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How to Clear a Clogged Plumbing Vent

Plumbing vents are part of your home’s complete plumbing system, which includes drain pipes, vent pipes, drain lines, vent stacks, and the plumbing fixtures that are attached to the drainage system such as your kitchen sink, water heater, toilets, showers, and the wastewater drainage pipes that carry the wastewater to your main line and to your septic tank or city sewer.

Plumbing vents serve an important function in your plumbing system, as it will regulate air pressure in the system, as well as vent sewer gasses and odors through the plumbing vent pipe. The main plumbing vent is called your vent stack, and is a vertical pipe that exits through the roof of your home. This is fed by other vents that are part of your plumbing system, such as your toilet vent

Every modern home’s plumbing system will have a series of drain pipes/sewer lines and plumbing vents. Like all pipes or lines, blockages are possible. Blocked drains and blocked vents can both cause a back up, and though they both can present as a clogged drain.

What Blocks Plumbing Vents?

What kind of things atop of your house can block these small vents? Typically, plumbing vents are blocked by debris, such as dirt and leaves, sticks, or even small animals. When vent pipes are totally blocked, the vacuum can become so strong, that it sucks water out of the P-traps.

At that point, you won’t hear anymore gurgling, but you’ll notice the smell of sewer gasses in the rooms of the affected plumbing fixtures. Such problems need immediate attention from a licensed plumber.

Because not only are you dealing with bad odors, empty P-traps are hazardous to your health and can cause disease.


Signs You Have a Clogged Plumbing Vent

If your water is not draining, or having a slow drain, then a clog in the drain pipe may be at fault, or it could be a blockage in your vent.

If the air pressure is not being regulated and sewer gases are not escaping due to a clog in your vent, it can have far reaching effects. One sign to listen for is gurgling. When you hear a gurgle sound, that gurgling occurs due to negative pressure happening from a blockage in the plumbing vent, which interferes with the air in the system and how it normally escapes. So instead of the air going through the toilet vent, into the vent stack and out the roof, it comes back up though the toilet or drain, causing gurgling sounds.

Another sign your plumbing vent has a clog is the presence of strong odor of sewer gas, or strong terrible smells. These are often kept at bay by the vent system and the p-trap in the drain pipes. P-traps, like vents, prevent sewer gases and odors from creeping back up through the drains in our bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and others. 

When your water is doing a slow drain, that can also be a sign of a clogged plumbing vent, as the air pressure can prevent draining from correctly occurring. 


Tips for Unclogging

Unclogging your vent stack through a DIY method can be possible. If you’re able to access your vent’s exit, you may find that using a vacuum to suck out any leaves or debris can help clear the blockage. There can even be toys or baseballs stuck in there – we’ve seen it all. 

Some homeowners have tried using a hose to spray water up the venting pipe to clear debris that way, but be careful because of a sudden flow of water that was being held back from the blockage.

Sometimes homeowners can tackle these issues from a DIY standpoint, however if the sewer line remains clogged, or after trying a plunger you cannot restore water flow, or you are unsure that you have the skill level or could be in a potentially dangerous situation, you should always contact a professional plumber.


At A-1 Sewer & Septic, Service, Inc., no job is too small—or too big—for us to address, and we offer service on the weekends or evenings. With our decades of experience, you can rely on our team of Kansas City plumbers. Get a quote today when you contact our office.