Can Sewer Gas Leak From a Toilet?

Sewer gas can leak from an improperly installed or maintained toilet. Toilets with an adequate seal between the flange and the stool and with water in the trap should be safe from gas leaks. While the builder or plumber is responsible for the installation of any toilet, the homeowner must keep the trap full of water and prevent any possible gas leaks.

The Wax Ring

Damaged or improperly maintained toilets can leak sewer gas into the home.

The flange is the top part of the plumbing pipe running under the floor to the toilet location. The flange sits at floor level and has slots for bolts to hold the toilet stool in place above the flange. Creating a waterproof and airtight seal between the toilet stool and the flange is a wax gasket or ring. This ring is commonly pushed onto the toilet first and then fits to the flange as the toilet is set in place. If the wax ring is damaged or doesn't fit properly sewer gasses can exit the plumbing system and escape around the base of the toilet.

Dry Traps

Built into the toilet stool is a trap. This P-shaped bend in the pipes holds water preventing gas backing up through the trap area. If the water in the trap evaporates due to lack of use, gas can back up through the toilet and enter the living quarters of the home. Flush the toilet every two to three weeks to maintain adequate water in the trap.

Bad Ventilation

The home sewer system contains a vent pipe through the roof of the home. This vents sewer gases away from the living quarters. Clogged vents can force sewer gases back into the home. Clogs commonly occur in the winter when ice and snow build up around the vent pipe on the roof. Summer vent problems can occur if birds or squirrels nest in the vent pipe. Keep the vent clear from any obstructions for best home sewer operations.

The Stink

The odor of sewer gas comes from the ammonia and hydrogen sulfides present. Both these gasses have a disagreeable scent. Methane and other odorless gasses are also often present. Sewer gas is not only unpleasant but can pose a health risk, with headaches, nausea and dizziness all common early symptoms.

About the Author

Keith Allen, a 1979 graduate of Valley City State College, has worked at a variety of jobs including computer operator, medical clinic manager, radio talk show host and potato sorter. For over five years he has worked as a newspaper reporter and historic researcher. His works have appeared in regional newspapers in North Dakota and in "North Dakota Horizons" and "Cowboys and Indians" magazines.