Frequent and extended gurgling in our powder room sink

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Margarett

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We must have a partial clog in our plumbing, but we cannot determine where. We’ve been living in our house for 24 years; the house itself is about 100 years old. Even before we started experiencing our current problem w/ our first-floor sinks a little over a year ago, our powder-room sink would gurgle a little if a big pot of water was dumped down the kitchen sink. The two sinks are approx 12 feet apart, but the pipes join together in the basement before draining into the main stack. A different plumber had once said that the powder-room fixtures aren’t vented properly (we’ve discovered over the years that a number of things in this house weren’t done right. Also, it is very likely this powder room was installed sometime after the initial construction), and maybe the kitchen sink also isn’t vented properly. In the last 14 months, it doesn’t take much water to cause the gurgling, and the noise can be prolonged. In addition, if we run the water in the powder-room sink for “a little bit too long,” it gurgles in that sink; and if we run the water a lot in that sink, the kitchen sink gurgles.

A little over a year ago, in order to diagnose the problem, two times a plumber halfway filled the kitchen sink, totally filled the powder-room sink, and let them drain out. He first thought our problem was due to a clog in the kitchen drain line, but the second time he did this, he felt a clog was in the vent stack. He suggested putting an AAV on the kitchen sink. Over the next couple of days, my husband tried to reach the head plumber to discuss it more, but in the interim the problem seemed to have resolved. Somehow quickly draining gallons of water down the sink stopped the gurgling, so he stopped trying to call this plumber. Unfortunately, this “fix” wasn’t permanent. After 6 weeks or so, the gurgling started up again, and over the next number of months, the gurgling was happening more frequently and was of longer duration. Last August, my husband and I mimicked what the plumber did, and again it gave us a respite from the problem, but it was more short lived than the first time and before we did it a third time a couple of weeks ago, the powder-room sink could gurgle for 25 seconds when using a small amount of water in the kitchen sink.

Before we did the dumping of water this third time, we ran cold water into both sinks for 15 minutes straight -- a couple of times, the powder-room sink would start filling with water, but both times it quickly emptied. Each time we halfway-filled the kitchen sink, it drained in about 30 seconds and had good sucking action at the end.

My husband seems to think that the first-floor fixtures are not vented at all above the first floor, that they only connect to the vent stack in the basement. He thinks that the 4 foot cast iron pipe in the basement (outlined in green), which is the drain line for the second-floor fixtures, acts as venting for the first-floor fixtures. Can this possibly be true? (By the way, the upstairs fixtures seem to be operating normally.) I’m wondering if there is a vent pipe between the kitchen sink and the 2nd floor, and it is somehow partially clogged, but my husband doubts this. (If it were partially clogged, would the kitchen sink have drained so well?)

If such a vent pipe was there and was partially clogged, could all the issues we have been having (the gurgling, the imperfect draining in the powder-room sink when the kitchen sink was being run simultaneously) be attributed to that? How about if the powder-room drain line is partially clogged -- is that a reasonable deduction from what is going on? How can the dumping of water help things for a while?

Our plumber will only come if we want snaking done, but we don’t know where the problem is, and we are concerned that snaking the powder-room drain pipe will push the clog to the piece of pvc that joins the two drain pipes or the small copper piece that leads to the 4 inch pipe or damage that piece.

We would very much appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.
 

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Reach4

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If I understand this correctly, your only problem is sound, and you have no backups, right?
 

Margarett

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Yes, that is the current situation. A couple of weeks ago when we ran the water in both the powder room sink and the kitchen sink for 15 minutes, twice the powder room sink started filling with water (at most an inch deep) and there were bubbles in the water, but this resolved itself during this time and the sink was empty when we turned it off after 15 minutes.
 

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Two weeks ago when we emptied the kitchen sink of the 5 gallons of water, it made tremendously loud sounds in the powder room sink for the first 10 seconds as the water was draining out. I actually thought it was coming from the kitchen sink (I was standing by it) but my husband said it was the powder room and I just thought it was the kitchen since it was so loud. I tried to attach the audio file but it was too large.
 

Reach4

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The AAVs could probably help this. The thought is that the traps are being sucked dry, and that lets sound travel better.

I remember reading something about AAVs and NJ code. Was your plumber willing to put in AAVs?
 

Margarett

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Thank you.

The first plumber had suggested putting an AAV on the kitchen sink after our first call to him over a year ago, but as I wrote above, we didnt pursue it because somehow quickly draining gallons of water down the sink stopped the gurgling. But it was only a respite from it.

But I'm confused how an AAV on the kitchen sink would be useful here. Draining 5 gallons of water in 30 seconds may suck the traps dry, but running anything more than a thin stream of water to wash dishes or emptying a few cups down the kitchen drain, does not suck the powder room sink dry. And for the first 20+ years of our living in this house, this was not happening. And why would the dumping of water help for a while to prevent gurgling when using even a small amount of water in the kitchen sink?

My husband thinks that the 4 foot cast iron pipe in the basement (outlined in green), which is the drain line for the second-floor fixtures, acts as venting for the first-floor fixtures. Can this be accurate?
 
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Reach4

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1. It could be that kitchen water flowing could create a vacuum on the bathroom line. An AAV in the bathroom could prevent that.

2. Your husband could be partially right, but not as far as preventing the bathroom and kitchen traps from getting sucked dry. It could relieve pressures. Does that drain for the second floor also connect through the roof?

