What is a plumbing vent and why do I need it?

Plumbing issues in the home can be quite the headache, but there are preventative measures you can take. Making sure your vent pipes are functioning properly can help lessen your chances of future problems. Here are some reasons plumbing vents stop working and how to fix them.

What are plumbing vents?

Plumbing vents help control the air pressure that’s running throughout your plumbing. The plumbing vent pipe (or vent stack) releases gas and odors from the plumbing system, similarly to how the drain pipe removes waste from your home. The vent lets clean air into your plumbing system that allows water to flow through the drain pipe.

The vent stack runs vertically through the roof of your home and is attached to a drain line. It carries exhaust gases to the main roof vent to maintain correct atmospheric pressure throughout the waste pipes. Because the goal is to rid your home of odors, the vent pipe is usually positioned away from air conditioning units and windows, so that the fumes aren’t pulled back into the house.

Why plumbing air vents are important

The plumbing vent elements of your home work with the drainage system to remove waste and fumes from the property. If one part of the plumbing system isn’t doing its job, you could experience major issues.

Not only do plumbing air vents allow fresh air into your plumbing system, but they also prevent sewer gases from coming into your home. Drainage pipes carry waste to the city’s sewer system or a septic tank, so the plumbing vent protects against those fumes from seeping into your drains.

Blocked plumbing vent pipe

Your home’s plumbing drainage system will not work properly if the plumbing air vent is blocked. Signs of a clogged plumbing vent pipe include:

  • Slow draining shower or sink
  • Standing water in the sink or bathtub
  • Gurgling sounds coming from your drains
  • Strong gas odors coming from sink or tub drains

The air pressure in your plumbing is disrupted when the plumbing vent pipe is blocked, which causes irregular water flow through your drainage pipes. You will be able to clear most small clogged drains, but if the plumbing vent is blocked, the problem will continue.

Ignoring a blocked plumbing vent will cause residue to settle inside the drain pipes and can severely damage your plumbing system. The investment to fix the problem can quickly escalate as pipe repair or replacement could be required in the future.

Is it a blocked drain or plumbing vent?

If multiple attempts to repair a slow draining tub or sink with a drain cleaner, snake or plunger prove unsuccessful, the vent stack is likely the problem. If the blockage is severe, a vacuum will form and the gurgling noise will stop. You’ll then begin to smell the sewer gases seeping from your drains.

A severe plumbing vent block is a job for a professional plumber. The plumber will often need access to the vent on your roof, forcing a plumbing auger through the system to pull out the material causing the block. The best way to prevent a blocked plumbing vent is to flush only human waste, immediately address drainage issues and have your home’s plumbing regularly inspected.



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