Understanding Your Home’s Sewer Vent and Drain Vent Line

Fresh air drain inlet installed on a residential property's roof.

You’ve probably noticed what looks like a pipe with a cap on it coming out of your roof. Likewise, you may have noticed a pipe with a U bend or plate with vent holes outside your home. What you’re noticing is your home’s fresh air drain inlet or sewer vent. It’s a small, but integral, part of your home’s plumbing system.

Once you understand why a fresh air drain vent is important, how it works, and what can go wrong, you’ll have a leg up in keeping your plumbing system in top condition.

What is a Fresh Air Drain Inlet?

A fresh air drain inlet, also commonly referred to as a sewer vent, is a vertical pipe that’s attached to the drain line in your home. There is also a vent directly behind your main house trap, which exits to the outside of your home. These pipes eventually reach the exterior of your house through the roof or side of your home.

Sewer vent lines (fresh air inlets) have a two-fold purpose. First, they can allow for sewer gas and odors to escape safely. However, their primary function is to allow fresh air into your plumbing system and keep the wastewater flowing properly. 

How Does a Fresh Air Drain Inlet Work?

Sewer drains are actually pretty simple and have no moving parts. Drain lines on your plumbing system work utilizing gravity and water pressure. Whenever you flush the toilet, run water in a sink, or shower, air flows through the fresh air inlet, and behind the flow of water. This helps to push the wastewater out of the system into the sewer. The fresh air also pushes harmful sewer gases out so they don’t build up in your home. 

Why is a Fresh Air Drain Inlet Important?

Most homeowners have to deal with plumbing problems. Like clogged drains, a backed-up toilet, or leaking pipes at some point. It’s just the nature of plumbing, especially in older homes. One problem that homeowners may not even consider is that their fresh air drain inlet may be causing problems. If there are blockages, gas, and odors may build up in your home.

But more importantly, without air displacing the flow of wastewater, your drain system will not work properly. This can be dangerous to your health, besides just being a real annoyance. If the water ceases to flow properly, backups and other costly plumbing issues can occur.

Signs of a Fresh Air Drain Inlet Problem

Several things can cause your fresh air drain inlet to malfunction. The problem for most homeowners is that it’s difficult to tell if a plumbing problem is caused by ventilation issues. Or if something else is at play. The only way to know for sure is to have a plumber take a look. 

If you’re experiencing any of the following 5 issues, you may well be experiencing a problem with your sewer vent:

  • Slow Drains — Slow drainage is often caused by a clog or other blockage in the drain line, and you may need a professional drain cleaning company. But that’s not always the case. Slow-draining bathtubs and sinks may also indicate improper or inadequate venting. A trained, licensed plumbing company can determine what your issue is and how to repair it.
  • Gurgling Sounds — Any gurgling or other sounds you hear in your drain lines could be a sign of poor ventilation. This is because improper air pressure restricts the flow of water and waste through the pipe. Generally, these types of noises come from toilets and bathroom sinks. 
  • Bubbles in Toilet Bowl — The water in your toilet bowl should be calm once it’s settled from being flushed. If you notice bubbles forming in the water sitting in your toilet bowl you may have a venting problem in the drain lines. 
  • Sewer Odor — When there’s not enough air pressure in your home’s plumbing system, foul sewer gas smells can make their way into your home. This isn’t just a stinky issue. It’s a serious problem that can lead to severe health issues, so sewer odor should never be ignored.
  • Toilet Bowl Water Levels — After flushing, your toilet’s water level should return to its pre-flush levels, and it should stay there until the toilet is flushed again. If your toilet doesn’t refill or the water level rises and falls suddenly, it’s a sure sign there’s a venting problem.
Sewer vent cover for a fresh air drain inlet

What Causes Plumbing Vent Problems?

Because your fresh air drain inlet comes out of the roof, it’s prone to collect things. The same is true for vent plates, such as the one pictured above. There are sewer vent filters, but they still seem to be prone to get covered or clogged.

If there’s a tree over the roof area, bird and insect nests, dead birds, or rodents can all make their way into your vent, and the result can be a clogged sewer vent pipe. As the wind blows, small branches, leaves, trash, and other debris collect as well. Making sure that the cap is the vent properly and occasionally clearing debris is recommended.

How Do I Fix a Plumbing Vent Problem?

When it comes to repairing a problem with your home’s plumbing, start with the basics. Use a plunger, auger, or drain cleaner to attempt to clean blockage from a sink drain or toilet to help restore proper air pressure. Be very careful, however, if you’re going to use a drain cleaner. The chemicals are toxic and not necessarily gentle on your plumbing system. If nothing you do helps resolve the problem, it’s time to call in a professional.

Locating and correcting a fresh air drain inlet or sewer vent issue is not as simple. A clogged fresh air inlet may be on your roof, or covered by objects. In some cases, plumbing vent lines have been cemented over because someone didn’t realize their purpose and place.

Why Hire a Plumber for Sewer Vent or Drain Vent Line Issues

The most important reason to hire a licensed plumber like Balkan Sewer and Drain Cleaning is plumbing knowledge and safety. Because the vent is located on the roof, it’s vital to have the proper fall protection devices. In addition, dealing with sewer gases is extremely dangerous and requires proper equipment such as ventilators to keep workers safe.

The average homeowner not only doesn’t have the proper equipment, but they also lack valuable experience, which is a potentially dangerous combination. Honestly, it’s not worth the risk. There are many local plumbing and drain companies with a commitment to great service and fair prices.

Solve Sewer and Drain Vent Line Problems Quickly & Safely

If you’re experiencing slow drains, weird water levels in your toilets, or sewer odors indoors, you may have an issue with your home’s sewer vent. This can be a serious issue if not addressed right away. So don’t hesitate to contact the Balkan Drain Team.

We’ll send someone over right away to evaluate the situation, locate the source of the issue, and make the necessary repairs. In most cases, the problem can be taken care of in a couple of hours so you can get back to living your life fast.