When your house makes weird noises

You know what can send you into a panic quicker than the internet dropping during an important Zoom? When your house makes weird noises for no reason at all.

If you are like me, you follow these tried and true steps:

  • Ignore it and hope it goes away.
  • Ask others if they hear it.
  • Go back to ignoring it and scroll Instagram.
  • Start googling the description of the sound.
  • Start bracing for the fixing cost of whatever it is.
  • Talk it out with your partner about all possibilities.
  • Reach a verdict that maybe we call someone.
  • Start telling yourself you don’t notice it anymore.
  • Do a lot more googling and look for – it’s not that bad – answers.
  • Talk about it again with your partner (did you call someone yet?)
  • Finally, make an appointment for an expert to check it out.

This is what we went through recently after getting back from a short vacation.

The noisy problem

Basically, our pipes sounded different than normal. The long pipe that runs from the second floor to the basement was not sounding great whenever the second floor toilet was flushing.

Normally if you are in the basement, you hear a whoosh of water when the upstairs toilet is flushed. It is the water being sucked down and out to the pipes on the street. Makes sense. It’s white noise pretty much as we are so used to it.

But after getting home, it was now much louder and there was this echo noise before the rush of water. There was also a bit of a sulphur smell (or if you want to be gross, sewage).

Every idea you could think of ran through my head. The pipe broke, there is something stuck, animals did something, the plumbers from a recent reno did something etc. etc.

Bottom line, I think my wife and I both were imagining a flood of sewage flowing into her new bathroom.

From all my googling, I learned the pipe is called the main stack and it plays a vital role in the plumbing system, serving as the central conduit for waste and wastewater removal. Typically made of durable materials like cast iron or PVC, the main stack pipe extends vertically from the basement or ground floor through each level of the house, connecting all plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, and showers.

plumbing stack

As wastewater flows down from the upper floors, it is collected and directed into the main stack pipe, which then carries it down and away from the house to the municipal sewer system or septic tank.

After reading just how important it was and the very loud noise it was making, I had worst case scenario dollar signs in my head. The stack is behind a lot of drywall and on all floors. It had the potential to cost thousands of dollars.

Before going on, I just want to mention, I am not a handy person and since becoming a homeowner, I have learned a lot about how everything works. It’s one of the benefits of having professionals come to the house. They teach you so much. It’s why when your house makes weird noises you should have someone who knows what they are doing investigate it.

Plumbing, electrical, gas lines, the roof and so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a homeowner and appreciate it with all that’s going on with affordability, but sometimes, that ownership is very stressful.

Just see the list above about how I process potential issues.

The big fix

So what did we end up doing? The short story is it turned out to be something very simple and most importantly free.

Have you heard of a P-trap? Yes, I know what you are thinking, it’s not an actual “pee” trap.

I had never heard of one. This little trap turned out to be the issue.

A P-trap is essential for preventing sewer gases from entering buildings and for maintaining proper drainage.

Shaped like the letter “P” when viewed sideways, this pipe fitting is typically located beneath sinks, bathtubs, and other plumbing fixtures. Its design allows it to trap a small amount of water, creating a barrier that blocks sewer odours and harmful gases from backing up into living spaces.

As wastewater flows down the drain, it passes through the P-trap, and some water remains in the bend, forming the seal. This water effectively blocks the passage of gases while still allowing waste to pass through.

Regular maintenance, such as clearing debris and ensuring the P-trap remains filled with water, is necessary to prevent clogs and maintain the integrity of the plumbing system.

That last part is what happened to us.

Our basement shower had not been used in several months and the P-trap underneath dried up. Which caused the loud echo sound in the stack.

10 seconds of running the shower fixed what I had thought would be a thousand dollar fix.

So yes, P-traps, who knew?

The noise is gone, the normal flowing sound is back, and I feel like I solved the Drake-Kendrick beef.

Why am I sharing this tale? Well, I just know there are many homeowners out there that have no idea what a P-trap is. In all my googling that never came up. It was a simple fix that in retrospect, the plumber was not needed to come to the house.

So if you have drains in the basement that have not been used in a long time, go run some water. Fill up those P-traps.

Can you tell I love saying P-traps?

Don’t ignore weird noises

Finally, when your house makes weird noises and you can’t solve it using Google I suggest calling in the professionals more sooner than later. Especially for plumbing and electrical. The home is a complicated place when you don’t know how it works, so don’t make the problem worse by just hoping it goes away.

This is an unsponsored post, but if you live in the Toronto area and need a quality plumber, we really like Priority Plumbing.

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