What's Causing Those Ominous Gurgling Noises Coming From The Toilet?

Published: 15th July 2010
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Toilets can make a number of odd noises that may indicate an issue requiring drain cleaning or plumbing repair. One such sound is a gurgling noise. In addition there may be many other noises such as trickling noises, humming and whistling, and repeated fill up sounds. Gurgling and bubbling tend to be somewhat ominous because they suggest a problem that is located deeper down in the system than the bowl or tank.



So what causes these bubbling and gurgling noises and what can you do about it? The problem is usually one of two things, a clogged vent or a partially clogged drain line. All toilets are connected, usually fairly close by, to vent stacks that lead up and out of the roof. This vent stack is usually visible on your roof as a pipe about 2 or 3 inches wide. These vent stacks allow the toilet to be an open rather than a closed system.



As water rushes down the drain pipe when you flush the toilet, it creates air pressure which is relieved by the vent stack. This vent stack sucks in air to balance the vacuum pressure created by water's displacement. If this vent stack is clogged, this air still needs to be sucked in to equalize the pressure. This causes suction in the bowl, and it is this that makes the bowl gurgle. The gurgle and bubble that you see is caused by air being drawn into the bowl.



Bubbling can also be caused by a different problem such as a partial clog. As water goes into the drain pipe it hits this clog, causing a rebound effect. The rebound creates air bubbles that bubble up out of the bowl. This can also sound like gurgling. The two causes are related in that they both represent some kind of blocked or restricted flow in the system, either of air or of water.



What should you do about this? You can check a few things yourself to try to determine the cause, but it's really best to get the problem looked at by a plumber. If you've already tried plunging the toilet with an ordinary plunger and that hasn't worked, chances are the clog that is causing the bubbling is too far down the drain pipe for you to deal with effectively. And if the problem is a clogged vent stack, plunging will do no good whatsoever. A plumber has all the tools necessary to clear these problems up quickly and effectively. If a plumber is qualified and reputable, his drain cleaning and unclogging techniques are fast, targeted, and accurate. For instance, plumbers use long and flexible power snakes can go quite a distance into the drain pipe and get rid of clogs in minutes. And plumbing and plumbing repair have evolved to where they are quite high tech these days.



Diagnostic tools that plumbers are using increasingly are fiber optic cable cameras they can feed down into the pipes as far as the sewer that show them very specifically what problems are occurring. Similar equipment can also diagnose and resolve vent stack issues that are, as noted above, one of the gurgling causes.



Preventative maintenance is important in avoiding these types of problems in the first place. For instance, when you are up on the roof (say cleaning gutters or some such thing) you can have somebody toss you up a hose and run water down the vent stack. It should run out right away and not fill up or take a long time to drain. If it does this, it may be clogged or restricted. Try seeing if there are leaves, dirt, or other obstructions in the stack, and if you can reach them, get them out.



Cleaning and disinfecting toilet bowls regularly is another procedure that will help prevent clogs since it inhibits build up of debris and bacteria. Try getting the brush down into the bowl fairly far in addition to cleaning the sides and rim for effective total bowl cleaning.



Changing the wax ring every 5 to 10 years is also a good idea. It makes for a better toilet seal, preventing leaks and unwanted air intake. This is not as involved as it sounds. It usually only requires shutting off the supply line, draining the bowl, unscrewing two nuts, and lifting the toilet out. You replace the new ring, put the toilet back in its footprint and you're in business.



Don't put up with toilet gurgling noises longer than you have to. They are usually reasonably easily fixed and not very expensive, but often do require some expertise and experience to repair effectively. Maintenance and simpler unclogging can be tackled yourself, but deeper clogs, drain cleaning, and plumbing repair should be left to a plumber. They have all the equipment necessary to do a quick and high quality job.





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In the Cobb County area look for Cobb County and Atlanta plumbers on the web. The Honest Plumber provides a full range of plumbing services for homes and businesses in Atlanta and across Cobb County.

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