Having a wet basement is not a rare occurrence, but when it happens for a long period of time or with significant rainfall, sewage can seep out of the plumbing and into the surrounding soil or water.
When this occurs, bacteria in the wastewater begin to break down organic matter in the dirt and water, producing gasses that contribute to the poor air quality in your home. These gases include ammonia, hydrogen chloride, methane, and nitrous oxide, all of which are known health hazards.
Ammonia, for example, can cause eye and throat irritation and potentially even more serious conditions like liver damage. Hydrogen chloride and chlorine gas both pose a risk to human health in high enough concentrations. (Note: Only ingest small amounts of hydrogen chloride as these effects could be very harmful.)
Methane, one of the byproducts of bacterial decomposition, contributes to global warming due to its ability to trap heat under high temperatures. Nitrous Oxide is a respiratory irritant and a contributor to ground level ozone formation, another greenhouse gas.
Given all this, having a wet basement full of rotten odors is anything but pleasant! Luckily, there are some easy fixes that will get rid of most of the smells and improve the indoor air quality of your home.
Removing excess moisture
One of the main reasons that you’ll smell liquid waste in your house is because there is already water present.
You have a blocked sewer
Sometimes, your body’s waste products can back up in the pipes that take fluid to your home. This is called sewage backup.
When this happens, your house may begin to smell like there was an emergency plumbing call. Your neighbors might even ask about the stench!
Sewer backups are very serious because they pose a health risk if you must enter the building or area where the leak occurs.
There could be poisonous chemicals present such as ammonia, hydrogen chloride, chlorine, bromine, and other substances. These chemicals can damage people’s lungs, skin, or both.
What should I do if I notice a water odor and/or heavy rains?
If you experience either of these, it is best to address the issue immediately so that you don’t make things worse for you or others around you.
Fortunately, you can usually tell when there is a problem with your drains and sewers. If you notice a strong wastewater odor, red marks on surfaces, and/or dark stains in areas surrounding your home, then you should contact a professional right away.
You have a cracked foundation
As mentioned before, your home’s foundations can develop cracks due to several reasons. Unfortunately, water may get in through these cracks and then seep into the surrounding soil. This could cause the structure to begin to collapse or cave in which would not be good!
If this happens at night, it is very difficult to know. If you notice that your house seems unstable or looks like it will soon fall down, call professionals right away! Luckily, there are professional basement waterproofing services that can help prevent major damage.
But what if your home has already begun to show signs of decay and flooding? What if your house is actually leaking now? While it may seem impossible to fix, there are ways to make sure that doesn’t happen permanently.
In fact, there are things you can do to ensure that your house won’t ever need significant repairs again! These tips work by preventing excess moisture from getting inside the wall, floor, or both.
Removing all furniture and belongings from the room will help dry out the area so run some tests first to see if this works. If it does, keep moving everything around and let nature take its course!
You may also want to try covering any holes with plastic to prevent more wetness from coming in. When shopping for coverings, look for ones that are durable and waterproof.
You have a blocked drain
Sometimes, your home’s drains get clogged up and you need to do something about it. Fortunately, there are several signs that can help you identify where the block is occurring so you know what to do.
Some of these indications include red or pink tinged water coming from under your sink, backflow in the tub or shower, slow draining toilets, and strong smells emanating from the area.
It is important to remember that even though your house may seem like it has gone down hill quickly, only serious issues require action. More often than not, problems arise due to faulty plumbing work or poor maintenance.
Fortunately, most blocks can be cleared out and repaired easily without too much hassle or cost.
You need to fix any cracks in your foundation
Cracks in your home’s foundation can let water get into the space, causing damage or even rot. This is especially true if you are living in wet areas or it rains heavily, such as in coastal regions or during spring and fall seasons.
If there is visible water coming through a crack, make sure to address the source of the leak immediately by replacing cracked or damaged materials.
Crack-repairing products are often expensive so be aware of your surrounding area vendors and see what types of repairs they have done before buying those same things.
Try to identify the source of the smell
The first thing you should do if your basement smells like sewage is to determine if it is an external or internal cause. External sources include water, garbage, soil, feces, chemicals, and gases that can seep through cracks in foundations, walls, or floors.
If the cause is outside, then try to get rid of any moisture that may be contributing to the problem. This could mean checking for leaks around windows and doors, and sealing any holes or spills that you find. It could also mean drying out the surrounding area by using natural sunlight or running several air purifiers in the room.
By having adequate airflow, the purifying effects of the purifier will help remove some of the odors caused by bacteria.
Call a plumber
There are many things that can cause your home to smell, and some are much more common than others. One of the most common causes for basement smells is sewage. This happens when there is an unexpected leak in the plumbing system.
Sewer water will contain bacteria, and this bacteria will grow rapidly due to the high amount of moisture present. When these microbes have enough food and space, they begin to metabolize the components of waste. Some of these compounds include ammonia, methane, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs).
Ammonia is a colorless gas that people often mistake for odorless nitrogen. Ammonia comes from the breakdown of protein, which includes hair, skin, stool, and urine. The levels of ammonia in sewage depend on the size of the leak, how quickly it is pumped away, and the length of time the water sits before it is treated.
Methane is simply another compound that comes from decomposing matter, in this case decaying leaves, grasses, or other solid materials. It can be detected as a slight rotten egg scent.
Volatile Organic Chemicals arise from decay and chemical reactions occurring during exposure to air. These VOCs can range in flavor and intensity, depending on what was leaking and what products were exposed to the liquid. Many of these VOCs can contribute to negative health effects like eye, throat, or nose irritation, heart disease, or cancer.
Try to cover the smell with deodorant
The most likely cause of a strong sewage or chemical odor in your home is poor drainage. This can be from the house flooding, pipes leaking, or soil saturated due to excessive rainfall.
If you notice a strong odor coming from your basement, it’s important to check for signs and symptoms of water intrusion.
Call your local government
If you find yourself constantly trying to determine what smells like sewage in your basement, it’s time to call out the professionals!
Your home could be leaking water due to broken pipes or excessive rain. However, if the smell of sewage is far beyond that of normal seeping waters, then something more serious may be going on.
If you live near a body of water or have flooding around your house, make sure you check for signs of natural gas. This can include strong chemical odors as well as green or brown smoke coming from the area.
Sadly, this won’t change until someone actually checks into whether or not there is an adequate amount of oxygen present in the air. A very basic test for this is by smelling one of those odorless candles and seeing how long they last before burning out.