What’s Causing Gurgling Drains?
Does the gurgling sound emanating from your drain keep you up at night? If so, you’re not alone. Showers are intended to be pleasant, but for many of us, they become a nightmare when weird noises coming from the drain.
So what exactly is causing the disturbance? It mostly has something to do with your plumbing venting system and the drain itself. Read on to learn more about this issue and how to fix it once and for all!
What is a Plumbing Venting System?
Soda, water, and milk all have one thing: they can be turned upside down without spilling everywhere. This is because when liquid is displaced by air, it creates a vacuum that keeps the liquid in place. The same may be said for your plumbing system.
Water pushes out the air in front of a drain as it runs through it. This permits water to flow freely through the pipes without making any noise. However, if there is a blockage in the drain, this process can be disrupted, and you may start to hear gurgling noises.
Plumbing vent systems allow air to escape from the pipes so water can flow freely. If there is a blockage in the system, it can cause the water to back up and create a noisy gurgling sound.
Plumbing vents that are insufficient or missing
If you hear a gurgling noise coming from your sink or shower drain only when someone flushes the toilet opposite it, or if you notice that your sink or shower drains while the tub next to it is also draining, then this could be an indication of an insufficient building drain-vent system.
The double “S-trap” in this photograph is easy to clog and lacks venting, making it an ineffective drain.
Be on the lookout for traps to avoid terrible sink, shower, or tub drainage. Furthermore, ensure that you check for:
- Sinks in a bathroom or kitchen that use an “S” shaped plumbing trap have no vent connection.
- Vacuum breakers at drains: Sometimes, plumbing fixtures are installed without a proper vent connection. This causes problems because sewer gases can escape from the drain line. To fix this problem, you can install a local plumbing vent/vacuum breaker (such as a “V-200 plumbing vent) under the sink. This will allow air to enter the plumbing drain line as needed but keep sewer gases from escaping.
- You may have a problem if your plumbing fixtures are installed more than 5′ away from the vertical stack vent they’re supposed to be connected to.
- Island sink vents: This plumbing venting problem is most common in island sinks installed in kitchens. Special details are required for the piping to ensure that such fixtures will drain properly.
- Frost clogging in freezing climates occurs when plumbing fixtures with insufficient vent diameter within the structure or above the roof line cause frozen pipes.
- If you don’t extend the vent line from an attic’s plumbing fixtures outside, indoor smells and potentially hazardous, explosive methane gas build-up may occur.
Slow plumbing drains
Frequently, homeowners will experience backups or gurgling in their drains. This is frequently caused by a clog in the drain pipe. The blockage can be caused by several things, including an accumulation of hair, soap scum, or even a foreign object flushed down the toilet. In some cases, the blockage may be due to a build-up of grease or oil.
Act fast if your [drains] are draining slowly or making weird gurgling noises! These problems can generally be fixed easily with a plunger or plumber’s snake. But if the issue is left ignored, it may eventually cause a full drain line blockage. This could then lead to flooding and serious water damage to your house.
When trying to clear a blockage from your drain line, it is important to be very careful. This is because many chemicals sold as “drain cleaners” can do more harm than good. These chemicals can damage your pipes and even cause burns if used incorrectly. If you are not comfortable using these products, you may consider hiring a professional plumber to handle the job.
Blocked or sluggish sewer piping or blockages in the private septic system.
When you hear a gurgling noise from your drains, it could indicate a partial blockage in your sewer piping. If the outside sewer line is only partially blocked, waste and wastewater can flow into the main drain line.
But as more wastewater seeps past the partial blockage, the air is drawn intermittently into the drains, causing a gurgling sound. This effect is more pronounced if the building drain vent system is inadequate.
If the blockage worsens, the building drains may back up during heavy use. This problem can also result in sewage odors or sewage gas backups into a structure. A blocked septic filter or clogging anywhere obstructing sewage from entering or exiting a septic tank might be responsible for gurgling drains heard indoors.
Sounds of running or dripping water
Fixture leaks can often be discovered by the sound of dripping or running water from the affected area. If you hear these sounds, water is likely leaking into the fixture and causing damage. Over time, this can lead to significant problems like flooding and backups. You can avoid more costly repairs down the road by repairing water leaks immediately.
