What Can Go Wrong With Your P-Traps?
P-traps are a relatively simple plumbing innovation that you can find throughout your home. These devices serve a dual purpose: they protect you and your drains. Despite the name, the essential part is the "U"-shaped bend directly below your fixture. Running water can force its way up the opposite side of the curve, but a water plug remains behind when you turn off the tap.
Since water should remain in your p-trap at all times, sewer gases will flow through your vent stack instead of from your drains. In this way, p-traps keep you safe from these potentially harmful gases. The bend also makes it more difficult for solid objects to enter your pipes, protecting your drains from blockages — and potentially saving dropped rings and other items.
Which Fixtures Have P-Traps?
Every sink in your home should have a p-trap. These plumbing necessities are usually plainly visible if you look under a vanity or cabinet since they're located directly below the drain. Other drains, such as your bathtub, also have p-traps. Although your toilet doesn't use one of these pipes, it does have built-in plumbing that serves a similar purpose.
Signs of P-Trap Problems
Most problems with p-traps are relatively straightforward. In general, you might experience three forms of p-trap issues:
P-traps are among the most accessible plumbing items to replace since they use locking nuts as fittings. If your p-trap is leaking, you can try tightening these nuts as a first step. The interior washer on the fitting may also be worn or failing, in which case replacing it should solve your leak. If neither of these solutions works, the entire p-trap may require replacement or realignment.
Since p-traps catch small objects, they can sometimes accumulate enough gunk and debris to become blocked up. Fortunately, solving a p-trap clog is rarely much of a problem. If you can't clear the issue with a snake, you can unscrew the locking nuts to remove and empty the bend. Carefully inspect the washers and tighten the nuts as you reinstall the pipe.
Finally, evaporation can sometimes lead to unpleasant smells in bathrooms or near other drains in your home. If the bend in the p-trap dries for any reason, sewer gases will escape into the room. P-traps may allow for evaporation if you don't use your sink, but frequent evaporation may indicate a venting problem or a clog somewhere behind the trap.
Resolving P-Trap Issues
Most issues you'll face with p-traps are relatively minor, and you can attempt to solve them on your own. However, persistent leaks can cause water damage, and odors may be signs of more severe trouble. If you're facing consistent problems with the p-trap near one of your drains, it's time to call in an expert. Contact a company like Alabama Plumbing and Gas Service, Inc. to learn more.