Septic odors outside the house are not only unpleasant, they can make your guests feel unwelcome and discourage them from spending time in your yard. Luckily, there are several easy ways to get rid of sewage smell outside your home.
A septic odor outside could be caused by a dry P or S trap in the spare bathroom, a missing clean out cap or plug, or a failing toilet wax seal. These are easily fixed by running water to re-establish the trap.
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1. Clean the Drains
When drains clog, the resulting sewer smell can cause an unpleasant scent that is often described as rotten eggs. This smell is produced by hydrogen sulfide as natural human waste breaks down in the drains and sewage system. The odor can also travel through the venting system and into your home. If the odor is coming from a shower or toilet, this can usually be resolved by cleaning out the drain and septic tank. In some cases, however, the smell may be coming from a damaged vent or the main sewer line outside of your home.
One of the most common causes of a foul sewer smell is a dirty shower or bathtub drain. This can be caused by a buildup of hair, soap scum and other debris. In order to avoid this, homeowners should clean out their drains at least once a week with baking soda and vinegar. These two household items react to create a powerful chemical solution that can clean out even the most stubborn drain clogs. Additionally, this method does not contain the dangerous sodium hydroxide, or lye, found in store-bought drain cleaners.
Cleaning the drains is as simple as pouring a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by a cup of white vinegar. The fizzing reaction will break down and dissolve the debris, and the vinegar will help to clean out any remaining clogs. Alternatively, homeowners can use a commercial drain cleaner; however, it is important to note that these products are often very strong and can damage the pipes.
If the odor is not coming from a drain, it could be coming from a cracked or leaky vent pipe or septic tank. It is best to call a professional in this case to ensure the problem is addressed immediately before it becomes worse.
If you are still experiencing a foul sewage smell, it is likely that the issue stems from the main sewer line. This may be caused by a clog in the P-trap or a broken sewer pipe, which will require a professional to repair.
2. Install a Backwater Valve
A backwater valve is designed to prevent the sewer system from backing up into your home through basement drains (floor drains, sinks, toilets). Having one in place will save you a lot of money over time. For starters, it will reduce the cost of cleaning up the mess from the emergency service company who comes to your house and stops a sewage backup from flooding your basement. Secondly, it will save you the cost of fixing any damage from the flood. That may include replacing furniture, rugs, carpeting, or even redoing your entire basement.
A backwater valve will need to be checked at least once a year to remove any debris that could clog it and ensure all moving parts have free movement. It should also be flushed regularly to ensure it is operating properly. It is recommended to find a plumber who specializes in installing backwater valves. They will be able to examine your sewer line and determine the best location for it in your basement.
If you want to do a DIY backwater valve install, there are many instructional videos available online. Be sure to wear rubber gloves and a long-handled brush to scrub around and under the flap of the valve. Most valves will have manufacturer’s recommendations regarding maintenance.
While the main function of a backwater valve is to prevent city sewer from entering your house, it can also help eliminate septic tank odors from reaching your outdoor living spaces. If you have a good breeze in your area, having a plumber expand your plumbing vent pipe may also assist in dispersing septic and sewer odors from your home.
If you notice a strong septic tank smell in your yard, it is likely caused by an issue with the soil treatment area (leach field). If this is the case, your plumber will recommend having this professionally cleaned to resolve the problem. It’s important to get the problem fixed as soon as possible to avoid any health issues from being caused by exposure to sewer gas. Always seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of exposure, including difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, or burning sensations.
3. Repair the Manholes
If you notice a strong sewer odor coming from the area of your septic tank, it’s possible that one or more of your septic pipes are broken. This can lead to sewage wastewater pooling in your yard or backing up into the home. This is a serious issue and needs to be addressed immediately by calling the local sewer authority.
Another sign of a broken sewer line is rats entering the home. This is a very dangerous situation as these rodents can carry diseases that are hazardous to human health. Oftentimes the rat enters through a crack or hole in your sanitary sewer line that runs from the city/main line tie-in to your septic system and the home. Getting regular pest control services will help reduce the number of rodents, but the problem won’t go away completely unless you fix the cracked or damaged line.
You can also smell sewer odors inside the house if the vent pipe to your roof is blocked or poorly installed. These pipes typically clog with leaves or debris that fall on them, and they can release harmful gases like hydrogen sulfide that have the nasty rotten egg odor of decomposing waste.
When the septic tank is full or the drain fields are overflowing, you’ll also notice a smell. This is because the septic tanks and drain fields contain organic matter that breaks down over time to produce methane and other harmful substances. This methane can leak through the septic system and into your home if there are cracks in the pipes behind the walls.
To get rid of the odors, have your septic tank and drain fields professionally inspected. The contractor will use a camera to check for cracks and other problems. A common method for repairing sewer lines is to insert a resin-soaked sleeve into the cracked pipe and heat it, transforming the resin into hard plastic. Unfortunately, this method is not without risks: heating the resin can release toxic fumes that may contaminate the water supply and make people sick. The contractor can also break the line if the sleeve gets stuck in the cracked pipe.
4. Repair the Septic Tank
Your septic tank and drain line work together to process waste in your home, a septic system failure is not only disgusting it can also be dangerous. It’s important to pay attention to warning signals from your septic system and be proactive about septic system repair before the situation worsens.
Septic system failures usually occur when the drain pipes become blocked. Blocked drains often cause wastewater to back up through the pipes, into the house and into sinks, tubs and toilets. The resulting “blackwater” is not only foul-smelling and unsightly but it’s also unhealthy and dangerous.
If the smell is coming from the basement, this could indicate a problem with the plumbing vent stack. It is designed to allow septic gas and odors to escape outside the house, but during winter it can become clogged by snow or ice. The solution is to check the vent stack for obstructions and remove any ice or snow as needed.
Sludge buildup on drain covers is another common source of septic odor. If this is the case it’s important to wash them with hot water and a septic-safe cleanser. If your septic tank riser or manhole lid is damaged this can also cause foul odors to leak out. Inspect the riser or manhole to make sure it’s not cracked, chipped or missing. If it is this will need to be replaced before toxic gases and foul odors escape.
In some cases, the septic tank itself may need to be pumped. If your septic system is too full, it can interfere with the function of the effluent filter or solid waste baffle and cause a clog. A septic tank professional will be able to determine the best course of action for your septic system.
Another sign of a failing septic tank is if your leach field is experiencing problems such as a loss in drainage capacity or algal blooms. This can be a result of improper landscaping such as planting trees close to the septic tank or it could mean that the septic system is not processing nitrogen correctly.