As a homeowner, you can usually take care of minor plumbing problems yourself, such as a stopped-up toilet or drippy faucet. But some plumbing issues you can't solve with a plunger, including main vent stack clogs. Because of the main vent stack's location, and the potential problems it can cause in your plumbing system, you should never attempt to unclog the pipe when it blocks up.
The stack sits on the roof and connects directly to the soil stack pipe located in the center of your home and the main drainage line beneath the basement or crawlspace. The main vent stack is an outlet for toxic sewer odors and gases, as well as an inlet for fresh air.
When the main stack clogs up with leaves, bird feathers, or dirt, odors back up into your home. In addition, air traps inside the stack and keeps wastewater from exiting the drainage pipes in the house to the sewage system in the street. Here's why you should let the experts handle the clog for you.
What Happens If You Try to Unclog the Vent?
To reach the main vent stack pipe, you must use a ladder to climb your roof. But climbing your roof can be a dangerous undertaking. Over 8 million people suffer some type of injury or worse after falling at home, including individuals who fall off their roofs or ladders. The injuries sustained from fall accidents can range from minor broken bones and concussions to paralysis and death.
Depending on the age and stability of your home, your roof could have damage in its trusses, substrate, and membrane. Rain, snow, and insects can potentially rot or break down your roofing materials overtime. You may accidentally step down on a rotted or damaged area on the roof and crash through your attic or ceiling. In addition, you could misstep on your ladder and slip to the ground. The ladder can also shift on unsteady soil and cave inward.
If you do manage to climb the roof and locate the vent stack safely, you may still create problems. You can inadvertently push the debris further into the drainage system if you use a DIY technique, such as flushing the pipe out with a water hose. The force of the water might crack your plumbing pipes. The clog can also travel to your main sewer line and block up the entire system. Your best and safest option is to contact a plumbing company that offers emergency day and night services.
Until a plumbing contractor examines and repairs your vent stack, you can do a few things yourself to keep the problem from getting worse.
What Can You Do Until Help Arrives?
If it isn't too cold outdoors, open up some of your windows to remove the foul smells. If it is cold, place a few circulating fans in the house. Turn the fans on low to avoid making the house too cool and position the heads toward the flooring to help the odors rise to the ceiling. Pushing the odors toward the ceiling helps make the air closer to the floor and to you cleaner. You can also purify the air with an air purifier if you have one on hand.
Also, take a walk outdoors to see if the clog affected your underground sewer line. If it has, you may notice a damp area of dirt or grass on your property. You should avoid any areas that appear soiled with human waste and other contaminants, as they contain pathogens. Mark or block off the bad locations with cones or ropes to warn other people about the leak.
Check the plumbing pipes, faucets and drains inside the home, including in the basement and laundry room. Turn on the taps to see if the water runs freely or drips. Poorly flowing water may indicate that the clog has spread or affected multiple plumbing pipes in your home. Be sure to keep children from using any area of the home that shows signs of plumbing problems.
Don't hesitate to call or email a licensed and professional plumbing contractor if the clog worsens or if you have immediate concerns about your vent stack.