Sometimes, you may only notice that the toilet is running or that the fill valve is re-filling the tank even when no one has used it. If you see these signs, it’s important to check for leaks in the fixtures and drains. These leaks, if left unchecked, can cause extensive damage to your house.
If you’re unsure how to fix the problem, it’s always best to consult a professional. They will be able to swiftly determine the cause of the leak and provide you with repair alternatives. Don’t wait until the problem worsens – act now to protect your home from further damage.
Normal plumbing drain sounds
Different materials used in drains can contribute to the sounds that you hear. For example, older buildings’ cast iron and steel pipes don’t produce much noise. However, more modern structures that use plastic or copper piping may amplify the sound of running water inside the building. There are a few ways to reduce noise from plumbing lines.
From an engineering perspective, one way to reduce sound transmission is by enclosing pipes in insulated chase ways. Additionally, we’ve found that sounds from one area of a building can be transmitted through pipes to other areas of the building. This is due to the electromagnetic fields in a structure sometimes.
For example, if a bank of electric meters is positioned in one location, the sound may be transferred to other structure areas via metal pipes. Overall, many factors can contribute to noise coming from your drains. If you’re concerned about the noise level, consult a professional to discuss possible solutions.
How to find the source of plumbing drain sounds
With some experience, plumbers can quickly diagnose these problems since they occur more often than most homeowners think. If you’d like to go at it alone and get some answers, there are a few things you can try.
- Is the noise coming from a particular fixture? Consider whether all of the building’s lighting fixtures may be causing the sound.
- Does your building have only a single vent system that is insufficient or no vents at all? If so, we suspect there is a problem with the drainage system. If the sound occurs only at one particular fixture, then we think the blockage or vent problem lies within that bathroom, kitchen, or laundry area and its plumbing.
- To unclog a drain, start by flushing the toilet. Slow drains and noise can be caused by blocked or short vents. However, if none of the drains is sluggish, but you hear gurgling from a sink nearby when the toilet is flushed, check beneath the sink. The trap is most likely not vented and attempting to draw air into the drain line from the adjacent sink when the toilet is flushed if it looks like an “S” on its side.
- We can’t tell if the sink is ventilated or not if it’s shaped like a “P” on its side and has a horizontal outlet entering the wall, but the style of plumbing is more contemporary so it may be vented.
- If the trap is a strange mix of bends and components, get a professional plumber to untangle it. Plumbing traps like this are likely to be difficult.
- Periodic drain noises are caused by appliances and systems that send water or waste into building drains. Dishwashers or clothes washers cycling, heat pumps or air conditioner condensate, and pumps sending water into the drain system, are all examples of this.
- Look for a plumbing drain line that runs vertically up from the floor below and exits through the roof in the attic. If you can’t discover one, the structure may not have enough plumbing vents.
- Inspect your building for any plumbing vent pipes jutting through the roof in one or more areas. If you notice a plumbing vent located at one end of the laundromat where washers are situated, but there’s no plumbing vent stack pipe above the other end of the building where dryers and kitchen appliances are set up, it’s possible that those rooms were built without adequate plumbing ventilation.
- Check for blockages in the plumbing ventilation system – A clogged system might result in sluggish drainage and gurgling noises from the pipes.
- Check for clogged or sluggish drains.
- Examine whether the walls around plumbing drains are soundproofed or sound-isolated.
- Examine the septic system (or main sewer line connection) for indications of backup, blockage, or smells outside.
- If the effluent rises to the surface, is murky or damp, stinks, or is foul, this might indicate that part of the septic system is malfunctioning and is continuously rejecting waste.
- Examine the private septic system (if your building has one) for blockages in the line from the structure to the septic tank, solids blocking the septic tank inlet or outlet, or a clogged septic tank filter.
- A professional plumber should inspect the drains using visual methods, pressure tests, or a camera or scope.
If you cannot determine the root of your noisy drain problem or if unclogging it and other do-it-yourself attempts don’t fix things, then it is time to consult a professional plumbing contractor. This way, you are guaranteed a professional diagnosis and solution to your specific drain issue.