When you hear a gurgling or bubbling sound from your toilet, it’s a sign of a problem with the drainage system. Your toilet is supposed to bubble when flushed – that’s a good sign. But a gurgling toilet when not in use or when other parts of your bathroom are draining is a sign there’s a problem in the drainage system.
A gurgling toilet is caused by clogs in the plumbing, reverse suction, or faulty tank equipment. The fixes for toilet noises when flushing or draining include removing clogs from the drainpipe using a plunger or a plumber’s snake. Clearing the vents and other parts of the sewage system will help get rid of the gurgling noises.
Fixing this issue early enough is your best bet at keeping your home clean. Otherwise, you’ll one day be greeted with sewage water spewing from your toilet. If it’s a small issue, the suggested solutions will do the trick. If, however, these methods don’t work, you’ll need an expert to handle it.
Gurgling Toilet Causes and Fixes
When bubbles come out of your toilet bowl, it’s an indication that there’s air building up within the drainage system. As this air builds up, it’ll be forced out through the bowl accompanied by the gurgling sound. Often, the toilet may flush itself in the process.
You’ll most likely hear gurgling sounds after flushing, when your shower drains or when emptying the bathtub. You may also notice the noises from your toilet when draining the washer or pretty much other plumbing areas that share drainage pipes with your toilet.
The likely reasons behind the buildup of negative air pressure include the following:
1. Blockage in the Toilet
Your first suspect should be the toilet itself. That’s the part consisting of the bowl up to the sanitary T (the part of the pipe linking the toilet bowl to the drain pipe). This is the likeliest of causes of gurgling toilet noises in most homes. Luckily, it’s easy to diagnose.
The first thing you need to take note of is that the gurgling should only be occurring in the toilet alone. This means that the sinks and other inlets into the drain system shouldn’t be experiencing the same.
This kind of blockage occurs mostly when large objects that don’t dissolve in water when flushed down the toilet. Kids will stuff toys into the toilet and other objects. Small animals also end up in toilet drains quite often.
Fix: Unclog the toilet
For this kind of blockage, a plunger will do the trick quite well. You need to ensure the other drains (tub, sink and others) are sealed tight (with duct tape) to force the air to only go through the toilet drain when plunging.
If after several minutes of proper plunging you still haven’t unblocked the toilet, the case could be a serious one. For this kind of blockage, you’ll need an auger that burrows into the blockage or pulls it out.
If that still doesn’t work, a part of the toilet may need to be taken apart to remove the blockage and get rid of the gurgling noises. This requires the input of an expert for the right results.
2. Sewer Line Blockage
A gurgling toilet may also occur when the main sewer line from your house to the sewage system has a blockage. The best way to determine if this is the case is when the gurgling sound comes from various fixtures such as the sinks beside the toilet.
The main reason behind this is tree roots which grow and wiggle their way around buildings for water and nutrients. With the pipes always being wet and having nutrients from the wastes in the home, the roots easily get drawn to them.
If you’re lucky, the roots could only be around the pipes. In some cases, the roots burst the pipes and start growing within them.
When you get the gurgling, it’ll be because they’ve blocked some part of the piping system and the air and water are struggling to pass through.
The other causes of a major sewer line blockage include a rock, damaged pipe or a buildup of sediments such as soil and minerals.
Fix: Clear blockage in the sewer line
The major gurgling sounds from your toilet won’t be fixed by a simple plunging of the toilet if there are roots growing in the sewer line pipes. Rather, you’ll need proper diagnosis such as using a plunging snake with a sewer line camera to pinpoint the problem. After that, you may need to replace a pipe or some other part of the drain system.
3. Blockage in the Vent Stack
The vent stack is the pipe sticking out of the roof down from the drain system. While this vent keeps the foul sewage air away from the house, it also serves as a means of equalizing air pressure from the drain system as a whole.
This vent can be blocked in various ways and at various parts with the same result; bubbling sounds from the toilet. Birds and rodents may build nests within it leading to the blockage. Leaves and other debris can also build up within the vent.
Fix: Check and unblock the vent stack
To unblock the vent stack, you’ll need to establish exactly where the blockage is. You’ll have to climb to the roof to peer into the vent for that. A garden hose inserted down the vent can also do the trick. If the blockage is within the upper half, you can pull it out with a hook or other object.
For those that are in the lower part, you can push them down to the drain below where they’ll be flushed out. This can also be done by pouring hot water down the vent stack.
If you’re unable to reach the blockage or can’t see it in the first place, call in an expert for the job.
4. Blockage in the Municipal Sewer Line
If the problem is not one of the above, then it could be that the municipal sewer line is the one with the clog. For this one, you’ll need to ask the neighbors if they’re experiencing the same issue. It is especially the case when there’s construction in the area or after a disaster such as an earthquake (however small).
The good news with this one is that you’ll not incur any charges in the repairs.
5. Faulty Tank Equipment
The little tank above the toilet seat houses some mechanisms that allow flushing of the toilet and refilling without overflowing. If any part of this mechanism is faulty or not tuned properly, you’ll hear the bubbling sounds often.
If all the parts are in good shape, the optimal working setup of the toilet tank should have water filled to about ½ of an inch below the overflow tube when not in use. You should not experience a gurgling toilet.
If the parts need replacing, you’ll get them at local stores, which usually stock them at affordable prices.
6. Air in the Piping System
A leak in the piping system either for the water or sewer line will let in air which manifests as noisy bubbles through the toilet, drains, sinks, bathtub, or taps.
Other times, bubbling will appear after the water had run out and is being reintroduced into the system. The air trapped in the pipes will be forced out in various vents such as through the toilet bowl especially when flushed.
The solution to this is quite simple as you only need to let the taps run for a while to clear out the trapped air.
Most of the issues stated above can be solved at home with ease. However, if it involves any major repairs, it’s best to call in someone with expertise since it could lead to bigger problems. While a structure of the sewage system looks simple, there’s a lot that goes into it to make it function without a hitch.
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