How familiar are you with your home’s plumbing system? You may know enough about its different components to carry out repairs yourself, but still, be unaware of what a plumbing vent stack is.
Don’t be surprised if there’s an element of your plumbing you don’t know because the vent stack gets overlooked a lot. That’s the case even though it plays an important role in your plumbing system.
In this article, we will take the time to understand what the plumbing vent stack is. We’ll discuss its role in your plumbing system and why you need to have it. Find out more about the vent stack you have installed at home by reading on.
What Is a Vent Stack?
Even if you’ve never heard of the term vent stack before, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it. Look up at your roof, and a pipe may be sticking out of there.
That vertically oriented pipe is not a new chimney. What you’re looking at is your home’s vent stack. It’s worth noting that vent stacks are also sometimes referred to as plumbing vents.
If you don’t see the vent stack right away, there’s a chance it is hidden from view. You may need to put in more effort to find it, and we’ll get more into that topic later in this article.
What Does a Vent Stack Do for Your Home?
Now that you know what a vent stack looks like, it’s time to figure out why it’s on your home.
Unlike many other pipes in your plumbing system, the vent stack does not handle any of the waste coming from your bathroom or kitchen. As its name suggests, this pipe focuses on providing a release point for your plumbing system.
Gases can accumulate inside your plumbing system as it works around the clock. That gas needs to go somewhere, or else the pipes inside your plumbing may sustain damage. Your plumbing vent’s job is to give all that gas a safe escape point.
If that vent stack is not working properly, you will know about it right away. You must also repair it as soon as possible if it does encounter issues because the vent stack provides essential benefits that will go away if it starts to malfunction.
The Vent Stack Regulates the Movement of Water throughout Your Home
The vent stack is responsible for giving the gases in your plumbing a way out. Thanks to that, the gases no longer affect how the water moves through your pipes.
You may notice that the water flow through your fixtures may slow down from time to time without any reason. The reason could be due to your vent stack not working as intended.
The Vent Stack Prevents Unpleasant Smells from Lingering inside Your Home
The gases accumulating inside your plumbing system should not remain there for long. Allow that to happen, and gases will seep into your home instead of moving out through the plumbing vent.
Most of the time, the gases coming from your plumbing system are not going to have an adverse impact on your health. However, they do possess an unpleasant odor. You may find your home downright uninhabitable due to the awful smell that’s lingering inside of it.
Make use of your vent stack to get rid of those gases and keep your home fresh.
The Vent Stack Protects Your Pipes
Too much gas gathering inside your plumbing system is bad news for the pipes.
The high pressure gas can damage the walls of the pipes and lead to them leaking. In extreme cases, a pipe may even burst because of the pressure that the gases are applying to it.
The unregulated movement of water through your plumbing system is bad news as well. The force from the water can continually wear down the pipes until they can no longer do their job.
Homeowners can line their pipes to keep them better protected. Using the plumbing vent also helps in that regard.
What Are the Different Types of Vent Stacks?
Plumbing vents can be fashioned out of different materials. The material used matters a great deal because it has a significant impact on the performance of the vent stack itself.
Detailed below are the materials commonly used to create vent stacks.
Cast Iron Vent Stacks
You can still see cast iron used to make pipes today because of how strong that material is. It can easily handle the high pressure gases escaping from your home’s plumbing.
There are two main issues with using cast iron for your vent stack, though.
The first issue is related to how cast iron ages. It is susceptible to rusting, and that may be why you must replace your plumbing vent sooner than you expected.
Cast iron being on the heavier side can also be an issue. You may need to install additional support if you want to use a cast iron vent stack.
Copper Vent Stacks
Copper is a terrific choice for your home’s vent stack. The material has plenty of durability to spare, holds up well to corrosion, and is lightweight too.
Many homes can benefit from the addition of a copper vent stack.
Do note, though, that copper is expensive. You will need to sign off on a major investment if you want to install a copper plumbing vent on your roof.
Galvanized Steel Vent Stacks
Homeowners looking for an affordable vent stack may want to consider a galvanized steel variant. Apart from the friendly price, galvanized steel also boasts a good amount of strength, and it holds off rust relatively well.
Unfortunately, galvanized steel is not durable. You may be disappointed by how quickly you will need to replace it. Potential lead contamination is another issue when using galvanized steel pipes, although that is only an issue if you have an older fixture installed.
