just new to us). Its 3 levels, 5 bathrooms, basement (no crawl space) on a septic system.
When we moved in everything was great for about a week. Then one day, my wife called and said she could smell sewer gas every where! We checked all of the p-traps, they were all full of water (and we ran more water just to be sure). Over time, she pinpointed it to the toilets. Basically, when they flush its like a puff of sewer gas is coming back up. We have worked with our builder - they had the plumber come back out and replaced two toilets. That didnt help - my wife can still smell it. The plumbers even installed a backflow preventer to the septic tank, so that stuff could go to the septic tank but nothing could come back toward the house.
The builder says one thing that could be the culprit is that since the septic tank is so new, its not yet full, so that creates a giant air bubble in it. And as the septic tank gradually fills up, it would displace that air bubble and it would be less likely for that air to flow back up through the system.
The smell happens with every toilet in the house. The unfortunate part is that my wife is the only one that can smell it. I have horrible allergies, so I dont smell much, one of the builders smokes alot so he doesnt have the best sense of smell either. My wife is complaining of horrible headaches - so I know she isnt making anything up. At one point, I opened the cap to the cleanout in the backyard, and the second the cap came off she said that was what she smelled in the house.
The drains aren't slow, so we dont think its a venting issue. There is still one vent that is on the highest part of the roof that no one has yet inspected.
A few other interesting things:
1. This all started on one day. Wednesday everything was fine, Thursday the house stunk. The only thing happening is we had flooring guys in the basement that day, but I dont think they would have fouled up the whole system.
2. I ran the washing machine yesterday and noticed something strange. About 30 minutes after the washer stopped, I went to the half bath - opened the toilet lid and it appeared as if water was splashed in the toilet - there was water on the bottom of the lid, and on the inside of the bowl and rim - very weird. Didnt know if this might be a sign of a blockage. With all of the discharge from the washing machine - maybe the toilet in the half bath was acting like a vent?
Please help - the plumbers and builders are all at a loss on this one, and my wife cant deal with any more headaches!!!
Also, there should be an outside-the-house vent on the line to the septic tank, so any "bubble" would vent out of there if there was any kind of differential pressure.
Terry's suggestion is excellent. Next step after that is a home inspector, or a local plumber who actually has a clue, whose charges you will bill back to the builder under threat of otherwise suing him. But Step One would be every city and state authority who you can interest in the problem, because their input may be helpful when it comes time to make a claim against the builder's warranty. A home filled with sewer gas is not a home that is fit for habitation, so he could be considered to be in breach of his warranty. To show how serious you are, suggest to the builder that he notify his insurance carrier and/or bonding agent of the potential claim.
One other point: this isn't your problem to solve. It is his problem, and he needs to be aggressively attempting to understand what it is that his people screwed up. Unless the builder is ready to take the house back and pay all of your expenses to move somewhere else, he needs to get some actual competent people out there and to start acting very, very proactively.
Last edited by wjcandee; 08-22-2013 at 09:45 AM.
We talked to the builder and he said the county inspected everything in the house - which was all needed for the C/O to get us in the house.
Slightly new development. So I just opened the clean out again and then the cap for the new backflow (they are a foot or two apart). I didnt get the overwhelming sewer smell when I opened the cleanout cap. I flushed some water through the cleanout just to make sure the backflow was working - and it was. Had my wife come over and she could not smell any sewer odor coming from the cleanout. She then smelled the hole where the backflow was and said it stunk, but wasnt quite the same thing. Which is weird, because yesterday before the backflow, I took the cap off the cleanout and immediately she said that was the smell from inside the house. So maybe its possible that the backflow is working and preventing sewer gases from building up in the pipes leading to the septic tank.
So we have filled sinks and tubs with cold and hot water - no smell for her. We let it sit overnight - still no smell. So, now there is no smell in the cleanout, no smell in the water - and she smells the toilets - and gets the odor. So I had her get a bit closer and she said it seems the smell is more pronounced at the small holes at the top of the bowl that fill the bowl with water after being flushed.
So is it possible that there is something in the toilet?? They are all new toilets - in fact the one she just smelled was replaced yesterday. Is it possible they have some coating that is off-gassing giving her the sensation of sewer gas? On one of them I put some bleach directly into the tank and the overflow tube, flushed the toilet and am letting it sit for about an hour. I am wondering if there is some kind of bacteria/mildew/fungus somewhere in the toilet that is causing an odor resembling sewer gas.
So thought I would post an update - I think we found the issue. So we smelled all over - and yesterday even I started smelling something. So my wife started smelling around the toilet, and in the 1/2 bath she said she didnt really smell anything in the bowl but it was maybe 6-12" above the bowl where she smelled it. Then i said, "Smell the toilet seat" and she said "wow, that's bad" So we quickly removed all the toilet seats in the house. During that time my wife was smelling them saying, "yea, that's it" so we put them all outside - let the house air out a bit, scrubbed all the toilets - took a walk to let her nose reset. When we came back in she didnt smell anything - she smelled every toilet - nothing. Then she went outside and smelled the toilet seats and said that was it! Her reaction to them was bad - horrible headache and even her throat started to swell - almost like a very bad allergic reaction. So its hard to say if there was a septic issue that maybe the backflow preventer helped with or if it was just something with the coating on the toilet seat. But we have resolution!!
I wanted to post my resolution - there are so many threads I came across that seemed to be similar to my story and then right when they got close, they stopped posting.
So hopefully this might help someone else. Thanks for the support guys!
Who would have guessed.
Thanks for the update!
What kind of toilet seats are these?
This is stranger than strange.
Sounds like the house must have been vacant a long time for the traps in them to dry out and the seats absorbed the odor.....I've seen the results of dry traps causing small insects to congregate in the toilet but usually a regular flushing solves the problems...must have been dry quite a while.....rcm