The Sudden Smell

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

One very important thing to do during a home inspection is turn on appliances and get them going, and test all of the plumbing fixtures, baths and kitchen.  Doing so forces water into the system, and therefore displaces air.  That air needs to have someplace to go so that as the water is drained there is not a disruptive glub glub (technical words to be sure).  Theoretically this displaced air exits through the roof.

Unless there is another way out!

This particular house uses a condensate pump to eliminate the water the air conditioner collects from the house.

That water is drained into the little box and it exits through that brown tube going out the top.

These boxes are often discharged outdoors, but sometimes into a floor drain, laundry tub or into the plumbing itself.

ANYWAY IS FINE, IF DONE RIGHT!

The gentleman who set up this system was thinking, but not quite far enough.

He installed a trap!  This trap fills with water and prevents sewer gases from getting back into the house.  You all know this.

That trap is perfectly done.  But here is the problem.  It is January!  The AC has probably not been used since early October or so.  Any water in that trap has evaporated.  When the plumbing is flushed with lots of water, as I did during the inspection, sewer gases are displaced and they came out through the top of that tube! 

And those gases came out in a big way!

What a great wake up call!  I was happy to catch this during a home inspection.  My clients were too!

What could have been done instead?

This is the arrangement in my house.  It services a water softener.

Water softeners regenerate every three days, and send out lots of brine water each time.  When we first installed it the plumber did not provide enough ability for displaced air to exit, and water came out everywhere.  I had him come back and install a second vent on top of the stack, and an air admittance valve.  That special valve can be seen on the vertical tube to the right.  It lets air in, but not gases out.

However, our softener broke many years ago.  I will remove it should we ever move, but it is there for now.  But it no longer sends water into the system, filling that trap.

Those two openings in the PVC to the left needed to be capped!  Why?

So we don't get the "Sudden Smell" that happened during that home inspection!

So I capped them! 

If the purchaser of our house, should that day come, and wants the softener, I will keep it and this plumbing in place and repair the unit.  It doesn't make sense to remove it now.

My recommendation:  at first glance, some things seem to be done properly.  That condensate drain above had a proper trap!  And it works, but only when there's water present.  During the "off season" that opening must be covered, or physics will do its job.  Physics doesn't fail... and sometimes physics smells really bad!

 

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Don - and I am glad you do!

Susan - even in Alexandria!  Is that why it's been there for so many centuries?

Charlie - as ah sayd beefor, ain't ne'er seen wuun.  This was an older place, and my house was built in 1998 and none was done then either!

 

Jan 07, 2011 08:30 AM #17
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Lydie - well, fill the trap with water (or call Charlie to install one of those priming pumps...) or cover it!

Jim - trying to get them all out of the way at the same time!

Jan 07, 2011 08:31 AM #18
Rainmaker
1,735,093
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor

Jay, that is handy information here where AC is used 5 months of the year tops. Thanks again for for the useful tip.

Jan 07, 2011 08:45 AM #19
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I am surprised that you need AC at all Bob!  I would think that ceiling fans would handle your needs.

Jan 07, 2011 08:50 AM #20
Rainmaker
1,735,093
Bob "RealMan" Timm
Ward County Notary Services - Minot, ND
Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor

Jay, It actually is not that uncommon to hit 100 degrees (above) once or twice a year here. I think the main thing is the high humidity which makes upper 70's and 80's uncomfortable. I guess the other thing could be that when you are used to an average as low as we have her then anything over 75 feels like Death Valley to us.

Jan 07, 2011 01:26 PM #21
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I did not realize that you have so much humidity there Bob.  I thought the Plains were windy and dry!

Jan 08, 2011 10:35 AM #22
Rainmaker
3,330,229
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Real Estate Agents - Luxury - Divorce

The nose knows....and knows what it knows !

Jan 08, 2011 12:42 PM #23
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sally - And hard to get around it, even when the house is full of those plug-in "deodorizers!"

Jan 09, 2011 12:10 AM #24
Rainer
169,778
Menlo Park Real Estate and Homes for Sale
Wende Schoof - Menlo Park, CA
WendeByTheBay.com - 650.504.0219 - SF Peninsula

Jay, I guess houses can be flatulant, too.  Thanks for another good lesson.

Jan 09, 2011 09:46 PM #25
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Wende - gas gets out anywhere it can!  In this case, as in some, where it wasn't desired.

Jan 09, 2011 11:15 PM #26
Rainer
7,914
Wilbur Lloyd
AR Home Inspection Service of New Jersey - Ridgefield Park, NJ

I cant even imagen the smell that was coming out when you hit the basement.

Jan 10, 2011 09:40 AM #27
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Wilbur - it was, um, how do you say?  Very primeval!

Jan 10, 2011 09:42 AM #28
Rainmaker
233,787
Reuben Saltzman
Structure Tech Home Inspections - Minneapolis, MN
Delivering the Unbiased Truth.

Another solution would be to pour anti-freeze down the drain; that's what I tell people to do with dried out floor drains, but the cap seems like a much easier solution when possible.

Jan 12, 2011 01:56 PM #29
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Reubs - does anti-freeze take a long time to evaporate?  Every now and then I see toilets in houses that were winterized with stained, pink nothing left in the bowl, but don't know how long it took for that stuff to go away.

Jan 12, 2011 10:45 PM #30
Rainmaker
217,102
Rob Ernst
Certified Structure Inspector - Reno, NV
Reno, NV-775-410-4286 Inspector & Energy Auditor

I'm on the same page as Reuben but I recommend a little vegetable oil down the drain. It often helps people that have a unused bathroom or other drain that always seems to smell with time.

Good catch. That's why you don't hire the cheap guys to inspect your house.

Nov 10, 2011 12:19 PM #31
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

That vegetable oil is a pretty good tip Robert.  I expect it makes the water slower to evaporate.

Nov 10, 2011 12:25 PM #32
Rainmaker
2,187,267
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
DFW FINE PROPERTIES - Flower Mound, TX
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Jay,

You have the gift of explaining things in a way that makes sense to me. Often I hear other inspectors say something that makes me feel stupid. I know you take your job seriously and you do an excellent job saying it in words that are easy to understand.

Thank you!

Sep 11, 2012 12:47 PM #33
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I'm glad you enjoyed it Patricia!  You found an oldie but a goodie!

Sep 11, 2012 12:53 PM #34
Rainer
22,661
Spectrum Inspection Group
Spectrum Inspection Group - Las Vegas, NV

That smell is horrible!  Thanks for sharing information on how to fix it.  Good post.

Sep 20, 2012 05:07 AM #35
Rainmaker
1,882,816
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Spectrum.  You found another oldie but goodie!

Sep 20, 2012 06:18 AM #36
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Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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