PVC Vent Stacks
PVC pipes also stand out as low-cost options. Don’t let the low price tag fool you because PVC pipes are more than capable of lasting for a long time. They are also lightweight, so you can put them on most roofs.
The potential problem here is related to heat. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause the PVC to weaken and even start warping. You cannot use a PVC pipe as your vent stack if you live somewhere with warm weather most of the time.
Stainless Steel Vent Stacks
Some vent stacks use stainless steel.
The good news is that stainless steel offers many of the same benefits that copper does. The bad news is that it can also be a costly choice as your plumbing vent.
You’ll need to decide if making that investment makes sense for your household.
How Can You Tell if There’s Something Wrong with Your Vent Stack?
Homeowners should know that vent stacks don’t experience issues often. They are less susceptible to corroding agents because they aren’t exposed to them as much.
Still, they may present some issues from time to time. You need to recognize those issues right away and address them if you want to keep your plumbing system in working order.
We’ll highlight some of the symptoms of a problematic vent stack in this section of the article.
Unpleasant Smells inside Your Home
We already mentioned this earlier, but some awful smells may start to linger inside your home if there’s an issue with your vent stack. This symptom is hard to miss, so act as soon as you notice it.
A malfunctioning vent stack can also affect the flow of water in your home. To be more specific, it can create pressure build-ups that prevent the water from going where it needs to be.
There are numerous causes for water stoppage, but don’t rule out the possibility that it’s your plumbing vent.
According to American Home Shield, you can tell if there’s something wrong with your vent stack by listening closely. You’re listening for gurgling noises coming from the different drains spread throughout your home.
Don’t ignore those gurgles when you hear them because they double as sirens warning you that you need to fix something.
How Do You Look for a Vent Stack?
Some vent stacks are easily visible. You can spot them as soon as you turn your gaze to your roof. They aren’t always positioned in that manner, though.
The builders may have tried to obscure the plumbing vent, so it doesn’t affect your home’s design. In that case, you’ll need to put in some effort to find the vent stack and fix it.
Let’s discuss some of the ways to find your home’s vent stack below.
Search for the Vent Stack in Your Attic
The place to start when you’re looking for your home’s vent stack is the attic. Vent stacks will usually travel through the attic on their way to the roof.
Look for a large pipe that goes from the ground floor or basement of your home up to the attic. That large pipe is likely the vent stack you need to fix.
SFGate also notes that some homes may feature more than one vent stack that’s passing through the attic. Multiple vent stacks may be needed to handle all the gas being produced by a large home, hence why you have that setup in your attic.
Look Down in Search of the Pipe
Maybe your home doesn’t have an accessible attic where you can look for the vent stack. In that case, you need to go down.
The other end of a vent stack is in the lowest part of the home. You can find it on the ground floor, inside your basement, or perhaps even inside a crawlspace.
Once again, look for a pipe that stands out. After finding it, follow it so you can start working on fixing your vent stack.
Head Up to Your Roof
The most straightforward approach to finding the plumbing vent is to go up to the roof directly. Set up your ladder, brace it properly, and start climbing to your roof.
It’s easy to tell where the vent stack is if you only have one pipe going through your roof. Sometimes though, there are multiple pipes up there. You’ll need to rely on draining sounds to identify which pipe is your plumbing vent.
Scan the Sides of Your Home
Professionals usually install plumbing vents on the roof, but the builders may add supplemental ones along the sides of your home. These vent stacks are on the smaller side and may be hidden. You’ll need to feel around the lower edges of your home to find them.
Note here that fixing an issue with the supplemental plumbing vent may not be enough to resolve the issue you’re dealing with. You may still need to head up to the roof to address the problem.
How Do Vent Stacks Differ from Stack Vents?
Before we wrap things up, we wanted to discuss a likely source of confusion for many homeowners. While looking up vent stacks, you may also find some articles talking about stack vents and wonder if they are referencing the same thing.
Things will only get more confusing when you discover that both pipes help with ventilation.
So, how do the two of them differ from one another?
Vent stacks handle all kinds of gas from your plumbing, while stack vents only release sewer gases.
They also differ in terms of how they install them. Stack vents must be connected to waste stacks to fulfill their role properly. That same requirement does not exist for the vent stacks.
Are you currently dealing with issues related to your vent stack? If so, please feel free to contact us at San Diego Plumbing & Pipelining. We are ready to offer our services as soon as you need them, so reach out to us if any problems emerge.