How about a photo of the trap area under the lavatory? What I am curious about is if this is slip joint or what, plus it might provide some more info. If slip joint, there are some semi-transparent traps that you could put in temporarily to watch what happens.

So it used to work well. How about getting all of your drain pipes cleaned out by a drain cleaning specialist. Maybe you need that every 50 years. ;-) I am not a plumber or other pro.
 

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1. It could be that kitchen water flowing could create a vacuum on the bathroom line. An AAV in the bathroom could prevent that.

2. Your husband could be partially right, but not as far as preventing the bathroom and kitchen traps from getting sucked dry. It could relieve pressures. Does that drain for the second floor also connect through the roof?

How about a photo of the trap area under the lavatory? What I am curious about is if this is slip joint or what, plus it might provide some more info. If slip joint, there are some semi-transparent traps that you could put in temporarily to watch what happens.

So it used to work well. How about getting all of your drain pipes cleaned out by a drain cleaning specialist. Maybe you need that every 50 years. ;-) I am not a plumber or other pro.
1. You suggest the AAV for the powder room sink? The plumber's tech who came out blamed the kitchen sink and said to put it on there. He made it sound like a temporary fix so I was happy when things were soundless! for a while.
2. The main drain stack (outlined in green) vents out through the roof. We learned a few years ago that this main stack makes a bend above the 2nd floor making it impossible to do any kind of cleaning of the whole vent from the roof.
 

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Reach4

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So here are two ideas for you:

1. Try a transparent trap. People ding this for not being durable, but I am suggesting a temporary install for learning.

2. Use a reversible p-trap and turn it so that the water seal is deeper. Yours may already be reversible. You will need a tailpiece extension to reach down to the lower inlet. https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbil...in-Tailpiece-Extension-Tube-C9790BG/205153709

I think you probably have a reducing washer at the input to the trap. The tailpiece would be 1-1/4 and the trap is 1-/2.


index.php

Dimensions A and B are the water seal depth in that picture. Ignore the orange note.
 

Margarett

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Thank you for taking the time to write all these instructions.
You said, "there are some semi-transparent traps that you could put in temporarily to watch what happens." What exactly am I looking for? I do remove my drain stopper once in while to see if there is water in the trap and there always is.
 

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See the first link in post #9. When that is in, you look under the lavatory, perhaps with a flashlight. Is there water in the trap? Does the water level get pushed more to one side when you do one of your kitchen things? When you hear gurgling in the bathroom, has much of the water somehow gotten sucked out of the U of the trap?

You could have your smartphone take a movie of that trap while you go do stuff at the kitchen drain.
 

Margarett

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See the first link in post #9. When that is in, you look under the lavatory, perhaps with a flashlight.
I see. I can see that helping if I thought I had a clog in the trap itself, but if I do have a clog, it would be considerably further down the drain line.
 

Reach4

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The trap's purpose is to block gases with water. We call that a water seal.

We suspect that if the water seal is gone for some reason that sound may travel in the pipe.

If the atmospheric pressure is the same as the pressure in the drain lines, the U of the trap will have water that is equal height on both sides. If there is pressure or a vacuum, the water levels will differ. So the purposes of the clear trap are to measure pressure differences and to see if the water has been sufficiently sucked out to make the water seal no longer seal.
 

Jeff H Young

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improperly plumbed, or drain stoppage . either or both . Guaranteed pouring water down it might not fix it going to have to be more proactive
 

Margarett

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The trap's purpose is to block gases with water. We call that a water seal.

We suspect that if the water seal is gone for some reason that sound may travel in the pipe.

If the atmospheric pressure is the same as the pressure in the drain lines, the U of the trap will have water that is equal height on both sides. If there is pressure or a vacuum, the water levels will differ. So the purposes of the clear trap are to measure pressure differences and to see if the water has been sufficiently sucked out to make the water seal no longer seal.
How much of an imbalance is a problem and does it matter which side has more water and which less--it should be the same amount? And if there is an imbalance you need an aav?
 

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So here are two ideas for you:

1. Try a transparent trap. People ding this for not being durable, but I am suggesting a temporary install for learning.

2. Use a reversible p-trap and turn it so that the water seal is deeper. Yours may already be reversible. You will need a tailpiece extension to reach down to the lower inlet. https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbil...in-Tailpiece-Extension-Tube-C9790BG/205153709

I think you probably have a reducing washer at the input to the trap. The tailpiece would be 1-1/4 and the trap is 1-/2.


index.php

Dimensions A and B are the water seal depth in that picture. Ignore the orange note.
I'm afraid that I really do not understand your 2nd suggestion. Could you possibly explain the purpose of doing this?
 

Jeff H Young

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There is no amount of time that running powder sink should cause gurgle. A plugged drain does that though, Id say try snaking the drain.
 

Reach4

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How much of an imbalance is a problem and does it matter which side has more water and which less--it should be the same amount? And if there is an imbalance you need an aav?
One inch. Also if the level gets lower, so even if you don't catch the event, you can tell water got away.

https://www.amazon.com/Rectorseal-97402-Magic-Trap-Tee/dp/B002FY8ZIS/ref=sr_1_1 is a way you can put on an AAV for the bathroom and/or kitchen possibly DIY. You replace the existing slip joint trap with that, and you mount an AAV atop the vertical.
 

Margarett

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Can anyone think of why quickly emptying gallons of water down the kitchen sink makes a temporary fix to my problem?
 
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