When Are Home Sewage Smells a Cause for Alarm (And What Do You Do About Them)?

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Sewage is water that carries contaminants such as human waste and other refuse. When a house smells like it, it can be a sign of serious issues. Sewage smells can come from different waste-disposal setups since there are two main configurations for the job.  This guide will help you understand your sewer setup, the risks you face, and how to approach sewage smells before calling the professionals.
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Finding the Source of a Sewage Smell in Your Home

Septic systems are standing tanks that receive sewage and break down solid waste for deposit into a drain field. Septic systems have been a particularly toxic problem in recent years, with 1 in 5 American homes from California to Kentucky depending on them yet being left vulnerable to health and safety risks.

Town and city sewers, on the other hand, transport sewage to a decontamination facility before redistribution into the local water supply. Knowing which of these two systems services your property is the first step in locating the sewage issue.

The burden of septic tank repair rests on the owners, and the municipality is responsible for town/city systems. You can’t always wait for the authorities to solve things, though. Indoor problems may be at fault even if your home is connected to a municipal sewer, exposing people to the same harm as sewage smells from septic tank issues.

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How Sewage Smells Affect Indoor Spaces

Foul odors are the least of some of the indoor issues that sewage can cause. Residents exposed to sewage are at risk of numerous serious dangers, regardless of whether they use a septic or sewer system. These issues include:

Sewage Fumes Are Toxic

The very unpleasant smell is actually a gas, composed primarily of hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, methane, and ammonia. Hydrogen sulfide attacks the respiratory systems of the human body, irritating and damaging organs and potentially causing death. The other components can have equally negative effects.

Residents May Display Exposure Symptoms

Sewer smells can cause physical reactions, including nausea and vomiting, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, and difficulties in both concentration and recall. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms in conjunction with sewage smells.

Homes Can Become Fire Hazards

Ammonia or methane are both highly flammable gases by themselves. A home exposed to sewer gas that combines both methane and ammonia becomes an extremely combustible environment.

Sewage Smells Can Precede Water Damage

Odors may be caused by a blockage in the waste disposal pipes of a kitchen or bathroom, which can lead to waste backup and pressure buildup. These may result in black water overflow from sinks and toilets. Black water is toxic and a sign that professional help is required.
The potential problems indicated by a house that smells like sewage should motivate you to take the problem seriously. This is almost surely not something that will just go away if ignored, which means decisive action is needed.
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What to Do When Your Home Smells Like Sewage

The right approach is always swift action. This starts by assessing the severity of the sewage smell issue and connecting unpleasant aromas with physical and visual cues. The next steps include:

1. Air Out Every Room in the Home

There is no way to be sure how many rooms sewage gas may have compromised, even if the smell is only present in one. Open all windows and doors to allow airflow throughout the entire living space. Disable all ignition sources and call a professional if the sewage smell persists.

2. Try to Identify the Common Septic Tank Issues

Septic tank vents might be the wrong size, or they can get blocked by debris or frozen shut in cold temperatures. Basement drains contain traps designed to block sewage gas, but these can be compromised by damage or loss of their water barrier. The best approach is often to identify these issues, not tackle them. The pros can provide necessary repairs without further system damage or undue risk exposure.

3. Call Professionals Immediately if Sewage Water Breaches a Floor

Sewage water that has escaped a septic tank or municipal pipe and penetrated a floor can be a sign of serious foundation flaws. Foundation problems can threaten the entire structure of a home and the safety of its inhabitants, so contact the experts right away.

4. Have Experts Inspect the Plumbing

Plumbing failures are a common culprit when a house smells like sewage. Sewer or septic pipes that are old, dried out through lack of flushing, or compromised by cracks can allow sewage gas to enter a home. Pipes may also be clogged by liquids or solids unsuitable for flushing, which can cause blockage and may require a professional repair.

5. Check Your Home’s Ventilation System

Interior and exterior air vents (such as on your roof) require regular cleaning. Poor maintenance can lead to blockage by dust and other debris, which allows a buildup of sewer gas in the home. Call vent-cleaning specialists for harder-to-reach points to keep yourself safe.

6. Tighten Appliances

Improperly fitted toilets, sump pumps, or other water-bearing appliances can allow sewage smells to get in. Check around pipes and floor fittings for any loose spots like anchor bolts and seals, then contact a professional repair service if you spot any stubborn gaps.
These best practices are designed to increase your awareness and help promote a home less prone to sewage issues. They’re not meant to replace the skills of an experienced professional who can diagnose the issue with expertise and know-how.
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Common Mistakes of Tackling Sewage Smells Alone

Experienced technicians are there to save you time, money, and potential trouble. Consider the following if you’re thinking about solving sewer smells by yourself:
  • Cleaning a septic tank can directly expose you to the risks of noxious fumes, flames, and falling into the tank. Such falls can be fatal through asphyxiation or tank collapse.
  • Improper maintenance of a septic tank can also lead to contamination of your home’s drinking and bathing water.
  • Airing out your home may have been enough to remove sewer gases, or you may have simply become desensitized to the aroma, which happens after a short time. Desensitization means you’re still vulnerable to health risks and fire hazards even when you feel safe.
  • Drain and sewer cleaning can be dangerous even for professionals. Review these occupational risks if you feel a DIY fix is all you need.
Serious sewage problems expose homes to fire damage, waste overflow, and entrenched odor. Homeowners should call the disaster restoration experts when they want the worst impacts of sewage problems reversed.
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Our Team Can Help You with Sewage Clean-Up in Frederick MD

Sewage smells don’t need to take over your home. Our experienced staff can help with any questions on this subject and walk you through the entire home damage restoration process. Contact Dry House Restoration any time and let us help you with sewage clean-up in Frederick, Maryland.
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