Indoor plumbing is one of the most important systems in your home. While most homeowners assume that plumbing systems only contain pipes, there are several other important components involved — such as plumbing vents.

In fact, when a plumbing issue arises, there’s a good chance that it’s the vents and not the pipes to blame. This means the average homeowner doesn’t realize there’s more to plumbing maintenance than they initially thought.

Want to learn more about your plumbing vents and why they’re there? Keep reading!

What Are Plumbing Vents?

Also referred to as a vent stack or plumbing air vents, a plumbing vent is a type of pipe that’s designed to work alongside your drain pipe. Instead of carrying water, however, they regulate the air throughout your plumbing system.

Essentially, your home’s plumbing system is designed to remove waste and water with maximum efficiency. The drainage pipes carry the waste out of your home to a septic tank or city sewer while the vents supply fresh air to all your plumbing fixtures — which is what allows the drainage pipes to do their job effectively.

Why Are Home Plumbing Vents Necessary?

Each time a toilet is flushed or a sink is drained, your plumbing vent regulates the air pressure within the system, so the water flows outward without issue. Your plumbing vent also prevents sewer gasses from entering into your home and allows wastewater and sewer gases, along with their odors, to escape through the roof of your home.

Therefore, these vent pipes are necessary to ensure that wastewater flows smoothly without causing any weird noises, foul odors, or stagnant water. Without these vents, there wouldn’t be a safe passageway for odors to be carried out of your home. Additionally, wastewater wouldn’t be able to flow properly through your pipes, and there would be a lot of gurgling noises every time you flushed a toilet or drained a sink.

Where Is the Plumbing Vent Pipe Located?

Since your vent pipes work in conjunction with your drain pipe, they run straight up and down inside the walls of your kitchen and bathrooms.

pipes in the walls that lead to plumbing vents

You can actually pinpoint your vent pipe by listening closely as someone flushes the toilet. If you hear that the flushing sound becomes amplified, it’s an indicator that you’re right within the proximity of the vent pipe.

From outside of your home, all you have to do is look up and around for the pipe that extends approximately six inches from your roof.

The Signs You Have Problematic Plumbing Vents

The most important thing you need to learn about your plumbing vents is how to recognize when they’ve become clogged. A clogged vent pipe can become a safety hazard for you and your family, which is why you’ll want to pay close attention to the following common signs that indicate a clog:

  • You start to notice that either your water is very slow to drain or your water won’t drain at all, even after plunging. Stagnant water that won’t drain from your bathtub, shower, sink, or toilet is a sure sign there’s a clog in your plumbing vent pipe.
  • Your toilet tanks continue to remain empty. Toilets that don’t fill back up with water are another direct indication of a blockage that’s forcing water to escape from your toilet and down the pipe.
  • The water in your toilet bowl bubbles when flushing, which is a sign that there’s a lack of air pressure and, therefore, the accumulating gasses aren’t being pushed out properly.
  • You notice that your faucets are only producing a low water flow. This is due to the lack of air pressure that allows the water to flow smoothly, which equates to a clog.
  • You hear gurgling noises. Any drains making gurgling or glugging noises as the water drains also means there’s a clog that’s preventing the accumulation of air pressure.
  • You’re noticing foul odors — specifically sulfurous odors. If your drain is stinky, it’s because your vent pipe is trapping sewer gases. This is very hazardous as the primary culprit of the odor is methane, which can cause nausea, dizziness, and headaches.

How to Unclog a Vent Pipe on Your Own

When your vent stack or pipe gets clogged, it creates a vacuum within your draining pipes. The water flow gets interrupted, and stoppages will continue to occur — even if you’ve successfully plunged your drains clear. These stoppages will eventually lead to sediment formation within your drain pipes, which will further damage your plumbing system.

Ultimately, the result of sediment buildup in your drainpipe is a very costly repair or replacement.

If your clog and stoppages are recent, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to remedy the problem yourself. All you’ll need is a plumber’s snake or garden hose to get started.

plumbing vent on top of an asphalt roof

From there, just follow these steps:

  • Locate the plumbing vent stack on your roof
  • Make sure the area it’s in is easily accessible. Your roof is more dangerous than it looks, especially after inclement weather or substantial moss growth
  • Once you’re able to get to your vent stack safely, use your plumber’s snake or garden hose to loosen the debris causing the blockage.

(Side note: Your garden hose is only to be used in lieu of a plumber’s snake. Please don’t turn it on and attempt a “flush” that can cause even more costly damage.)

When in Doubt, Always Call a Plumber

If the above DIY method doesn’t work, the only thing you can do is call your local plumber. Only a trained professional can accurately diagnose and repair your plumbing vents. They’re also the only people that can also advise you on how to prevent a clog from happening again.

When you need a quality and experienced Minnesota plumber, A.J. Alberts Plumbing is the company you want to call for help. Get in touch with us today to get an estimate for our services and to schedule an appointment.