In one of our bathrooms, we have a sewer gas odor. It is coming from around
the commode, not from the shower, sinks or tub. I am guessing it is
probably a bad wax ring, but I am not able to tackle the job myself.
I called a plumber, and he told me they had to run a 'smoke test' to
determine the problem. He said I had to notify the fire department they
were going to run the smoke test, that is the law (????). I asked how much
that cost. "$300"!!!!
Then I asked how much to change the wax ring without the smoke test. He
said they won't do that unless they first run the smoke test.
I think it's a rip off. Surely, it wouldn't take more than an hour to
replace the wax ring, and even at an inflated price, that should not be over
Question: Is this a normal procedure, or a rip off?
Thanks for your advice.
Sounds like a rip-off to me.
First, I'd call the city and ask if it is, in fact, "the law", and
second, I'd ask if I could do my own smoke test. Can't be too hard.
Just find your cleanout and insert smoke bomb. Also, you might try
calling a couple more plumbers.
If you are willing to pay to pull the toilet and re-install with a new wax
ring, why do you need a smoke test. The only use it could have is to
identify a leak in the piping or the wax ring, but it would seem more
logical to do the test AFTER replacing the ring, to ensure that the seal is
good. Also, wouldn't the responsibility to call the fire department belong
to the plumber not you. I would call the plumbing inspector to check if they
have such a crazy law and the reason for it, it sounds rip-off to me.
There is actually a spray chemical we use for checking heat exchangers,
it's sprayed into the return air and if the flames on the burners change
color a leak is indicated. When I've checked out the duct work at a
large building such as a grocery store with large exposed duct work, the
smoke bombs work well to show where the air leaks are.
Couldn't you determine whether the sanitary sewer system was connected to
the A/C ductwork by some other method?
Where I used to work, our facilities manager chunked a smoke bomb into the
A/C return air handler. Immediately HUGE volumes of smoke shot up through
the bottom of the three mainframes in the computer room. Smoke detectors
went nuts. Operators pulled the emergency power-down handles. About a
zillion fire trucks surrounded the building and demanded the release of the
hostages. Confusing and contradictory instructions were bellowed out over
the PA system. People screamed "Run for your life" and "We're all gonna
die!". Some sat at their desk and wept.
All in all, a fun afternoon.
I've never used a smoke bomb on a sanitary sewer system but I've used
some really big long snakes and florescent dye. The dye changed the
color of the hair clogging the drain, made me think there was a punk
rocker stuck in there. ^_^
Chortle. Some kind soul volunteered me as a Fire Warden (aka hall
monitor) at the federal facility where I work, as a 'temporary'
replacement for a fellow that fell off a ladder, working on his dad's
house. (See the AHR connection?) Well, that poor guy ain't ever gonna
walk right again, so it looks like I am stuck with it. Your lovely
description pretty much fits all the mass evac exercises they do there-
I have to be the last SOB off the floor to make sure everyone left, mark
the doors accordingly, and then make my boss call in to their 'command
center' so they can do a nose count. Said command center is in the
basement, BTW. If the building takes heavy damage, it will be very dark
down there, with no way out.
Especially in recent times when so many places use emergency services as
a revenue stream.
In at least 3 municipalities in my area if someone were to drive by and
notice smoke and pick up their phone they would send police cars, fire
trucks, paramedics, an ambulance and a large bill.
In those towns you don't even have a choice if say your radiator hose
blows off and you safely park the car because the police are trained to
aggressively take charge of "the situation" and they will call for the
firetrucks and paramedics and you will be sent a bill.
My niece worked for a collection agency for a while and she said many of
the bills they were trying collect payment for were from municipalities
who had billed as I described.
That's why I would recommend recording your phone conversations with
government agencies. You properly notify them that you're recording
with an explanation that it's for your records and get them to verify
their name, time/date and if they are the correct person to be talking
to about your situation.
My thought is to record them with their full knowledge so there is no
chance for an accusation of underhandedness or any violation of law. I
know prosecutors like to make up laws as they go about their daily
business or more correctly try to fit an imagined offense to an existing
Just my luck, the government criminal terrorist with a badge would do
it. I'm sure a firearm I never knew I owned would be found in my
lifeless hand and there would be no sign of my recording device and the
government owned recording device would have a mysterious malfunction
rendering it useless. My luck always seems to run like that.
Not just emergency services. Anything that can be turned into a revenue
source for the municipalities WILL be turned into one. The next big
"default" is expected to come as a result of the many pension and health
care promises made to city/county employees that are unfunded or
underfunded. Just like retiring GM workers (and hundreds of thousands of
others) found out, your retirement bennies can be negotiated away in the
blink of an eye. To at least try to meet the payments due retirees, local
governments are going to charge for everything they can and have already
steeply hiked various fees and fines. Talk about anti-business
environments. The funny thing about recessions is how they tend to
A few weeks ago, I would have answered as several have that most
people could easily do this themselves (especially if you take an
extra 2 minutes to separate the tank from the bowl).
That was until I (reasonably young, fit and mechanical) spent 2 days
dealing with the aftermath of pulling up a toilet to snake a drain.
Brass bolts pulled through the rotted iron flange when reinstalling,
flange broke when bolts were moved, was too close to the concrete slab
for a steel repair ring, too high for a slip in pvc flange. Finally
put anchors in the slab. 40 year old soldered shutoff valve leaked
when reopened and had to be replaced (too damaged to just replace
innards). 5 other minor things that I'm forgetting...
No, this still shouldn't have taken me two days, but I wasn't in a
position to drop everything else to do this all at once, and was
expecting a 2 hour job when I started. Luckily, we have two
So, just keep in mind that the potential for "surprises" is there...
My reading of what the OP wrote is that the plumber meant that it was
their policy to do the smoke test, and that when doing a smoke test
they are required by law to inform the FD, not that they are required
to do the test. The second part sounds fairly reasonable. The first
sounds like he didn't want the job. But then maybe he's done this
before and had to deal with customers claiming he didn't fix the
problem when it was actually somewhere else...
My first reply to the OP was that he should simply ask another plumbing
company how much they would charge to replace a toilet floor seal.
In other words - don't mention anything about a sewer gas odor. That
should alleviate any tendency for the plumbers to raise the issue of a
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