Why Does My Bathroom Smell And Have So Many Problems?

If you go to any of the Building Associations websites, you will discover a whole list of common problems people experience once they move into their new home or renovation.
I will be discussing some of the problems this week and offering some solutions to them. Please feel free to send me any questions or your experiences.

One time I had a client who called me to come and check why one of his bathrooms had a bad odour. I went to the house and the room smelt terrible. I asked the client quite a few questions and the answer was very simple. Has anyone ever wondered why basin wastes or toilets hold water?




The simplest reason is; water stops the smells in the sewer pipe from permeating into the room. The reason the bathroom had a bad sewer smell was it was hardly used. The water in the shower pipework (in plumbing terms called “The Trap”) had evaporated and the smell came through the trap. That is where the term “Priming the trap” comes into play.3-18-smelly

You have to make sure that all the plumbing in the house is regularly inspected and water is placed into the traps to stop any sewer smells. You will find a tap in some instances above a waste in the floor. The regulations call for the tap to be placed to prime the trap.
Or have you been to a hotel room bathroom; every time you use the basin or the shower, the waste in the middle of the room made an awful gurgling sound. This is another way of ensuring the trap is primed all of the time.

Due to the expense of copper there has become a revolution in plumbing a house. Some pipework used today is a High Density Polyethylene product. Instead of welding copper to points, there are fittings that are specifically designed to fit every transition needed for construction. Only minimal amount of copper is used for last run and fit off of the basins, taps etc. I have attached the link to illustrate what it looks like, and its applications; there are others on the market.





The great thing about this system is; it has reduced the amount of water hammer people have experienced when the water flowing out of a tap or from the washing machine when it suddenly shuts off the water, the ripple effect is water hammer. Water hammer commonly occurs when pipes haven’t been clipped properly in walls or under floors and ceilings.

I have had plumbers use heaps of clips on copper pipes, the water hammer was still occurring. Think of a stream of water; what would happen if you cut it off in an instant? The momentum going down has to go somewhere. The beauty of the polyethylene pipes is the fittings absorb the ripple effect and it has proven to become a better system than using copper throughout the house. There is nothing wrong with copper if you are a traditionalist. It is up to you to do the research and be happy with what the pipe has to offer.

Another common problem is water leaking in shower bases. (I am talking about fully tiled shower bases). If the waterproofing has been done correctly and a leak control flange has been installed under the shower waste, there should be no problem. The most common mistakes in showers are; People do not place leak control flanges (see the link below to show you what they look like). Grout is not a waterproof product. The tiles might have a glaze and be impervious to water, the grout soaks in the water and it gets trapped under the tiles. A control flange lets the water flow under the tiles and travels to the waste; the pressure is released with the help of the design. You could get the whole floor sealed which will solve any water issues.


What I am discovering lately is; having a shower fully caulked with a silicone or, a polyurethane based compound, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is done correctly. If water gets behind the walls and under the floor tiles of the shower, if the walls are fully caulked, the water is trapped under the tile and salts and calcite will come through the grout and tiles. (Calcite is like the stalactites and stalagmites under a cave)

The only problem with leak control flanges is; calcite build up or hairs trapped under the flange and blocking the passage of water flow. All you have to do as maintenance is take out the waste and the flange cleaned and wiped down to get rid of hairs or the calcite build up. This will ensure the water drains properly.


I have had two jobs with problem showers; the reason for these is because the guys on site listened to the tiler who has been doing it wrong for the past twenty years. The problem is; the tiler won’t come back and fix the job when it leaks or fails.

The Builder and the home do it yourselfer is responsible for all the workmanship that is done on the job. Most people have no idea about waterproofing and plumbing issues; they think the tradesperson knows what he is doing so they don’t have to bother checking his workmanship. I always leave it up to you to know what you are doing and the repercussions if you don’t research your product.

Have a great week