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Sewer Smoke Test

The Importance of Performing a Sewer Smoke Test

In the sewer smoke test, a City crew positions a blower over a maintenance hole and pumps nontoxic, colorless, odorless smoke into the line. The exiting smoke can identify illegal connections, such as roof drains, sump pumps and yard drains.

It is normal for some smoke to enter homes during the test if there are defective plumbing or dried-up P-traps in seldom-used sinks, tubs and showers. This smoke is not a fire hazard, leaves no residue and will dissipate within 30 minutes.

What is a Sewer Smoke Test?

Smoke testing is a nontoxic method for locating leaks in sanitary sewer lines and identifying other defects that could cause wastewater to enter a residential or commercial property’s plumbing system. It involves forcing smoke mixed with air into the sewer pipe and surveying where it escapes. The technique in sewer smoke test can detect leaking joints, cracked pipes, capped and uncapped pipe sections, infiltration points, and illegal stormwater connections, including roof drains, sump pumps, foundation drains, and window well drains.

The odorless smoke during this process poses no fire hazard and dissipates within minutes of entering the system. It can also test for open drain traps in basement bathrooms, sinks, tubs and showers, washing machines, and floor drains.

A community should prepare residents by launching a proactive public information campaign using print and online ads, mailers and door hangers to inform citizens when a smoke test is scheduled. Additionally, residents should be asked to pour a gallon of water into seldom-used sink and tub P-traps, washing machines and floor drains to avoid smoke entering their homes during the test.

What Is a Sewer Smoke Test Kit?

A sewer smoke test kit is used to locate defects and leaks in sanitary sewer lines. It involves pumping non-toxic smoke into the sanitary sewer system through access points like manholes. The smoke permeates the pipes and escapes through defects such as cracks, breaks, uncapped line sections and more. The odorless smoke allows technicians to easily pinpoint problems and make necessary repairs without digging up the line.

Residents should be notified ahead of time when smoke testing is scheduled to take place. This gives them time to prepare and ensures that no one is accidentally exposed to hazardous sewer gases. For example, it is recommended that property owners pour a gallon of water into each open drain trap in their basement bathrooms, sinks, tubs, showers and floor drains to fill the P-trap and prevent smoke from entering homes during the test.

It is also recommended that occupants evacuate their home or business when smoke enters indoors during the smoke test. This prevents inhalation of sewer gas, which is unpleasant and potentially dangerous.

How Does a Sewer Smoke Test Work?

Smoke testing is an effective and safe way for technicians to find where stormwater enters the sanitary sewer system. This is important because excess rainwater puts extra demands on wastewater treatment plants and increases the likelihood of sewage overflows during heavy storms.

Technicians use a special blower to pump nontoxic smoke into the local sewer system and then survey where the smoke escapes. This method can identify cracks, breaks and other defects in pipes or connections. It also helps technicians find areas where unwanted stormwater is infiltrating the sanitary sewer system, which raises the cost of wastewater treatment and creates environmental hazards.

If smoke is seen in a building or structure, this can indicate that the vents to the sanitary sewer system are open or defective or that the water traps under sinks, tubs, showers and floor drains have dried up. The smoke is odorless and poses no fire risk, and will clear in a few minutes with proper ventilation.

What Is a Sewer Smoke Test Report?

A sewer smoke test is a safe and effective way to locate areas where stormwater enters the sanitary sewer system. Through neighborhood maintenance holes, this method blows nontoxic smoke into the clean sewer system. This allows work crews to see broken pipes, illegal connections and other problems in the line.

The odorless simulated smoke used in this process is similar to what is used at concerts and theaters during live performances, and it will not harm children, pets or plants. If the simulated smoke does enter homes, it will clear in a few minutes with open doors and windows for ventilation.

Residents should be notified several weeks before the testing occurs through mailers, phone calls and local news media. They should also be encouraged to pour gallons of water in their basement bathroom and floor drains and close off P-traps in seldom-used sinks, tubs, basins and showers with airtight plugs.


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Henry Doe is a seasoned DIY enthusiast and home improvement, blogger. With over 10 years of experience in renovating his own home, he has honed his skills in carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. Henry's passion for creating beautiful and functional living spaces has led him to share his knowledge and experiences with his readers through his blog, "Home Sweet Home DIY." His goal is to inspire and empower homeowners to tackle their own home projects, big or small. When he's not hammering and sawing, you can find Henry hiking in the mountains or sipping on a latte at his local coffee shop.