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Thread: Sewer gas odor when basement shower is in use

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Default Sewer gas odor when basement shower is in use

    We've been renovating the basement, gradually turning it into a livable space, and now we've hit a wall with this mysterious shower issue. We hired a plumbing company to install a toilet and shower in the area that will eventually serve as a bathroom. After having numerous issues with the toilet that have finally been remedied, now the shower is causing problems. Every time it's used in warmer weather, sewer gas is emanating from *somewhere*, but it only ever happens when the shower is in use. The higher the temperature outside, and the rainier it is, the worse the sewer odor gets. The trap beneath the shower is working fine, no issues there. Does anyone have any idea why this is happening, and do you think installing a vent directly above the shower would remove the offending gases?

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    DIY Senior Member Smooky's Avatar
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    How and where is the plumbing vented. Does it go out the roof etc. or does it have an AAV?

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    DIY Senior Member bluebinky's Avatar
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    any floor drains in the basement?

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smooky View Post
    How and where is the plumbing vented. Does it go out the roof etc. or does it have an AAV?
    I was told that it's connected to the main stack that everything else vents through. Does that make sense?

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluebinky View Post
    any floor drains in the basement?
    Yes, but (and, again, this is second-hand information) I've been told the shower isn't connected to the sewer.

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    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluecat View Post
    Yes, but (and, again, this is second-hand information) I've been told the shower isn't connected to the sewer.
    Then where would the shower water be going?

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reach4 View Post
    Then where would the shower water be going?
    Supposedly it drains into the "pump box", which is connected directly to the "main stack". So I guess it's taking a slightly roundabout course to the sewer, but using the same channel as everything else. I was also told that there's a p-trap in the shower drain that should be blocking sewer gases. Do you think it could've been installed incorrectly, and, if so, is there a way to tell? The trap stays filled with water.

    Thanks to everyone who's responded, btw. It's greatly appreciated. The mister wants to contact the company responsible for the installation and have them try to figure out what's going on, but I suspect something wasn't installed properly and I'm afraid we're not going to get anywhere with them.

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    Test, Don't Guess! cacher_chick's Avatar
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    If the shower holds water, the smell is not likely to be coming from there. If there is a basin and pump system, it may not be correctly sealed and vented, which could be the source of the problem.
    Without seeing what is there, we are pretty much stabbing in the dark.

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cacher_chick View Post
    If the shower holds water, the smell is not likely to be coming from there.
    At least now we know a vent above the shower isn't going to remove the gases.

    If there is a basin and pump system, it may not be correctly sealed and vented, which could be the source of the problem.
    Without seeing what is there, we are pretty much stabbing in the dark.
    There isn't a sump pump, if that's what you're referring to. We did have problems with the toilet connections not being sealed properly, so there's a possibility that the connections on the shower pipes need tightening or resealed. Will definitely look into it.

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    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluecat View Post

    There isn't a sump pump, if that's what you're referring to. We did have problems with the toilet connections not being sealed properly, so there's a possibility that the connections on the shower pipes need tightening or resealed. Will definitely look into it.
    That "pump box"... don't you think it has a pump in it?

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    DIY Junior Member bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reach4 View Post
    That "pump box"... don't you think it has a pump in it?
    I did a quick google for "basin and pump system" and most of the results were about sump pumps... Please pardon this plumbing idiot for drawing an incorrect conclusion. I see what you're saying: if there's a pump box, it's a basin and pump system. Therefore, the problem could lie in the pump box. Correct conclusion?

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    DIY Senior Member Reach4's Avatar
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    Yes. That box should be sealed and vented. Things could be growing in the box generating smells. If the seal leaks, the shower water could be raising the pressure pushing out smells. That is not necessarily the source of the smells, but you could try sniffing around there while running the shower water.

    Incidentally, the pump in the box is probably a submersible grinder pump --- that can grind soft solids and pump them along with the liquids.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Search on 'ejector pump'. When the main sewer connection is above the drains, you need to collect the waste in the tank, then once it reaches a certain level, the pump turns on to raise the wastes up into the main sewer so it can then drain by gravity. If that isn't vented or sealed properly, it can leak sewer gasses. Also, if the traps of the things connected to it are not vented properly, their traps can be sucked dry, allowing sewer gasses to leak out.
    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 bluecat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reach4 View Post
    Yes. That box should be sealed and vented. Things could be growing in the box generating smells. If the seal leaks, the shower water could be raising the pressure pushing out smells. That is not necessarily the source of the smells, but you could try sniffing around there while running the shower water.

    Incidentally, the pump in the box is probably a submersible grinder pump --- that can grind soft solids and pump them along with the liquids.
    Could you hazard a guess as to why, assuming something is amiss with the connections or seals somewhere, this problem only happens in warmer/damp weather? The warmer and wetter it is outside, the smellier it is. We've been putting off dealing with this issue because we were given a reprieve with winter, but we're already starting to notice the return of the gases on these warmer days. Mild weather brings just a hint of sewer odor, and it will get progressively worse as the temp. rises. Something to look forward to!

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