Archive for the ‘Drain Cleaning’ Category.

Odor From Plumbing Fixtures

New Yorkers probably have more experience with odors than the average person. And while identifying those smells can prove difficult at times, it’s important to pinpoint them in certain instances, like in this scenario: There was a bad odor resonating from a kitchen waste-line within an apartment on the eighteenth floor of a residential building in Manhattan. The tenant complained of a bad smell in his kitchen when he awoke. Sometimes rotten garbage that the tenant forgot to remove from his kitchen caused this foul odor, but the actual reason for the odor was fairly typical, and had to do with the plumbing underneath the sink: the seal inside the trap can break and cause the sewage odors to waft out of the waste-lines and into the apartment. If you find you have a similar problem, here’s what you need to ask yourself: why is the water seal inside of the kitchen trap breaking?

A trap, like the one in the photo, is located within a couple feet of each fixture and each drain on a waste-line. The structure of a trap allows water to build up and create a seal within the trap dip (the U shaped part of the trap). The water seal stops the odors from building up inside the waste-lines and seeping into the apartments through the drains. The whole point of installing a trap is to seal the odors inside the waste-lines. If the trap seal were broken, there would be no water in the trap to protect the kitchen from the foul odor of the building’s sewage.

But what causes the water to disappear? Usually the reason for traps not having any water in them is evaporation. But in the case we described, the tenant was home and used his kitchen sink twice a day, so something must have been causing the water inside the trap dip to be pulled from the trap and down the waste-line. As it turns out, there can be another explanation.

In the morning, we typically use a lot of water getting ready for the day. If the vent line for the kitchen sink is clogged, the large amount of water traveling down the main waste stack could cause negative air pressure to form inside the kitchen waste-line. The water inside the trap dip would then be siphoned out, breaking the seal. Maybe you remember learning the laws of fluid dynamics in your bygone days of physics, but basically by the principles of these laws, water is siphoned out of the kitchen waste trap dip where the water seal is located.

When the vent line is clogged, the airflow is restricted and a build-up of pressure inside the waste pipe causes the trap to malfunction. When the water inside the trap is gone, there is nothing to stop the foul odors inside the waste stack from filling the apartment. Only one thing can be done to prevent this from happening: clear the vent line stoppage! Once this happens, the problem will be resolved.

By Spencer Kraus – Account Manager – Fred Smith Plumbing & Heating Co.

Hidden Waste Lines

It’s always better to have a problem out in the open than hidden. If a problem goes unseen, how can you fix it? The same thing applies to waste lines—wouldn’t it make sense to install the offset of one somewhere where the pipe is visible and easily accessible instead of concealed in the ground? Why risk having hard to find, sour smelling waste leaks when there’s a simpler solution to be had?

Last week we were called to find the source of a waste leak in an elevator pit, which could have come from any number of waste pipes buried underneath the concrete slab of the basement floor in a 20 story building with 120 residential apartments in Midtown Manhattan. Our aim was to figure out where this leak was coming from without chopping through the entire basement floor. You may think this sounds like a needle-in-a-haystack situation, but due to the availability of advanced equipment today, the task was not as difficult as it once was. We traced out the waste lines under the floor by using a specialized snake line with a pulsating sonar tip, which is then tracked by using a locator device. This allowed us to determine the locations of the lines and showed us the general area where the floor needed to be opened so we could repair the leak. Though this hunt took several hours to complete, we only had an estimated location of the leak, not the specific one and the tenant shareholders were really suffering from the odor every time they came near the elevator. But, as you can see, this is not a quick process.

So we made a prediction that the waste in the elevator pit originated from a three-inch kitchen waste line in the floor closest to the pit. But even after tracing the lines and identifying the closest pipe, we still could not pinpoint the exact source of the waste leakage unless all of the waste pipes were exposed. We could have been looking at multiple leaks on multiple pipes in different locations spider webbed under the ground. Only by opening the floor and exposing the pipes could we be certain which pipe, or pipes, were seeping into the pit.

This just goes to show that during construction, developers should consider the practicality of these structures and the costs of maintenance as opposed to just cost savings when they erect the building. All of the hunting, guessing, predicting and assuming could have been avoided if the waste pipes had been exposed and hung from the ceiling in the first place rather than buried underneath concrete. In this case, the adage “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply.

By Spencer Kraus – Account Manager – Fred Smith Plumbing & Heating Co.